Thursday, April 29, 2010
February 28, 2008 Charles "Megeso" Lawrence Delaney Letter ~ Open Letter to Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas of late March 2008 Pages 1 - 8 :
Letter from Charles "Megeso" Lawrence Delaney to Senator Vincent Illuzzi, Chair of the Economic Developement Housing and General Affairs dated February 28, 2008, Page 1:
Senator, Chair and Committee members....Most all here know myself, Charles Delaney of Burlington, Vermont. I'm writing not for any self-promotion but rather the intergrity of process for these amendments and due process of the commission on Abenaki, Native American Affairs, State of Vermont. dr req 08-705-Draft 3, 2-27-2008 JDH. Sec. 1. 1 V.S.A. & 851, 852, 853,854. Even though I believe this amendment has merit for changes in the original recognition law; one's beliefs and allegance's are secondary to the stardard of equal regulations, standars for all. In other words, please, the standards used by the Legislature for an Individual, Band, Tribe or Indian Nation recognition must be the same criteria, practices of the Vermont State Commission on Abenaki, Native American Affairs. This would rule out impreprity because of Committee's and prevent future lawsuits because of percieved double standands; or the Attorney General's Office given grounds for de-recognition of groups.
As for the amendment set forth by the Vermont State Commission, Abenaki, Native American Affairs. Sec. 1. V.S.A.& 852, 854, 12-26-07, Draft 1. under Sec. 2, V.S.A. & 854, (?) 5 (1) Does "Interested Party" refer to an individual person as a seperate from a Band, Tribe or Nation? Is it inclusive in statute to mean an individual Indian artisan with no group affiliation can apply? If not, please include such meaning into statute for all who are or can be inclusive under the amendment.
Letter from Charles "Megeso" Lawrence Delaney to Senator Vincent Illuzzi, Chair of the Economic Developement Housing and General Affairs dated February 28, 2008, Page 2:
Lastly, State Commission Abenaki, Native American Affairs, Draft 3, 2-27-2008-JDH, Sec. 1. V.S.A. & 854 Page (?) Line 1 refers to the disqualification to vote, participate at recognition hearing if the Commission member is of the same group as the applicant.
This was added to safe-guard the process legally as well as the integrity of the Commission. I don't believe it goes far enough.
There is presently is a Commission member (Timothy de la Bruere) who is a Vermonter, Native Indian, but also has family ties, land at Odanak, Quebec, Canada. In concerns only of voting, a member of the Commission has conflict of interest if decisions to be made of Vermont Indian Artisans are considered economic conflict by our northern peoples (Odanak), who are also Native crafters, artisans.
How can the Statute be worded to allow recusal by a Commission member who is a state citizen with other economic, family or political ties? Please include a safe-guard statement for this amendment.
In any way is this an attack of any Commission member of their character or origin, but rather clarification to strengthen their work ahead through statute.
P.O. Box 5862
Burlington, VT 05402
Mr. Charles "Charlie" "Megeso" Lawrence Delaney seemingly was (and perhaps still is...) BIASED towards the members of the Commission (especially Mr. Timothy de la Bruere of the Commission) BEFORE he (Charles Delaney) was ever appointed as Chair of the Vermont Commission On Native American Affairs?!
And to ADD CLARIFICATION of what dynamics were going on back in February and March of 2008 regarding the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, Abenaki Recognition and whom the varied "players" were (and still are, in April 2010 regarding the Abenaki Recognition dynamics in Vermont and New Hampshire...)
From: ETPVT@aol.com (Ralph Skinner Swett)
Date March 23, 2008 3:04 :06 PM
Subject; Fwd: Open Letter To Governor Jim Douglas. I see no file
THE VERMONT COMMISSION ON NATIVE AMERICAN AFFAIRS:
AN OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR JIM DOUGLAS.
Bigoted comments regarding the native participants in 3/14/08 Senate Hearings regarding Abenaki recognition
Homer St. Francis (the late Missisquoi Abenaki Chief, father of April Merrill, a testifier at the hearing) thought it would be alright to simply drive around without a lisence (sic) or a place on top of that because he believed both were the way of the white man, spare us all!
Homer Walter St. Francis Sr. drove around without a license because of his numerous DUI convictions. He couldn't see past the windshield wiper blades, let alone determine if there was a plate on the car.
I do not know how your 5% (native ancestry of Vermont Indians) was calculated. It may be correct for many in Vermont. If it is true, I feel for many at the hearings making the claim, it is an overstatment by 5%.
Watso, Bear Clan Odanak
Dear Governor Douglas
Senate Bill S.117, the historic 2006 statute recognizing the Abenaki people of Vermont, established a Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs to represent the collective interests of Vermont's indigenous population. As part of the statute, the Missisquoi and other formal (Incorporated *under Vermont State Law...) Abenaki groups were provided the official opprotunity to advise the Governor on the selection of Commissioners. Under this authority, we, the four Organized Tribes of Vermont, insist that, that the Commissions as it stands, not be reappointed at the conclusion of their Commissioner's tenure. Our reasons are discussed below, supported by appended documentation.
In addition, in 2006, the Vermont Governor's Commission on Native American Affairs (which was about to be superceded), sent you an important message regarding the VCNAA selection process. It was their last official act. It cautioned the Governor in his selection of Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs commissioners to be appointed under the S.117 bill, to assure their ethnic identity and commitment to representing the interests of Vermont Indians, both individual and collective in its relations to the state (1). Governor's Counsel Suzanne Young informed the former Commissioners, through its former Chair, Dr. Jeffrey Benay, that the Governor's Office chose not to follow these recommendations. We believe that, had these recommendations and guidelines been followed, we would not be where we are today.
Unfortunately, thre has long been discontent in the Vermont Abenaki community
with regards to the actions of the Commission. The hostility of the Commission to Vermont Tribal political initiatives led, in early March 2006, to Koasek Abenaki Brian Chenevert (2), Koasek activist Nancy Millette (3), Missisquoi Chief April Merrill (4), Nulhegan Speaker Luke Willard (5) and El-Nu Abenaki Tribal elders (6) to express their individual and collective frustration with the Vermont Commission, basically giving the Commission a vote of no confidence. This dissatisfaction has been exacerbated by the recent $.369 amendment to the S.117 ("Abenaki Recognition") bill, which gives the Commissioin and the VT Attorney General power of denying an Indian identity to the Indigenous peoples of Vermont. This frustration on the part of Abenaki leaders reflected the general unrest in the Vermont Abenaki Community. The four organized tribes of Vermont have discovered that some members of the Commission have misused their power to actively thwart individual and collective Tribal desires. These preceived actions on the part of Commissioners were considered so threatening that the VT tribes, some heretofore unfriendly to one another, joined together to undo this threat posted by the commission. Although most Vermont Abenakis recognize the positive efforts of some Commissioners, nevertheless they believe that there overall Commission is compromised. Below we have abstracted a few of our most recent concerns.
The Commission's non Vermont Abenaki interests
There has been a growing concern voiced by Indigenous Vermonters that members of the new Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs may have cultural and political allegiance to political entities outside Vermont. The issuse of Odanak, a Canadian Abenaki reserve, is particularly troubling. Since the fall of 2003, Odanak officials have denied that there are Vermont Abenakis other than Odanak descendants. In a particularly cruel move, Odanak officials collaborated with the Vermont Attorney General's 1995-2006 cleansing of Indigenous Vermonter history and identity, focusing on Missisquoi. In response, Indigenous Vermonters bearing the brunt of this ethnic violence became suspicious of Odanak's interests in Vermont, especially when such hostility continues to disrupt Vermont-Abenaki relations. Ms. Denise Watso, a self-identified Odanak Official, made an impassioned February 26, 2008 plea (including all VT Native American Commissioners except for two) are "portraying" Odanak Abenakis "in public." The arrogance of Odanak's oft-stated position is encapsulated in her pretentious demand that Indigenous Vermonts submit to Odanak's determination of who is and who is not Indian. Such combative pomposity has necessarily exerted a certain toxic effect on Indigenous Vermonters opinion of their former brethern to the North, and perhaps their descendants now living in the Green Mountain State. For example, during testimony to the Senate one March 13, 2008, papers attacking the ethnicity of an attending tribal leader were explicitly given to legislatures by a representatives of this Odanak interest (William Whitney, Northfield, VT, personal communication to Jeffrey Benay and Frederick Wiseman, 3/13/08). That was the documentation I gave to Timothy de la Breuere retrospectively-speaking while attending a VCNAA meeting, some of which documentarily already has been placed on this blog, mainly in regards to Nancy Lee (nee: Millette) Cruger - Lyons - Doucet. Many Abenakis
question whether VT Odanak descendants harbor similar beliefs in Odanak cultureal and political supremacy. When pressed, they vehemently deny this connection, even threatening further action (8). But if they are empowered by the legislature to decide who is and is not a Vermont Indian, we doubt that they be impartial, given the semi-official position of the Canadian Reserve.
In testimony at the Feb. 25 VT Commission meeting, at least one of the alleged Odanak partisans was vocal in denial of connections to Odanak, affirming that they are Vermont Abenakis only, and only incidentally from Odanak residents. Ms. Jeanne Brink, asserted in testimony that "To say that we (VT Native Commissioners Jeanne Brink and De la Breuere) are on the Commission representing Odanak is a lie (9)." Ms. Brink is a long time professional teacher of the Abenaki experience. Unlike other, more political Odanak partisans, she has admitted that there is an extant Vermont Abenaki culture. Nevertheless, Ms. Brink's professional work throughout Vermont has consisted of promoting Odanak style baskets, teaching Odanak dances, songs, and other cultural systems, and teaching historical realities emanating from the Odanak, Quebec experience, such as the suppression of drums by the Roman Catholic Church. In her teaching, these cultural, historical, and political characteristics are asserted as characterizing the Vermont Abenaki experience. Her literary work has dealt with Odanak language teaching books and dictionaries. While not asserting a political dominancy of Odanak over Vermont, Ms. Brink is the most articulate advocate of Odanak cultural primacy and hegemony on this side of the border. Contrary to her recent Senate testimony, we believe that her authority to sell baskets under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act apparently stems from her admitted band membership at Odanak (10). In a recent departure from her former "non-political" stance, Ms. Brink threatened an Abenaki artist that she would reject Vermont Tribal petitions for recognition before the Commission (11), unless the tribes went along with her position on an Amendment to S.117. This partisan political move, combined with her equivocal position on Odanak ties, only reinforced fears on the part of the VT Abenaki communities against the Commission.
Timothy de la Breuere is the other person on the VT Commission on Native American Affairs who meets Ms. Denise Watso's criteria for being a "real" Indian. He avows a Vermont Abenaki identity (12). He has not accumulated a decades-long history of promoting Odanak culture like Ms. Brink, and is relatively unknown. Nevertheless, he had the singular honor of being the only Commissioner personally sworn in by Governor Douglas. In the reporting of this event, information emerged in the media that caused Vermont Abenakis great concern. A news article contained explicit expectations on the part of the late Odanak Chief Gilles Obomsawin and Vermont politicians Duncan Kilmartin and Michael Marcotte, that Timothy de la Breuere represent Odanak interests on the Commission (13). De la Breuere is a member of an expatriate Odanak group in Vermont is led by de la Breuere's relative, Richard "Skip" Bernier. This organization has been long known to be hostile to other Native Vermont groups, especially Missisquoi. It has attempted to unsurp Missisquoi's position in relation with Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine (14). Apparently de La Breuere, shares some of Bernier's
and Watso's opinions (7) regarding Vermont Abenakis, saying that "there wasn't an Abenaki in this state except for his family" (15). Such explicit statements, made to other Vermont Abenakis not of Bernier's group, caused great concern regarding his judgement of other Vermont tribes that could potentially seek recognition through the Native Commission. In personal contact with representatives of other tribes, de la Breuere uses combative and implied threatening verbiage. These statements have led one VT tribe (Luke Willard of the Nulhegan group) to have concerns regarding the success of tribal initiatives entirely unconnected to the Commission, such as a Native cultural center for Newport, VT (16). Vermont Native Commisson Chair Mark Mitchell has complained that de la Breuere told him that during a lunch meeting that Governor Douglas indicated to him (de la Breuere) that the Commission's composition would not change. Subsequent discussions with Suzanne Young, Governor's counsel, revealed to Mitchell that the luncheon meeting never happened. When a compromise between the Commission version of an amendment to empower tribes to recognize artists, and a competing one by the Koasek and Missisquoi Abenaki was in the process of negotiation, de la Breuere indicated to the representative of another tribe that "the amendment will fall as Gov. Douglas has already expressed his intent to veto (16)." These data document an expectation on the part of VT legislators that de la Breuere represent Odanak's positions at the Commission, revean an overt over lack of impartiality, and a perceived problem of manipulating the truth in Commission business.
A question of identity and the appearance of abuse of power
The difficulty that we, the Four Organized Vermont Tribes have with Commissioner Judy Dow is due to the possibility of identity fraud and abuse of political, and to a certian extent intellectual power, within the Commission or VT political world. Heretofore, the tribes have not pursued identity fraud issues. However, the written attack on Koassek leader Nancy (nee: Millette) Lyons (now married to Mark Doucet)' ethnic identity at the March 13, 2008 Senate hearing and in the press, by partisan Odanak supporter William Whitney of Northfield, VT (personal communication to Jeff Benay and Fred Wiseman 3/13/08)(as well as the Watso quote at the beginning of this article), has brought identity politics to the fore in this conflict between Odanak/Commissioners and the Four Organized Tribes. Ms. Dow is a self identified Abenaki who is a member of the all-Native Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, and is accepted in the larger New England Community as an Abenaki basket maker from Vermont. She makes a living, in part, based on a well-cultivated Abenaki identity. She is explicit that "I am an Abenaki basket maker" (17) with "deep ancestral roots to the Moccasin Village in the Winooski Intervale (18) or alternatively, the "Winooski family band of Abenaki" (19). She has been making baskets for 40 years, or since she was perhaps 13 years old; "I know who I am," she said. "People don't really say to me, 'Is this an Abenaki basket?'" They know I'm Abenaki." (20). However, according to Nancy Comstock, a woman who claims to be Dow's sister, her family is not Native. Unfortunately, many Vermont families have factions that claim differing ethnic identities, especially a Native ancestry. However, our issue of concern is more than ancestry; it is personal cultural history and veracity, the foundations of Dow's ethnic authority and
livlihood. We believe that family testimony has revealed deception in this foundation. Ms. Comstock said they (Judy Dow's family) did not grow up at the Winooski Intervale and stories that Dow tells about gathering and walking on the trails are untrue. Comstock said she had never hear of Mocassin Village and Dow's "father grew up at Convent in the New North End, Burlington not Winooski." Comstock said Dow was definitely not raised in the Native way. "They (Dow's family) were not raised knowing they were Indian". Instructively for other issues applicable to the Commission to the Commission discussed below, Comstock described her sister as a fraud, saying "Judy lies so much that she believes her own lies" (21). This familial assertion of identity fraud was reluctantly supported by Chief April Merrill, who disclosed (on March 6, 2008), that Ms. Dow had applied, but was not able to meet the requirements for tribal citizenship in the St. Francis/ Sokoki (Missisquoi) Abenaki band. Although declining to go into details of the case due to the confidential nature of the applicant's file; Missisquoi's citizenship requirements applicants to demonstrate a documented descendency from a known Abenaki individual, family or band. This genealogical database includes historically known Abenaki families in the Burlington, VT area. An reason for Missisquoi's collaboration with the Intervale Center in Chittenden County to properly deal with Native concerns in the lower Winooski River Valley. Recently there have been several problems that have surfaced with regards to Dow's claims that arise from the issues of character referred to in this section (22).
Although there have been many disagreements between Commissioner Dow and other Abenakis over the two years of her appointment, we only sample current issues. The first of these is that Commissioner Dow called for testimony only hostile to a bill amendment in which she had a political interest. The bill amendment in question proposed direct recognition of existing Abenaki bands. Contra Dow's actions, Commission Chair Mark Mitchell was careful to go on the record (twice) as saying that , as far as the Commission was concerned, such actions were entirely permissible (23). In addition, Ms. Dow apparently issed this call by portraying herself as representing the VT Native Commission was as a whole: "The Vermont Commission has requested that representation from families and Bands that oppose this bill, be in attendance to present testimony...For additional information, please contact Judy Dow, Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs" (24). This internet posting and those that arose from it caused pandemonium in the Vermont Abenaki Community, pitting many Native groups against one another in public venues such as i nthe February 25 NCAA meeting and the Feb. 29th Senate testimony. The tenor of this can also be inferred from the source posting (24) for the above quote. Interestingly, some of these heretofore opposing factions have joined together out of frustration with these activities and are signatories to this document.
Several people in the VT and larger Abenaki community have reported that VCNAA Chair Mark Mitchell was told by Judy Dow that Chief April Merrill was disruptive at the February 29, 2008 Senate hearing in Montpelier. Confused assertions going through the VT Native rumor mill include that Merrill screamed
at people, threatened others, was told by Chair Vince Illuzzi to take her fight outside, and brought her two brothers her two brothers in to "intimidate." These concerns further "stirred the pot of Abenaki unrest," actions that we cannot allow to continue, since it tears our people apart. A videotape of the Senate Committee meeting by Johnson State College Professor Fred Wiseman revealed no such outbursts, but the camera did not record all of the testimony. The people sitting with Chief Merrill were clearly seen in the videotap, and included arcaheologist and former Governor's Advisory Commission on Native American Affairs Commissioner Dave Skinas, Koasek Spokesperson Nancy Millette-Doucet, Missisquoi Tribal Council Member John Churchill and Koasek genealogist Dr. Raymond Lussier. Wiseman was acquainted with Chief Merrill's brothers, and he reports that they were not there (25). Two other people, Dr. Ray Lussier, (26) and Jeanne Lincoln Kent (27) sat near Merrill and, corroborated the videotape data, refuting Dow's alleged report to Chairman Mitchell. They indicated that Chief Merrill was quite restrained, especially considering the tenor of the testimony as revealed in Wiseman's videotape (25). In attempt to undermine the authority of Vermont Bands. Ms. Dow has pointed out the fact that the Federal Government has rejected one Vermont band for recognition (Senate Testimony), 29 February), a move that was seen by many Vermont Abenakis as using Government-sponsored ethnocide for political purposes. Dow went on to say that family bands, not village or tribal organization, was the means of social and political organization of the Vermont Abenakis. This assertion was a cornerstone to her denial of a competing Missisquoi/ Koasek Abenaki amendment that she was testifying against. Mrs. Dow professes expertise in VT Abenaki history also professing knowledge on an extant village of "deep" time depth in the Winooski Intervale (19). As ethnohistorian, and author (26 [bibliography]), Frederick M. Wiseman, points out below (28) the VT Abenakis is functioned at the village and alliance level, a much more complex form of social intergration than the kinship-based family band, although families, both nuclear and extended, were key components of these larger integrative social systems. Either ms. Dow was ignorantof the nuances of Vermont Native history (29) or is misconstruing that history in her testimony for the specific purpose of undermining the credibility of Missisquoi and Koasek, so as to protect her political interests.
Abenaki leaders, who have known of Commissioner Dow's ethnic identity problem, as well as her penchant for assailing other Abenaki individuals and groups by using misinformation, are disappointed and angry. One has said that "she is viscously protecting her well being while trying to take away our (other Abenaki groups') recognition. It makes me ill that a person could do this to not only a group of people but a minority culture that has endured so much pain already (22)."
In the previous sections, we have listed specific problems that representatives of the Vermont Abenaki Community have with the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, and why the Missisquoi, Koasek and Nulhegan Bands, who collectively represent the vast majority of the identified, enrolled Abenaki tribal