An Indigenous tribe with ancestral ties to the Native American nation that once controlled the land in Vermont where Ben & Jerry’s headquarters is located has expressed interest in reclaiming it, taking up Ben & Jerry’s on its 4th of July call to “commit to returning” “stolen Indigenous land.”
Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of The Coosuk Abenaki Nation, one of the four tribes recognized in Vermont, stated that they were keen on regaining stewardship of their lands — except they have yet to be approached by Ben & Jerry’s.
This development follows Ben & Jerry’s recent public call for the return of “stolen” lands. The ice cream company faced questions about when it would relinquish its Burlington headquarters, situated on a large portion of US territory that belonged to the Abenaki people before colonization.
In a statement released ahead of Independence Day, Ben & Jerry’s acknowledged that the United States was founded on stolen Indigenous land and expressed a commitment to returning it. The company highlighted the “land back” movement, which aims to restore governance of ancestral lands to Indigenous people who inhabited them for thousands of years.
Although Ben & Jerry’s focused on the land taken from the Lakota in South Dakota in their statement, the acknowledgment of historic tribal lands remains a contentious subject, sparking debates between Native Americans and the status quo of a modern nation with established borders.
Historical maps reveal that the Abenaki, a confederacy of various tribes, controlled a vast territory stretching from northern Massachusetts to New Brunswick, Canada, and from the St. Lawrence River to the East Coast. Ben & Jerry’s headquarters, situated in a business park in southern Burlington, falls within the western part of this historical territory, although it does not currently reside within any modern-day tribal lands.
Chief Don Stevens stated that his tribe was interested in reclaiming lands throughout their traditional territories and providing opportunities to uplift their communities. However, he clarified that they had not yet been approached by Ben & Jerry’s and that discussions and conversations would be necessary to determine the best path forward.
As of this writing, Ben & Jerry’s has not publicly responded to calls for the return of their headquarters’ land.
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