Monday, April 12, 2010
Homer Walter St. Francis Sr.'s Death - Obituary - Write-Up's in the various Vermont Newspapers:
Homer Walter St. Francis, Sr.
Juanuary 19, 1935
July 07, 2001
"Swanton Abenaki Chief Homer St. Francis dies after long illness"
BERKSHIRE (AP) -- Homer St. Francis, the longtime leader of the Abenaki Indian tribe in northwestern Vermont, died over the weekend. St. Francis, 66, died at his camp in Berkshire surrounded by family members, said his daughter April Rushlow, who became the Abenakis' acting chief in 1996. St. Francis fought lymphoma for nine years, and also suffered from epmphysema and diabetes. A descendant of Chief Greylock, who launched raids in Massachusetts and southern Vermont in the 1700's, St. Francis was the chief of the St. Francis-Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi from 1974-1980 and again from 1987 until 1996, when he handed affairs over to Rushlow. "He had a vision for the Abenakis and never backed down, never compromised, never gave up," said Fred Wiseman, a Swanton Abenaki who directs the tribal museum in town, and is chairman of the humanities program at Johnson State College. "I think he's been the central person within the last 20, 25 years in the renaissance of the Abenaki." The tribe that St. Francis grew up in was one that had been devastated by European settlement and driven underground by racism. That racism found its purest expression in the "eugenics" campaign of the 1920's and '30's, which promoted the sterilization of Abenaki and other groups of Vermont's "undesirables." After military service, St. Francis tried to change the Abenaki world he had left. He wanted the tribe to be respected, and he wasn't polite about it. Claiming that they Abenaki had never signed any treaties and that this land had been taken illegally, he led "fish-ins" in 1979, 1983 and 1987 to show he and his followers were exempt from state fish and game regulations. He won a short victory when Vermont District Judge Joseph Wolchik ruled in 1989 that the tribe had never ceded aboriginal rights - including the freedom to hunt and fish on their ancestral lands - but the Vermont Supreme Court reversed Wolchik's decision in 1992. In 1988, St. Francis announced he wanted tribal members to stop using Vermont license plates and start using an Abenaki version instead. "If I get a traffic ticket, "I'm going to tear it up and throw it away," he said. "This is our land." He demanded return of the land on which the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge sits and later insisted the tribe should be returned its ancestral homeland, which included all of northern New England and parts of Quebec. He didn't succeed. The tribe never achieved federal recognition, and only won state recognition from 1976-1977, but observers say he was the driving force behind an increased awareness and respect for Abenaki culture. When his daughter April found her eighth-grade textbooks described the Abenaki as "savages," St. Francis had a few words with school officials and saw that the language was removed. When he found out in 1989 that University of Vermont academics were using Abenaki remains as doorstops, he went to campus and told the researchers to return them at once-or he'd cremate them on the spot. "He put the nation back on the map, back in the history books," Rushlow said. "He took us out of hiding we went into because of the eugenics movement."
Thursday, July 12, 2001 Burlington Free Press Newspaper "St. Francis laid to rest"
Caption: Chief for Life April Rushlow (left in white) buries her father, Homer St. Francis, chief of the St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi, at St. Mary's Cemetery in Swanton on Wednesday. Abenaki bury their chief Vermont Indian leader remembered as firerce warrior with a soft touch. By Lisa Jones, Free Press Staff Writer SWANTON - As Homer St. Francis' pallbearers carried his body toward its final resting place raised their left hands in a fist. It seemed like a fitting gesture - a defiant fist for a defiant Indian chief. That's not what it was at all. "It's more like taking your hat off," explained Carroll Larocque of Orleans, a member of the Nebesak Band of the Abenaki. "You raise your left hand because it's the closest one to your heart." Likewise, while there were plenty of reminiscences of the Abenaki chief's well-known warrior-like qualities Wednesday, his funeral also celebrated his lesser-known soft side. "We were at the tribal offices about 14 years ago, doing the usual stuff," recalled ethnohistorian John Moody of Hartford, who delivered the eulogy. "Someone brought in a butternut tree in a pot. He stopped everything and went up to the camp to plant it." Moody was a lontime friend of St. Francis. He remembers his first lunch with the chief in the 1970's. "I was having a big chef salad - I was a vegetarian. He said, 'Let me understand this. You're white. You don't hunt. You don't have a family. You're not married. How the heck are you going to help us?'" But the eulogy - like the flamboyant St. Francis, who made enemies as well as friends as he brought the disenfranchised and fractious Abenaki to their feet - couldn't remain apolitical. "He was a warrior, no doubt about," Moody said, "Great chief, ...... See ABENAKI, 11A .....
Caption: Patricia St. Francis (foreground, center) walks into The Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the beginning of funeral services for her husband, Homer St. Francis, chief of the St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi.
The Burlington Free Press, Thursday, July 12, 2001 Page 11A: ABENAKI: "Chief laid to rest in Swanton." Continued from Page 1A. .... old man, he lived and died to make his people free. May you live on in the hearts of everyone here fo seven generations to come." Buckskin and business suits Moody's words drew occassional laughs and round of the native affirmative "Aho!" from the largest crowd that had been seen at a local funeral for a quite a while. Some 600 Indians in buckskin garb, men in work caps and jeans, women in mini skirts and dairy farmers in suits filled the Church of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Children squirmed in the pews. Gov. Howard Dean and State Historic Preservation Officer Emily Wadhams sat near the front, right behind the deceased chief's son-in-law John Rushlow, who was wearing a coyote skin. There were representatives from the Micmac, Malecite, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Oneida, Mohawk, Mohegan, Mohican and Narragansett tribes. Not only the crowd was diverse; the ceremonies following St. Francis' death were as far-ranging and complex as their subject. Tuesday night at Kidder Memorial Home, native drummers sat before the chief's casket and drummed as people paid their respects. Wednesday morning, an escort of drummers walked wih the hearse behind the Abenaki flag as the coffin was driven to the church. Pastor Charles Ranges - a friend of the St. Francis family - led a Catholic liturgy. "My job isn't to eulogize Homer," Ranges said. "He has given me more than one sermon on how my ancestors didn't treat his with the dignity they deserved...The chief felt his cathedral was in the outdoors. Certainly, the Lord is everywhere." Easing the journey About halfway through the ceremony, E. John Lawyer, an Abenaki from Sheldon, silently disappeared from his pew. He walked to the burial site nearby and burned a bundle of sweetgrass, sage, tobacco, white birch bark and an eagle feather. "We send out prayer to the creator with the smoke," said Lawyer, whose long dark hair was pinned back with a feather. "It eases the journey to the spirit world." Soon afterward, St. Francis' coffin was brought to the grave. A Vermont Army National Guard honor unit performed a 21-gun salute, played Taps, folded the American flag draped over the coffin and presented it to St. Francis' widow. He had served in the National Guard, the Marines and the Navy. Lawyer watched this, listend to another round of native chanting and quietly left the gathering. "I'm not sure Homer changed the Abenaki world," he said later. "I think he brought it together. If he changed anything, he changed the white world that was suffocating ours." "Sometimes he appeared to be a bad guy, but he had a good heart. A strong heart and a good will...It takes a really strong man to bend to be eye to eye with a child. And Homer had that. Children loved him. I had some boys, very young boys. They loved him." His eyes filled with tears. He nodded goodbye and walked quickly away. Contact Lisa Jones at 660-1874 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The County Courier Vo. 33 No. 28 (USPS 530-560) The Weekly Journal For Northwestern Vermont...Thursday, July 12, 2001 Photograph: At left, Gov. Howard Dean comforts Patsy St. Francis, widow of Abenaki Grand Chief Homer St. Francis, before funeral services Wednesday at the Church of the Nativity in Swanton. At right, Doris St. Francis (left) and April Rushlow, daughters of Chief St. Francis, help bear his coffin. (Photographs by Chad Libbey)
The County Courier Vo. 33 No. 28 (USPS 530-560) The Weekly Journal For Northwestern Vermont...Thursday, July 12, 2001 Abenaki Chief Homer St. Francis Dies At 66 By Susan Trzepacz SWANTON: After 30 years of haranguing state and local officials as he crusaded for aboriginal rights, the brash, outspoken chief of the St. Francis-Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation is now silent. Grand Chief Homer W. St. Francis died early Saturday morning, July 7, at his family camp in Berkshire after a decade-long battle with cancer. Born in Swanton 66 years ago in the house which his family still occupies today, St. Francis was one of a handful of Native American descendants who began "the Abenaki Renaissance" more than 30 years ago. For years local families of Abenaki descent had denied their ancestry, afraid of public censure under programs such as the Eugenics Survey sponsored by the University of Vermont in the early 1900's. On a more personal basis, local Native Americans knew they would get along better with their Anglo neighbors if their heritage remained hidden. Generations of children grew up without knowing they were Abenaki. But private discussions around kitchen tables in the area of Swanton known as Back Bay during the late 1960's led to social and ethnic consciousness and advocacy. The first "Fish-In" on April 19, 1974 brought the existence of the Abenaki to the attention of Vermont politicians and residents alike. A form of civil disobedience, the fish-in brought those who claimed Abenaki heritage to the shores of Lake Champlain and the Missisquoi River to fish without a license. The argument was that they had aboriginal rights to hunt and fish on the land which European settlers had stolen from their ancestors. In 1975 the Abenaki tribe, which according to textbooks had disappeared more than a century before, elected St. Francis as its chief and presented the Vermont Fish and Game Commission with a petition signed by 1,400 Native Americans demanding their aboriginal hunting and fishing rights. The battle was on and Homer St. Francis was in the thick of it, laying claim to the better part of New England...ABENAKI CHIEF Please turn to page 2 ....
The County Courier Vo. 33 No. 28 (USPS 530-560) The Weekly Journal For Northwestern Vermont...Thursday, July 12, 2001 ABENAKI CHIEF Continued from page 1...on behalf of the Abenaki Nation. While the initial media coverage portrayed him as a belligerent bully leading a lunatic fringe, gradually St. Francis and the Abenaki community he led gained credibility. As they organized and established a tribal council, the Abenaki Self-Help Association, a project for low-income housing and a variety of economic improvement projects, the Abenaki became recognized as members of the Franklin County community. While St. Francis did not bring about these changes single-handedly, he was a catalyst, according to Fred Wiseman, a member of the Abenaki tribe and director of the Abenaki Cultural Museum on Grand Avenue in Swanton. "He was a gadfly," said Wiseman. "He rallied as well as irritated people and he kept at it right up until he couldn't do it anymore. Despite his confrontational and apparently dictatorial approach, St. Francis knew what his role was and kept it in perspective. Several years ago during a special meeting of the Governor's Commission on Native American Affairs to celebrate the successful completion of a small scale manufacturing project sponsored by the tribal council, St. Francis was asked about another scheme involving a sawmill operation which failed to get off the ground. St. Francis shrugged. "I have lots of ideas. Some work and some don't. But when they work, it's because of these people," he gestured to the Abenaki community members standing near him. "These people make them work." Some of those who helped make St. Francis' ideas work recall their intial meetings with the chief as unsettlings experiences. Jeff Benay, chair of the Governor's Commission on Native American Affairs, remembered his interview wit hthe tribal council when he applied for the job of director of the Title V Indian Education Program. "Homer just looked at me and said, "The bottom line is this: Why should we hire some Jew from New York to work with Vermont Indians anyway?" Benay recounted. He later came to think of St. Francis' question as the "bullshit test." From that initial exchange, Benay knew he was expected to work hard, and communicate directly and honestly. And despite the attitude he conveyed during the job interview, St. Francis had great respect for other people and other cultures. Benay said the chief never failed to call him on major Jewish holidays to convey his good wishes. Wiseman had a similar experience with St. Francis. Although he grew up in Swanton and was of Abenaki descent, Wiseman had not been a part of the local Native American community. After earning a doctorate in anthropology and living outside of Franklin County for a number of years, Wiseman returned to Swanton and became involved with the tribal council. When St. Francis appointed him a tribal ambassador of cultural affairs, Wiseman was uncertain as to just what was expected of him. "I went into his office," Wiseman said, " and asked him what my charge was. He said there was no charge. ' You just have to deal with historical and archaeological stuff,' Homer told me. ' Now do it right or you're out.' I must have done it right because he never fired me." St. Francis became a little warmer toward Wiseman over the years and entrusted him with greater responsibility...ABENAKI CHIEF...Please turn to page 3...
The County Courier Vo. 33 No. 28 (USPS 530-560) The Weekly Journal For Northwestern Vermont...Thursday, July 12, 2001 A funeral procession bearing the coffin of Chief Homer St. Francis files into St. Mary's Cemetery in Swanton on Wednesday. (Photograph by Chad Libbey).
The County Courier Vo. 33 No. 28 (USPS 530-560) The Weekly Journal For Northwestern Vermont...Thursday, July 12, 2001 ABENAKI CHIEF Continued from page 2: Wiseman believes that the change came about as the result of years of discussion about hunting and fishing. "To Homer, archaeologists were a dime a dozen," he said, "but a good fisherman was something to be treasured." For the last five years declining health limited St. Francis' role in tribal affairs. Since 1996, his daughter April Rushlow has held the position of acting chief. A year ago, however, when controversy erupted over Native American remains discovered at a construction site on Monument Road, St. Francis was at the tribal office cursing state officials and asserting that all of Vermont legally belonged to the Abenaki Nation. St. Francis always knew how to get people's attention. John Edwards, former commander of the Vermont State Police Barracks in St. Albans, recalled St. Francis' promotion of Abenaki sovereignty through the display of Abenaki license plates in the late 1980's. Tribal members removed the Vermont plates from their vehicles and replaced them with a numbered plate of Native American design bearing the words "Abenaki Nation" and "Missisquoi Indians." Gov. Snelling was in office at the time and arranged a personal meeting with Edwards. While failure to display a state license plate was hardly a criminal offense, said Edwards, Snelling wanted the Abenaki plates off the road. Chuckling, Edward said, "Dick Snelling banged his fist on the desk and yelled, 'There's one overnor of Vermont and, by God, it's not Homer!' " Wiseman described St. Francis as "the last in the line of a long series of chiefs who have fought for the Abenaki homelands." His way of fighting was raucous, original and always entertaining. While his days of irritating governors are now over, his dream of a better life for the Abenaki, including federal recognition, are still being pursued by those who helped him turn many of his ideas into reality. The Abenaki Nation is now preparing its second application for federal recognition. The Abenaki Heritage Festival is an annual event held in downtown Swanton. His daughter is working with local officials to preserve Abenaki burial sites. St. Francis was laid to rest this week with mementos of his military service, a red baseball cap with the U.S. Marines insignia and a U.S. Navy decal, as well as the traditional Abenaki bundles of sacred herbs wrapped in red wool. His family, tribal members and friends from outside the Abenaki community gathered to pay tribute to a man who knew how to be heard. As Rushlow stood beside her mother during visiting hours at Kidder Memorial Home on Tuesday, a summer storm broke overhead and thunder echoed through the room. "Listen, " she said grinning. "He's still making noise."
Front Page of the St. Albans Messenger Volume 143 No. 163 (USPS) (5133-8000) Thursday, July 12, 2001. Mordern-day warrior mourned Diverse crowd attends service for St. Francis By Leon Thompson Messenger Staff Writer SWANTON VILLAGE - A diversse, 600 person delegation of non-native and Native Americans gathered at the Church of the Nativity here in Wednesday to honor and bid farewell to Homer St. Francis, Vermont's uncompromising and headstrong Abenaki leader. Before the 11 a.m. Roman Catholic funeral began, a parade of Abenaki marched from St. Francis' Liberty Street home to the church, beating drums and chanting Native American funeral dirges. Some of the smoked pipes, while others raided their left fists in tribute. One Abenaki waved the tribe's green flag at the head of the procession. Dressed in full, Native American attire-including beads, skins and feather headdresses-representatives from the Malecite, Penobscot, Oneida, Mohawk, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, Mohegan, Narragansett and Mohican tribes joined the Abenaki in ushering St. Francis' spirit to a new life. St. Francis died last Saturday after battling cancer for eight years. He also suffered from emphysema and diabetes. He was 66. Vocal and beliigerent, St. Francis was deteremined to make the state recognize his people and their land claims when he became chief in 1975. He staged "fish-ins"-during which Abenaki fished without state-issued licenses-and urged tribal citizens to replace Vermont vehicle registration...See St. Francis on page 5...
Front Page of the St. Albans Messenger Volume 143 No. 163 (USPS) (5133-8000) Thursday, July 12, 2001. Page 5 St. Francis continued from page 1...with specially designed Abenaki license plates. St. Francis was chief until 1980 and again from 1986 until his death. His daughter, April Rushlow, was named acting chief after he became ill in the 1990's. She was named chief after her father died. "It's not my duty to eulogize Chief St. Francis," said Father Charles Ranges, who conducted the Mass. "I don't think he'd want me to canonize him. he gave more than one sermon about how the ancestors of my faith and clergy didn't treat his ancestors with enough dignity." Instead, Ranges left words of remember to John Moody , an ethnohistorian from Hartford who befriended St. Francis in the 1970's. Moody said he first met St. Francis in a restaurant. "I ordered a chef salad. I was a vegetarian-still am," Moody recalled. "He looked at me and said,'Let me get this straight: You're not Native. You don't eat meat. You don't hunt. You don't fish. You don't trap. You're not married, and you don't have kids. How the heck are you gonna help us?'" That memory roused laughter from the church patrons, as did one about Moody telling St. Francis his mother raised him to fear the St. Francis-Sokoki Abenaki. "He said, 'You know, I;m not going to kill you today for saying that,'" Moody said of St. Francis."'But if you don't get your act together, I will at some point.'" That was St. Francis, Moody said. he also described him as a brilliant thinker-one with an eighth-grade education-who loved his family, the land and his people. Protecting his homeland and tribe with a ferocity is his legacy, Moody said. "He was a warrior, there was no doubt about it," Moody said, as light rain fell outside the church. 'He was the one who stood up in the '70s and said, "I know who I am. I know who we are. I know where we are. And you need to remember this. You must remember this.' "He lived and died to make his people free." After the service-as the sun reappeared-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean remembered the first time he met St. Francis in the early 1990s. They discussed holding Abenaki celebrations in Swanton. "You can't forget the first time you met Homer," the governor said. "He was a very gruff, tough, blunt guy, but with a soft spot in his heart. I always liked him. He poked his fingeres in my chest a few times and told me how it was going to be." St. Francis did wonderful things for the Abenaki in Vermont, even though many people would disagree, Dean said. "Anytime there's a group of people who don't feel like they're full partners, it affects all of us," he said. "Homer watned to make his people feel like they were full partners." St. Francis was buried in the church cemetery during a ceremony including full military honors and a 21-gun salute. An American falg was draped over his casket in the cemetery and was presented to his widow, Patricia.----Leon Thompson primarily covers Swanton, Highgate, Sheldon, Alburg and Franklin. He can be reached at 524-9771 ext. 112 or via email: email@example.com
Marriage Record for William Walter Merrill and April Ann (nee: St. Francis) Rushlow whom married on September 04, 2004 in Swanton, Franklin County, Vermont by Justice of the Peace Richard J. Thompson. He was (is) the son of Ralph W. Merrill and Joan M. (nee: Lincoln), and was born on March 05, 1957. She was (is) the daughter of Homer Walter St. Francis Sr. and Patricia "Patsy" Rae (nee: Partlow), and was born on May 16, 1968.
In the following postings I will show and provide the genealogical ancestors of April Ann (nee: St. Francis) Rushlow - Merrill, that was definitively worked on by my person, Lynn Menard-Mathison of Griswold, Connecticut, and also in part by Suzette LeClair of Rawdon, Quebec, Canada. I will show the LeClair format, and then my own genealogical mapping, of the St. Francis and allied families.