Native American Tribes Fight Over Who’s Native Enough To Claim Ben & Jerry’s Land

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

James Lynch Investigative Reporter
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Native American tribes are dueling over who is allowed to claim land from Ben & Jerry’s after the ice cream brand tweeted about how America was built on “stolen” land.

The Abenaki Band Council of Odanak, a Canadian tribe, is demanding compensation from Ben & Jerry’s for itself and the Abenaki of Wolinak, another Canadian tribe, according to Newsweek. The Vermont-based Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation told the outlet last week that it would be interested in taking back the land used for Ben & Jerry’s Vermont headquarters. (RELATED: Ben & Jerry’s Parent Company Silent On Whether It Will Return ‘Stolen Indigenous Land’ To Native Tribes)

Ben & Jerry’s tweeted on July 4th about how America was founded on “stolen Indigenous land” and linked to a petition calling for Mount Rushmore to be given back to the Lakota tribe in South Dakota.

“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,” the ice cream brand tweeted.

Ben & Jerry’s land sits on territory formerly held by Abenaki tribes, reviving a dispute between the tribes about who can rightfully claim indigenous heritage, Newsweek reported. Odanak Abenanki believes the Vermont-based Abenaki tribes have no proof of native ancestry and should not be able to claim Ben & Jerry’s land.

“However, it’s important to remember that Odanak and Wôlinak are the only two officially recognized Abenaki communities. It is therefore essential that compensation is not distributed among self-proclaimed Abenaki groups,” Odanak Abenaki said following a council meeting on Monday, according to Newsweek.

Vermont officially recognizes the Abenaki ancestry of Nulhegan and other tribes that held territory in the surrounding area, its state website says. The Abenaki Alliance representing the Vermont tribes told Newsweek the tribes met state criteria for recognition.

A spokesperson for the Abenaki Alliance also told the outlet it was “unfortunate that a legal entity outside of the United States would insert itself into another country’s conversation for political and financial gain,” while denying that the Vermont tribes were trying to make a profit.

Ben & Jerry’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has not publicly addressed its tweet and whether it will return its land to native tribes.