A tribal chief from the Nulhegan Band of The Coosuk Abenaki Nation, who has ancestral connections to the Native American nation that originally inhabited the land where Ben & Jerry’s is headquartered in Vermont, has expressed interest in reclaiming the land after the ice cream company called for the return of “stolen” lands. Chief Don Stevens stated in a recent interview with Newsweek that his nation has always been interested in reclaiming stewardship of their lands.
Although Ben & Jerry’s made a statement ahead of Independence Day, proclaiming that the United States was founded on land stolen from Indigenous peoples and advocating for a commitment to returning it, they have yet to approach the Nulhegan Band and discuss the possibility of returning the land to its rightful owners. The company’s statement specifically mentioned Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills as the first areas to be returned, but it suggested a broader agenda of restitution.
Chief Stevens noted that despite the ice cream company’s virtue signaling, his tribe has not been approached regarding any land return opportunities. If Ben & Jerry’s were to approach them, many conversations and discussions would be needed to determine the best way forward for all involved.
The controversial statement and social media post by Ben & Jerry’s have led to significant backlash, with calls for a boycott resembling the one aimed at Bud Light over its marketing partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Country singer-songwriter John Rich, responding to the ice cream company’s post, tweeted, “Make @benandjerrys Bud Light again.” Other Twitter users expressed similar sentiments, demanding that Ben & Jerry’s give up their own land before advocating for the return of stolen lands.
The boycott calls have impacted Bud Light’s sales, with other beer brands benefiting from the decline in Bud Light’s popularity. The backlash also prompted an opinion article from the New York Post’s editorial board, which called on Ben & Jerry’s to give back the land their factories and stores are situated on, as well as the profits they have made from exploiting Indigenous peoples. The article highlighted the brand’s association with the anti-Israel BDS movement and co-founder Ben Cohen’s funding of groups opposed to US military aid to Ukraine. The editorial encouraged readers to boycott the Unilever-owned ice cream company, emphasizing the power of consumer choice in addressing corporate elites’ woke preening.
Ben & Jerry’s history of supporting left-leaning causes and advocating for addressing structural racism in American society has made them no stranger to boycott calls. In a 2021 op-ed, Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy emphasized the need for America to confront the deep-rooted structural racism and work towards fixing it.
As for the status of the potential land return, Ben & Jerry’s has yet to comment on the matter.