An indigenous Native American chief in Vermont said he would be open to talking with ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s about taking back the land under its headquarters.
Don Stevens — chief of the Nulhegan Band of The Coosuk Abenaki Nation — told the New York Post that he “looks forward to any kind of correspondence with the brand to see how they can better benefit indigenous people,” noting that the company’s South Burlington, Vermont, headquarters is on Western Abenaki land.
“If you look at the [Abenaki] traditional way of being, we are place-based people,” Stevens told the Post. “Before recognized tribes in the state, we were the ones who were in this place.”
The remarks came days after the ice cream maker said in a July 4 tweet that America should return “stolen indigenous land.”
“This 4th of July, it’s high time we recognize that the U.S. exists on stolen Indigenous land and commit to returning it,” the ice cream maker tweeted.
The company said that while July 4 festivities like fireworks, parades and barbecues are entertaining, they “distract” from the fact America was settled on stolen land. In a news release, it said the U.S. should commit to returning the land by starting with giving Mount Rushmore to the Lakota peoples along with a petition.
“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,” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem told “Fox & Friends” on Thursday.
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
Rich Holschuh, spokesman for the Elnu Abenaki tribe and chair of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, said he was in contact with Ben & Jerry’s for several years about various matters, as well as the current situation, he told Fox News Digital.
“We are happy to engage with anyone who wants to talk about the realities of indigenous experiences here,” he said. “They share many experiences and a lot of that involves around separating those people from their homeland.”
Stevens declined to speculate on how the Lakota might react to Ben & Jerry’s comments on Mount Rushmore, according to the Post.
“I have not had a conversation with them (Ben & Jerry’s), so I cannot make a judgement,” he said.
The Abenaki people have been on that land that eventually became Vermont for 12,000 years, the Abenaki Alliance said in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“The land is still here and the people are still here,” Holschuh said.
The Fourth of July call drew a slew of responses, many of which called for a boycott similar to one Bud Light is grappling with following its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
Ben & Jerry’s has previously injected itself into progressive causes, such as the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In July 2021, the company announced it would stop selling ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories.