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Days after progressive ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s called on the U.S. to return “stolen Indigenous land,” a Native American chief said the company’s headquarters, located in South Burlington, Vermont, is sitting on Western Abenaki land.
Chief Don Stevens, chief of the Nulhegan Band of The Coosuk Abenaki Nation, told the New York Post in an interview, “If you look at the [Abenaki] traditional way of being, we are place-based people. Before recognized tribes in the state, we were the ones who were in this place.”
The chief said that he “looks forward to any kind of correspondence with the brand to see how they can better benefit Indigenous people.” Stevens added that if the company is “sincere” about advocating for Native Americans, the tribe should be hearing from them about the land.
Ben & Jerry’s caught backlash over an Independence Day post that read, “The United States was founded on stolen Indigenous land. This Fourth of July, let’s commit to returning it.”
A link attached to the post leads to a site that says the U.S. needs to give back Mount Rushmore, which is in South Dakota.
“What is the meaning of Independence Day for those whose land this country stole, those who were murdered and forced with brutal violence onto reservations, those who were pushed from their holy places and denied their freedom?” the site reads. “The faces on Mount Rushmore are the faces of men who actively worked to destroy Indigenous cultures and ways of life, to deny Indigenous people their basic rights.”
The faces on Mount Rushmore include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
This 4th of July, it's high time we recognize that the US exists on stolen Indigenous land and commit to returning it. Learn more and take action now: https://t.co/45smaBmORH pic.twitter.com/a6qp7LXUAE
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) July 4, 2023
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) responded to the post by criticizing the company’s progressive activist founders for not knowing their “history.”
“I’m not going to listen to a bunch of liberal Vermont businessmen who think they know everything about this country and haven’t studied our history,” Noem said on Thursday. “Right now, Mount Rushmore is the greatest symbol of our freedom and history of the United States of America.”
“We can learn from the men on that mountain,” the governor continued. “We can do better. But, boy, they led us through some challenging times. And I think Americans in this country need some inspiration, and we can gain it from a monument like that.”