Lawmakers look to acknowledge Vermont's role in eugenics research

Published: Feb. 20, 2020 at 4:21 PM EST
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Lawmakers are examining a controversial part of Vermont's history and looking to acknowledge the state's role in eugenics research.

In the 1930s, a researcher from the University of Vermont categorized groups of "degenerate families" and targeted those people for sterilization. In 1931, the Legislature passed a bill called the "Act for Human Betterment By Voluntary Sterilization."

In the span of a decade, 253 people were sterilized. Many were people with disabilities and members of Vermont's indigenous tribes. They were placed on a state-sanctioned list and sent to the Brandon School or the Vermont State Hospital for the procedure.

Leaders of Vermont's indigenous communities say the eugenics research stripped an entire generation of their Abenaki heritage which set back official tribal recognition from the state.

"Because we blended in with the regular society, because we were nomadic plus we blended in, we had to show we were distinct and that we continued our culture. So, we had to piece those things together and use the eugenics records and other things where they tracked us to use as evidence that we never left," said Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe.

The resolution acknowledges and apologizes for the eugenics research.

Former UVM President Thomas Sullivan issued a formal apology last year for the school's role in the eugenics movement. And in 2018, the school changed the name of its library because the former namesake had ties to the eugenics movement.