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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Open Letter to Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas of late March 2008 Pages 23-31:

(24) Widespread public E-mail Posting

From: "abenakichild"
(Douglas Lloyd Buchholz)
Date: February 24, 2008 1:37:12 PM GMT-05:00
To: Abenaki_news_ issues@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [Abenaki_news_ issues] 3rd email....
Reply-To: Abenaki_news_ issues@yahoogroups.com
-----Original Message-----
From: RickPouliot@ gedakina. org [mailto:RickPouliot@ gedakina.org]
Sent: Friday, February 22, 2008 10:34 AM
To: Paul Pouliot
Subject: Urgent!!!!! Controversial Amendment to Vermont Abenaki Recognition Bill
She:kon Paul,
This is in reference to an urgent matter that concerns members of the Cowasuck band of Pennacook/ Abenaki that are living in Vermont. Apparently April St. Francis, a family leader from Swanton Vermont and Nancy Millette a group leader from the central Connecticut river (sic) valley have been working behind closed doors with Mark Mitchell (Chair of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs), without support or inclusion of the Commission, to push through an amendment to the Vermont state recognition bill that would recognize April and Nancy's groups as being the only legitimate Abenaki groups in Vermont. This would exclude members of all other families and tribal groups. This is a significant issue and there is a hearing on Monday 25 February 10AM - 12PM at the National Life Building - 1 National Life Drive in Montpelier, Vermont. The Vermont Commission has requested that representation from families and Bands that oppose this bill, be in attendance to present testimony. I would suggest that a representative from your band Concil (sic), speaking on behalf of the Band and family members attend this meeting.
Richard "Rick" Daniel Pouliot
For additional information, please contact Judy Dow, Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs. 802-879-6155 jdowbasket@aol. Com

(25) Fred Wiseman’s review of the 2/29/07 Senate hearing tapes.

(26) Regarding Dow’s alleged assertions On the 29th of February 2008
Nancy Millette and I went to the State House for the hearings. I don't recall the exact times but it is not that important. When we arrived, we met April St. Francis an (sic) Richard (sic) I believe that this was John Churchill in the foyer. Nancy introduced us all. April said she was glad to finally meet me and she and Nancy went on talking their business. Richard and I, started talking about fishing and hunting and Vet's affairs and our Grandchildren. We have no idea what Nancy and April were talking about but they were standing right next to us the entire time. When the time came, we all went inside and took seats on the right back of the hall. April and Nancy sat together and Richard sat on the outside seat next to me. One of the Senator's (sic) sat with us for a bit and we looked at an old map of the Koasek area. The only time I stepped out
was for a minute to speak with Howard at the doorway and I could still see and hear what was going on in the room-nothing unusual. The proceedings began. Nancy presented her part and then April. There were no out of order discussions that I witnessed at any time. April never threatened anyone or "went off" in any way. Nancy and April sat with Richard and me for the duration. When the meeting was over we went to the hall. Richard and April came out at the same time. I was standing in the doorway with Howard Knight, and Senator Illuzzi went past us. We both said thanks to him but he did not stop because he was late for the next session. Nancy and I said goodbye to Richard (John Churchill) an d April and Nancy and I left, with Todd Hebert and his wife. I am not April's brother nor is Richard. Richard is not my brother and that day was the first day we ever met. By coincidence, Richard and I had the same jackets and are around the same age and size. This is the whole truth as I recall it. I hope this helps. It should correspond to the video in general sequence of events.

Dr. Ray Lussier
Tribal Judge, Koasek
3/2/ 2008

(27) Regarding Dow’s alleged assertions
The only time April (Chief April Merrill) spoke up was when Paul (Pouliot) testified and she said he didn't live in VT. Other than that, I heard nothing, certainly not toward Judy Dow. And when she asked where Paul lived, there were no threats. As a matter of fact, I was more upset then (sic) she. When I voiced my agitation to her, she shrugged her shoulders and said "What will be, will be." No, I did not witness any hostility.
Jeanne Lincoln Kent
Abenaki Craftsperson

(28) “The Abenaki Family Band,” contributed by Frederick M. Wiseman, Ph.D.
It has been the historical way of the Abenaki to have family bands. Centralized tribes were not part of our life ways but merely a construct developed for Indian groups to abide by the rules of the colonizer. I have for you a list of quotes from historians that explain through time what a family band was and still is for the Abenaki. The point these historians are trying to make is that it is the Abenaki life way to exist in family bands; it is the non-Indian way to categorize Abenaki into tribes. However some Abenaki may choose to follow this path today.

VCNAA Commissioner Judy Dow,

Feb 29, 2008 Introduction Part of the strategy to discredit the authenticity of existing tribal entities such as Koasek and Missisquoi is an appeal to the idea that the “family band” is the original and true basis of Vermont Abenaki polity. In her testimony, Ms. Dow uses the term “family band” in the ethnohistoric sense rather than the bureaucratic or lawyerly sense, in her scholarly refutation of the legitimacy, and hence the
political power of modern village and tribal leadership. In ethnohistory, such defining flows from basic ethnological theory. I have used this cultural anthropological theory extensively in my training, research and publication for over 30 years (see references), and would like to respond, to a limited extent, to Ms. Dow’s premise with citation to a sample of my applicable academically presented and published work. The issue is empirically (the ethnographic and archaeological data), theoretically (functionalism [my theoretical bent as an archaeologist by training] structuralism, post modernism etc.) and politically (competitive access to and control of the Indigenous past) complex, but I will attempt a primer.

The idea that the people now classified by anthropologists as Abenaki functioned only at the band level of sociocultural integration is a dated and simplistic concept (Wiseman 1997a, 1998a, 2001, 2005). There are widely accepted (since the mid 20th century) anthropological meanings for the “traditional societies” classified as band and tribe and the complex society types called chiefdoms and states (Wiseman, 2005). Originally conceived as a neo-evolutionary scheme, the band/tribe/chiefdom /state system later became an ecological or organizational classification. Like many other cultural theoreticians, I have attempted to get beyond this classification, but still find it useful as an introductory teaching and political tool. The defining attributes of each level of sociocultural integration include internal traits such as kinship, economic systems (Rathje, W.L., D.A. Gregory and F.M. Wiseman 1978, Wiseman 2005), subsistence (Wiseman 1983, 1986, 2005) and technological specialization (Wiseman 1992, 2001, 2005), leadership roles (Wiseman 1997a, 2000a) and external relations such as trade and diplomacy (Wiseman 1998a, 1999a, b, 2000a, b, c, 2001a).

Pre-American era complexity
It is my professional opinion that the pre-American and colonial period Abenakis were intermediate between the tribal and chiefdom level of sociocultural integration, but with significant temporal and spatial variation. It is true that extended families (the nuclear family, plus grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins), were the “glue” that held Abenaki society together since the Paleo-Indian Period, but even at that early date, the sophisticated long-range ice-margin seafaring society that existed in the Missisquoi region at 10,200 BP (Wiseman 2005), argues for marine navigating leadership systems at the inter-familial level. Interestingly, archaeologists acknowledge that complex or sophisticated art, and intricate proxemic placement indicates part or full time specialization permitted by subsistence surplus and its organizational redistribution. The Abenakis exhibited this complex level of social organization for 7000 years, perhaps climaxing at the great burial system at Monument Road, Franklin Co. VT, where communally organized and run cemeteries are evidence of corporate activity well above the level of the individual family band (UVM Physical Anthropologist Deborah Blom in Wiseman 2006). The large earthworks of still-unknown date (Wiseman, 2001b, 2005, Timreck and Wiseman, in press) are another distinctive trait that accompanies social organization probably at the chiefdom level (at least in some cases such as those found in the Woodstock and
Rochester, VT areas). 
Colonial era complexity
In Post Contact times, groups of extended families were integrated at the village level (i.e. Missisquoi, Koasek, Sokoki, and perhaps Winooski) by large communal structures (and later earth-fast and other European-derived types of multi-family dwellings), subsistence, civilian and military leadership; and at the Alliance level by complex intertribal and international bonds to their Wabanaki relations as well as a larger allied world via the Great Council Fire (Wiseman 1997a; 1998a, 1999a, b; 2000b, c; 2001a, b, 2005). Historic village structures such as landings, dance grounds, council houses, medicine poles, palisades, and their planned placement are material evidence of corporate activity at the supra-family level. The political maintenance of historic cemeteries, witness trees, quarries and portages are evidence of corporate activity, in some cases at a level above that of the village. In this socio/material way, the Abenaki villages organized resource access, chief-making, allocation of warriors to joint military ventures, and trade access to intercultural places such as Tadoussac (later Quebec, then Montreal), Albany, and Springfield, MA. In villages such as Missisquoi and Odanak, which had to socially integrate refugees fleeing genocide in southern New England, pre-existing complex international relations “greased the ways” to allow rapid integration of disparate languages and cultural variations to achieve new syncretic or blended social systems (Wiseman 1997, 2000a, 2001b).

In summaryIndigenous pasts are valuable resources for modern Native People to attempt to control. If the past can be shown to be unsophisticated, then there is a natural assumption on the part of settler governments that their descendents are intrinsically unsophisticated. Thus neocolonial governments believe that they can be oppressed until when and if they learn political sophistication from the “superior” culture. The current political and social power of the various Iroquois nations are, in part, based on the promotion of their political sophistication by pioneer anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan and his intellectual descendents -- from professors, to institutes to whole academic foci (Wiseman 2005). Modern scholars have largely ignored the fact that the Abenakis were part of an even larger and more diverse political alliance, and the Abenakis have been the poorer for it. I have fought against this intolerant idea that Abenaki (and Wabanaki) societies were naive and unsophisticated, and this defense forms the central political thesis of my works being published by University Press of New England (Wiseman 2001b, 2005 and MSS in prep). That the conflict and its resolution that seems to be ebbing and flowing in the Vermont Indigenous world is basically at the Village or “tribal” (groups composed of many families or lineages) level, is excellent documentation of the 21st century continuance of this ancient complexity. Finally, a peer reviewer of this argument believed that I was too kind in my detailed deconstruction of Ms. Dow’s argumen t:

I think you need to review your conclusion to be sure you deliver the "knock out punch" because I didn't get a clear wrap up. It should end with the clear statement: "therefore Ms. Dow is dead wrong".
Dr. Raymond Lussier, Koasek Band,
March 2, 2008 (this date shows up on the next image) 
References (F.M. Wiseman, unless otherwise stated)

Rathje, W.L., D.A. Gregory and F.M. Wiseman Trade models and archaeological problems: Classic
Maya examples. In T.A. Lee and C. Navarrete (eds.), Mesoamerican Communication Routes and Cultural Contacts. New World Archaeological Foundation Papers No. 40:147-175. Provo, UT.
Subsistence and complex societies: the case of the Maya.Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory. VI:143-189.Academic Press. New York.
Palynology of complex societies. Society for Archaeological Sciences. New Orleans, May, 1986
10,000 Native American years in Vermont. Summer Lecture Series, Vermont Historical Society. Calais, VT. August, 1989
Abenaki prehistory and history. "We Vermonters", Fletcher Free Library Series, Burlington VT. February, 1990.
The Material Heritage of the Western Abenaki. The Columbian Legacy Symposium, Goddard College, Plainfield. Oct. 1992
The Western Abenaki Renaissance. Humanities Department symposium, Penobscot Nation, Old Town Maine, October 1993.
(a)“Abenaki History and Ceremony“ Vermont Council on the Humanities Annual Adult Education Conference. Ascutney VT.
(b)New Dawn (with Linda Pearo, Madeline Young, and Jeff Benay) University of Vermont Press. 171 pp.
(a)“The Great Council Fire“. Musee des Abenakis Odanak, Que.
May 1998.
(b)“The Abenaki“ Wabanaki Confederacy Annual Gathering. Odanak, Quebec,
June 1998
(a)The Great Alliance. Wabanaki Confederacy Annual Gathering. Pleasant Point, ME,
June 1999
(b)The Last Alliance. Abenaki Symposium. University Of Vermont, Burlington
November, 1999
(a) The Abenakis’ Role in the Great Peace of 1701. Musee de Montreal; Fête des paix
March 28, 2000
(b) “Origin and development of the Wabanaki Confederacy” and “The Council Fire.” Wabanaki Confederacy Annual Gathering, Old Town, ME.
June, 21, 2000
(c)The Abenakis and their political heritage. Heritage Days Celebration, Highgate,  VT,
May, 2000 2001
(a)Last Alliance, the Wabanakis and the Great Council Fire. New England Historical
Society, Old Sturbridge Village,
May, 2001
(b)The Voice of the Dawn University Press of New England. Hanover, NH.
(a)Forensic science, sovereignty and ethnography. American Indian Science
 and Engineering Society. University of New Hampshire.

April, 12, 2003
(b)“Abenaki”, “Abenaki Heritage Days p. 31; “Mahicans” pp. 194-195; “Missisquoi Village” p. 207; “Winoskik” 327 in Duffy, J, S. Hand and R. Orth. Vermont
Encyclopedia University Press of New England, Hanover

The Wabanaki World Vol. I : Decolonizing a taken prehistory of the Far Northeast University Press of New England.

Against the Darkness (CD/DVD Combo. Wôbanakik Heritage Center/Title 7 Indian
Education, Swanton. In press Timreck, Theodore, and Wiseman, FM, Hidden Landscapes, (five part video series) MSS. In Preparation Against the Darkness: the Wabanaki World 1609-1970, and The Data Wars of the Far Northeast: the Wabanaki World, 1970-. University Press of New England

(29.) Dartmouth Historian Colin Calloway, communication to Nancy Millette, 11 Mar 2008
Dartmouth Historian Colin Calloway, the foremost Euro American authority of Vermont Abenaki history, has never, in his researches, heard of Moccasin Village, and does not have anything on the historical Winooski community. In response to a Query by Koasek activist Nancy Millette, he said the following.

From: ************ ****@Dartmouth. EDU (Colin G. Calloway)
To: chiefnaki@comcast. net
Subject: Re: another question
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2008 12:20:34 +0000
Nancy Millette - Doucet:
I'm afraid I did not have much on Winooski and I had not heard of Moccasin Village.
Collin G. Calloway
To: Office of the Attorney General
State of Vermont
Dear Sir:
I am becoming increasingly disappointed with the behavior of some members of the VT Indian Commission.
At Friday's hearing, one member (Jeanne Brink) came over to me and asked me why I was sitting with April Merrill and Nancy Millet (sic), then quietly said that if the Senate did not pass the Committee's bill, she was going to recommend no recommendation for anyone. (My husand Robert Kent was sitting between us and heard the conversation.) Further, when giving testimony she stated she was not affiliated with Odanak. I am attaching a news item which indicates differently.
Also, during the past week, numerous private emails which should have passed between Mark Mitchell, chair, and Nancy Millette were published on a Native website (Yahoo Group Message Board) called Abenaki News Issues. When I contacted him, he said he had contacted your office and felt there was no reason or guidelines which prevented him or anyone from doing so. Now (sic) there are rumors that Judy Dow has been saying that April yelled at her and threatened her. For the time I was there, I did not see any such behavior, April raised her voice only to say that Paul Pouliot did not reside in Vermont. Fred Wiseman documented the hearing with video and that should be verifiable through that tape. Together with these incidents, I am very concerned about this commission or these members, handling sensitive information related to recognition. I am seeing dishonesty and a lack of respect for sensitive materials from them. If they are to proceed, I would reccommend that stronger guidelines be in place regarding the handling of submitted materials and communications to and from the Commission. Thank you.
Jeanne Kent, B.F.A., M.A., Ed.
Abenaki (not a chief just an Indian)

Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2007
By Terri Hallenbeck
Free Press Staff Writer
MONTPELIER -- A solution is in the works that could fix in a 2006 Abenaki recognition law, setting up a proceedure for recognizing tribes so artists can market their work as Native American.
A draft proposal tht would require legislative approval would all tribes, bands, or nations to apply to the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs for recognition. The commission would weigh the merits of the application and pass its recommendations along to the Legislature for formal approval.
The Legislature passed a law in 2006 thta recognised the Abenaki as a minority population in Vermont. Soon after, however, it became evident that because the law provided no means for specific bands to gain official state recognition, it failed to meet the federal Indian Arts & Crafts Board standards to allow artists to sell their wares as Native American-made. "I think it will solve the problem," said Jeanne Brink of Barre, an
Abenaki basketmaker who is a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs. She is able to sell her work as Native American as a citizen of the Odanak Reserve in Quebec, but she works with other Vermont Abenaki artists who cannot.
The commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal Oct. 25. Commission Chairman Mark Mitchell of Barnet said he hopes the panel will approve wording in November and send it to the Legislature in January. The 2006 law was heralded as a breakthrough for Vermont Abenaki after efforts to recieve federal or state recognition had failed for many years. The St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of the Abenaki lost its appeal for federal recognition this year. Helping Abenaki market their and crafts as Native American was among the chief goals of the law.
Mitchell worked with Assistant Assistant Attorney General Mike McShane and Suzanne Young, legal counsel to Gov. Jim Douglas, on drafting the proposal. This time, Mitchell said, the group consulted the Indian Arts and Crafts Board along the way. "The board said this would work," he said. McShane said the proposal would allow recognition to be used only for purposes outlined in the 2006 law, which included securing scholarships and selling arts and crafts.
The Douglas administration supports the proposal, Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs said. Vincent Illuzzi, R- Essex/ Orleans, Senate Economic Development, Housing and Military Affairs Committee chairman, said he hasn't seen the draft, but he backs the idea. "As far as I'm concerned it's something we should have done and should address in 2008, " he said.
According to the proposal, the seven-member commission would establish a proceedure for tribes, bands and nations to apply for recognition. If two-thirds of the commission member determine that the applicant meets the criteria, the commission would recommend to the Legislature that the group be recognized. Members of the commission would not be able to vote on recognition of their own tribes. Mitchell said he didn't know how many applications the commission might receive.
The criteria require that a majority of members, related by blood, inhabit a partiular region in Vermont. Still to be decided is how far back in history they have to be able to trace their roots. Brink , who traces her Abenaki genealogy to the 1600's, said some commission members want the threshold to be 1700 while others prefer 1900. "I'm willing to compromise at 1800," she said.

Brink said recognition allows artists better marketing opprotunities, but can also open other doors. She said recently received an application for an artist-in-residency grant that requiries applicants to meet the federal Indian Arts & Crafts Act requirements.
Contact Terri Hallenbeck at 651-4887 or

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