I greatly appreciate your work, insight, and continued involvement on S.222. Our House committee received the bill from the Senate a couple of weeks ago and has taken extensive testimony, seeking to build on that work with the best way forward for our state and the ability to honor and acknowledge its indigenous peoples. This has included weighing the legal, legislative, historical, and political ramifications of the language as written. What has been brought to light for us is that, in the interest of fairness, equality and doing what is right, we cannot recognize certain tribes and bands simply because they have had the knowledge that we are taking this bill up and have been involved in whatever way in this process over others who have no knowledge of our deliberations and have not had the chance to make their case.
We must set forth an equitable, inclusive, and standardized criteria and process for recognition, and we must hold all of the tribes and bands that come forward accountable to that standard. It does not appear to be just or reasonable to recognize any tribes before there is criteria in statute for them to meet. This decision will not only level the playing field, but my firm belief is that it will demonstrate to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board and other federal entities that we are standing on solid ground with our recognition process. So, in sum, it is my sense that the House will be seeking to write into law a standard recognition criteria and process and will not recognize any individual tribes or bands at this time.
I welcome you to share this statement, with knowledge that it is my perspective, with other members of your communities and contingencies. I also encourage suggestions for the criteria and recognition process from all involved. Otherwise, at this time, I respectfully request that you limit the volume of correspondence you send to us and encourage others to do the same. While we have done our best to be open-minded and deliberative throughout, I can say with some confidence that it will not change our course of action on the question of recognizing specific tribes.
Rep. Kesha Ram
Clerk, Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs
Vermont House of Representatives, Chittenden 3-4: Burlington