Monday, November 16, 2009
that this group does not exist as an Indian Tribe Appoved on November 09, 2005 by James E. Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary of the Interior) it states, "The first chairman of ASHAI, Wayne Hoague, served only a few months before he resigned. The reason or reasons for his resignation are not entirely clear, but Hoague may have objected to actions taken by some members of the group to "reclaim" the land where a monument erected in honor of the first Jesuit mission to the Abenakis stood (SSA 1982.10.00 Petition, 105). Other information indicates Hoague was also unhappy with the actions of council members Homer St. Francis, Ronnie Cannes, and Kent Ouimette, particularly the filing of harassment charges against the police with Cannes acting as the "Attorney General" for the group (Abenaki Council Ex-member 1997.01.07, 1). Upon his resignation, Homer St. Francis assumed the position of Chairman, and when the group formed the actual "Abenaki Tribal Council" in late 1976, St. Francis was the first leader listed in 1977.
In 1977, Chief Homer St. Francis threatened to kick people out of the tribe. Wayne Hoague, the first chief of the reconstituted Abenaki Tribal Council, filed a complaint with the State about the tribe’s mishandling of funds. According to the Burlington Free Press: In his complaint, Hoague said, “People who are card holding members (of the tribe) are being told by Homer St. Francis (present Tribal Council chairman) that if they don’t like the way things are being done he will take their Indian cards away.” (Burlington Free Press 1/17/1977). Chief St. Francis’s method of dealing with Hoague was repeated in his treatment of another political opponent ten years later, as seen in the following news report of a tribal meeting: There were allegations of misuse of funds and power tossed back and forth. One voice could be heard to say: “The bylaws say if the chief or anyone else is a nuisance, you can throw him out.” Another voice, this one female, yelled: “Throw Joan (St. Pierre).” Someone apparently made a motion to that effect. The screamed yeas and nays sounded of equal volume but St. Francis announced that St. Pierre had just been kicked out of the tribe. (Rutland Herald 11/2/1987; compare Burlington Free Press 5/1977). This was not simply ouster from a meeting; a year later, Joan St. Pierre was not allowed to vote at an Abenaki election, because, according to Homer St. Francis, she had been “thrown out of the tribe” (Burlington Free Press 10/10/1988).
There is also a significant question as to whether the mid-1970s Abenaki Tribal Council was a voluntary membership organization or the governing body of a pre-existing tribal structure. Jane Baker described the Tribal Council as a “two year old membership organization” that issues cards “verify[ing] that the holder is an Abenaki Indian or descendant of Abenakis” (Baker 1976:11). She reported to Governor Salmon in 1976 that there were 1700 Abenakis in Vermont. However, she also stated there were only 400 card-carrying members (Baker 1976:11). Thus the Abenaki Tribal Council could not even count as members a quarter of the individuals claiming Abenaki heritage. Moreover, Wayne Hoague, the first chair of the Abenaki Tribal Council, stated in 1977 that there were only 176 adult voting members of the group, plus 120 children (Hoague 1/12/1977). In the 1970’s support and membership in the petitioner’s organization was not widespread. Even the petitioner concedes that the creation of a governing body for the group was artificial and unnatural: Families and individuals long accustomed to taking care of themselves have only gradually come to reckon with the Tribal Council as a significant factor in their lives. (Petition:126).
During the first time period that Homer St. Francis was chief, Wayne Hoague charged that leaders of the tribe were secretive and that tribe members were not told how the federal money is being spent. (Burlington Free Press 1/17/1977; Hoague 1/12/1977). As a result of Hoague’s criticisms, he was ostracized from the St. Francis/Sokoki Abenaki organization. Not only did Chief Homer St. Francis and Kent Ouimette obtain his removal from the Governor’s Commission on Indian Affairs, but they denied him membership in the tribe. This was reported by Mrs. Hoague: When her husband reapplied for tribal membership—which requires a card issued by the council—“they replied he couldn’t prove he was Indian.” Mrs. Hoague said. “How can they say he’s not an Abenaki if the rest of them are all related to him?” she asked. (Burlington Free Press 5/1977). 154 Mrs. Hoague charged in 1977 that Homer St. Francis was elected “tribal chairman” in an election that was not widely publicized to Abenaki members. She said, “St. Francis was elected tribal chairman by the St. Francises, who were the only ones informed of the meeting” (Burlington Free Press 5/1977). Wayne Hoague also complained that several people were named to positions of authority to represent the Abenaki Tribal Council without ever being voted on by the membership (Hoague 1/12/1977).
Kent Ouimette, who had helped Homer W. St. Francis oust Wayne Hoague, himself decided to split off from St. Francis’s group. He left his position as administrator of the St. Francis band and joined the “Missisquoi Council,” headed by Chief Arthur ‘Bill’ Seymour (Burlington Free Press 10/21/1977). Ouimette wrote to Governor Richard Snelling, saying, "Some of us have found that the present governmental structure of the St. Francis band is incapable of protecting the constitutional rights of the individual, to say nothing of aboriginal rights. "(Burlington Free Press 10/21/1977). In fact three of the original organizers broke off in 1977 to form separate groups claiming to represent Vermont Abenakis (Wiseman 2001:157). In 1979, another dissenter, Richard Phillips, also broke away and formed a separate group, The Eastern Woodlands Band of the Abenaki Nation (Petition:131). 155 Homer St. Francis only stepped down as chief in 1980 when he had to serve a jail sentence (Burlington Free Press 9/13/1987).
Now, remember these names within this post, as they will be spoken about in the future "Steps", down this so-called "Yellow Brick Road of the Reinvented Abenaki of Vermont and New Hampshire".