(1) Physical and legal residence in Vermont
5243 VT Route 30
Jamaica, Vermont 05343
(2) An organized tribal membership roll along with specific criteria that were used to determine membership, including evidence of kinship, among tribal members.
Permanent Tribal Genealogist maintains--
Tribal rolls organized on computer
Supporting hard copy personnel files
Genealogical descendency charts maintained on computer
(3) Documented traditions, customs, and legends that signify Native American heritage.
Detailed historical/geographical data compiled by Frederick Wiseman submitted Jan 22: (abstracted as Appendix 1).
(4) A tribal council, a constitution, and a chief.
(a) Tribal council
Council of Elders, Elnu Tribe of the Abenaki
(b) a constitution
Written Constitution, based on historical memorized wampum rercords
(2) Elder Councilors
(5) Been and continues to be recognized by other Native American communities in Vermont as a Vermont tribe.
All Tribes are united in an Alliance (The Vermont Indigenous Alliance) and after a vigorous three year vetting process (2006-2009) each tribe of the Alliance recognizes all others as Indian tribes. See cover letter.
(6) Been known by state, county or local municipal officials, or the public as a functioning tribe in Vermont.
Fred Wiseman, Chair, Department of Humanities, Johnson State College(Attachment 1)
Catherine Brooks, Cultural Heritage Tourism Coordinator Vermont
Department of Tourism and Marketing is very supportive. (Attachment 2)
Others, including events sponsored by state and Burlington City officials
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Native Heritage Weekend, 2007, 2008, 2009 (Attachment 3)
City of Burlington Waterfront Festival, Jul, 11, 2009
VT Indigenous Celebration, Jul 10-13, 2009 (QUAD Signature Event)
Jamaica State Park, native programming on various dates.
____ to portray ancestors (2008-2010)
The Lake Between
Before the Lake Was Champlain(7) Not been recognized as a tribe in any other state, province, or nation
The Elnu Abenaki Tribe has never been officially recognized as a tribe in any other state, province, or nation
(8) An enduring community presence within the boundaries of Vermont that can be documented by archaeology, ethnography, physical anthropology, history, genealogy, folklore and/or other applicable scholarly research. (Appendix 2)
From: Frederick M. Wiseman, Ph.D
RE: Elnu Band February 20, 2010
I am writing this letter of support for the Elnu Tribe of the Abenaki. Although I have only worked with the Elnu Tribe since 2007, I have been working closely, on almost a daily basis since that time on projects ranging from preparing for the large Quadricentennial "Indigenous Celebration," to smaller educational, political, cultural and spiritual issues. For example, the Elnu tribe provided the delegates representing the VT Indigenous Alliance in negotiations with Sotheby's and the Six Nations Haudenosaunee in New York City last year. Also, Elnu's Chief has accompanied me to the Mohawk reserve of Kahnawake to begin a process of alliance with the Haudenosaunee.
I have also had the pleasure of working on the history of the Lower Cowass, with the assistance of Chief Sheehan and Tribal Genealogist Vera Schulmeisters. This research has convinced me that Elnu has arisen out of a fertile and deep ethnic Abenaki soil in Southeastern Vermont.
It has been a privilege to work beside Elnu at gatherings and celebrations all over Vermont, from Vergennes to Swanton, to Burlington and beyond, to Lake George and Fort Ticonderoga, where they are the proud standard-bearers of the VT Abenakis. I know • from discussions with their tribal genealogist that they take their tribal rolls seriously and assure that their membership is truly Abenaki. But genealogy is not enough, candidates must share a commitment to educate and participate in the Abenaki culture at all times and places, and therefore the Elnu are probably the tribe most often seen throughout the state and are in large part responsible for educating our public about the history and culture of these original Vermonters.
Department of Tourism & marketing [phone] 602-828-3237
One National Life Drive, 6th Floor [fax] 802-828-3233
Montpelier, VT 05620-0501
December 4, 2009
Sogomo Elnu Tribe of the Abenaki
5243 VT Route 30
Jamaica, Vermont 05343
On behalf of the Vermont Lake Champlain Quadricentennial Commission, I want to thank you and the Elnu Tribe of the Abenaki for your excellent and tireless efforts to share Abenaki history and culture at numerous Quadricentennial events this past year.
Early in the planning for the 2009 Quadricentennial, the Commission set as one of its goals to convene a working group of Native leaders, artists, historians, and others to plan initiatives focusing on Native American culture and history. That many of the Native American project plans came to fruition is due to the level of participation by the Elnu Tribe.
We are very grateful for your passion to share your culture with visitors at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, and to play-key roles in the Vermont Indigenous Celebration signature event, the Burlington International Waterfront Festival parade and the Indigenous Peoples conference at Saint Michael's College. Your encampment program – with the details of period clothing and 17th century replica artifacts, and the knowledge of your re-enactors – did so much to help the public understand the culture that was here at the time of Samuel de Champlain arrival.
As we move beyond 2009, the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing looks forward to a continued relationship with the Elnu Tribe, helping to promote your efforts to share Native culture with visitors to Vermont. Thank you for all you have done, and for your continued efforts.
Commissioner. Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing
To Whom It May Concern:
This is to offer our strong support for Vera Longtoe Sheehan's proposed exhibit work for the Sugarhouse Indian Museum Project.
This past summer, Vera Longtoe Sheehan and members of the El-Nu Abenaki Tribe worked with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to develop an indigenous, "living history" weekend at the Museum. The event was an unqualified success.
The professionalism and historically-accurate interpretation achieved by the El-Nu is remarkable; their faithful and compelling representation of living skills noteworthy in the bringing to life of traditional Abenaki arts, techniques, costumes, and crafts.
The effort to help people truly imagine important aspects of our collective heritage is among the most valuable work we can do. Judging from our experience at LCMM, traditional native artist Vera Longtoe Sheehan's proposed Abenaki Village Diorama and photo exhibit will provide a valuable resource rich in content and of the highest quality.
Jeff Meyers, Associate Director
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
4472 Basin Harbor Road
Vergennes, VT 05491
§ 853. (b) (3) Documented traditions, customs, and legends that signify Native American heritage.
The Elnu Abenaki tribe retains a significant fund of traditional knowledge and customs that can be tied to a native heritage through Anthropology or folkloric studies, as detailed in Appendix 2. However, we have abstracted and organized a sample of this information, to specifically address the § 853. (b) (3) "Documented traditions, customs, and legends that signify Native American heritage" criterion.
A first important tradition that signifies native heritage is that of Indian identity handed down through individual families. For example, research by Karen Ameden, Head of the Jamaica Historical Foundation and Roger Longtoe Sheehan (Elnu Abenaki Tribe), reveal an unexpectedly large number of Windham county residents retain a memory of Native ancestry. A well-documented example of this form of traditional memory is a digital video recording of Chief Longtoe's father and aunt discussing a "great-great aunt" who wore "Indian clothes, around the time of the Second World War." This anecdotal information is probably the latest evidence of New. England Abenakis overtly "being Indian" before the renaissance of the 1970's.
The second type of tradition is more community-based. An example of this kind of tradition was noted by Ms. Kevin Parson, President of the now defunct "Tolba Clan" in the 1990's. She said that her organization evolved from (or was based on) what she called the "Old Tolba" of the area, a fourth tradition of a regional Connecticut River area totemic signifier (others are Nolka ("Deer), Bear and Wolf clans. In addition, a colleague of Chief Sheehan mentioned that his grandfather used a "turtle" signifier in discussing the Brattleboro, VT area homeland. The Elnu constitution was, until recently unwritten, but a traditional living document memorized by the Band's leadership, perhaps enhanced from time to time by mnemonic wampum strings.
Local indigenous people go to "the (Bellows) Falls" petroglyph site to carry out rituals of observance and respect, including offering medicine bundles of red cloth, tied with appending beads and turkey feathers bound with leather and cotton cordage; almost certainly filled with tobacco, an enduring result of Native American honoring ceremonies. One of the authors' (Chief Sheehan) own family, as well as other Elnu citizens, have long performed these rituals at the petroglyph site every October. These customs may include silent prayer, singing, the use of musical instruments such as drums and ritual gesture.
The inter-related core Elnu families retained a focus on Native-style subsistence and the traditional craft arts. This family-based cultural legacy has been tied to a unique (in VT) collective interest in using and amplifying these traditional skills. Status within the group is based first on kinship, but secondarily on traditional knowledge and/or artistic proficiency. It is this shared technical and historical custom that, in great part, binds the group together.
There are proprietary beliefs held by the Elnu Abenakis regarding the water across from the petroglyphs site at Bellows Falls. The nature of these beliefs is internal to the local Indigenous community. However, no one from the Elnu Abenaki tribe, although excellent swimmers, will use the adjacent section of the Connecticut River for swimming. There are also community legends remaining in the Elnu Tribe, of ancient Native Ancestral spirits that still haunt certain regions of Bellows Falls.
§ 853. (b) (8) An enduring community presence within the boundaries of Vermont that can be documented by archaeology, ethnography, physical anthropology, history, genealogy, folklore and/or other applicable scholarly research.
These data are abstracted from the "Something of Value" paper delivered to the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs on Jan 22,2010.
WHY didn't the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs on January 22, 2010 submit this to the Vermont State Archives? Did Mr. Wiseman PhD and or the Senate Committee Representatives Hinda Miller and Vincent Illuzzi have something to hide, by NOT submitting this "Something of Value" paper Mr. Wiseman allegedly submitted to them on this Committee on January 22, 2010?
According to Scott Reilly, Archivist for the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration in Montpelier, Vermont, quote:
Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2010, 10:59 AM
"Having gone through all of the records that the committee has transferred to the State Archives, no paper is included that matches what you describe. I also checked with the Legislative Council to inquire whether they had transferred everything they had from that committee, and they replied that yes they had. They also noted that that particular Committee does not often retain all of the supporting material that they receive WHY NOT?. I checked the House committee’s records as well, but to no avail. There however are other committee records related to S. 222 that you are welcome to come in and review if you like."
Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2010, 1:33 PM from Scott Reilly, Archivist to Douglas Lloyd Buchholz:
"The committee file for S. 222 primarily contains legislative drafts and some correspondence. It’s probably about 100 pages of documents. To obtain a copy of the entire file, I estimate the charges would be about $14.00 based on the Uniform Schedule of Public Records Charges for State Agencies (available at http://vermont-archives.org/research/fees/fees.htm).
Is there a chance that Mr. Wiseman “delivered” the paper "Something of Value" in the sense of simply presenting it, rather than physically handing it over to the Committee (Chaired by Rep. Vincent Illuzzi and of which Rep. Hinda Miller was part of as well?) If that is the case, the Legislative Council may have audio recordings of his testimony to the committee. Just a thought." Scott Reilly
An important historic cultural region of the Connecticut River VT is located in Southernmost Lower Coos, on the border of the old Sokoki region in Windham County, VT. Lyman Simpson Hayes pointed out in some detail in his History of the Town of Rockingham VT 1753-1907 (Town of Bellows Falls, 1907:29- 45), that there was a large ancient Indian town in the area. The website vermontgenealogy.com/history/indian_fishing_rights.htm, notes that "The reputation of the Great (Bellows) Falls had been known to them (Native Americans) generations earlier, and that, at certain seasons of the year, pilgrimages were made from distant points by parties of red men to secure generous supplies of a necessary article-of food (shad and salmon speared in the spring)." These references are supported by archaeology -- the great numbers of Indian artifacts and burials that were plowed up by settlers. Many of the internments on the VT side of the Connecticut River were flexed burials. An almost metaphysical sense of a large antecedent Indian village remains; Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan of the Elnu Abenakis recounted stories of phantom Indians walking through the factories on the "Island" at Bellows Falls.
The 19th century
There were two, probably seasonal, 19th century settlements in the Bellows Falls, VT area. They were at Pine Hill and the mouth of Saxton's River. Hayes noted (p. 47) that there were so many Abenakis in the area that many local 19th century businesses Bellows Falls were named "Abenaki," the earliest evidence of the use of this ethnic term in VT in referring to resident Indians. In discussing this Indigenous community, Hayes gives the most detailed technical description of Abenaki wigwams made of bark and hide draped over poles that we have for the State of Vermont. He also notes that men fished and hunted while women sold "baskets and trinkets" a 19th century gender labor division pattern identical to that reported in Newbury to the north. According to Hayes, these Indians were "from Canada and New York" as well as from local "roving parties of Indians" (p. 29). I suspect that the "from Canada and New York" and "roving" assignations may have more to do with Hayes' colonialist desire to assure his readers that these Indians were "from anyplace but here," so as to not acknowledge these Indians as regional or VT residents. It is unlikely that significant numbers of Abenakis traveled from the tiny early 19th century mill-working Abenaki enclave at Albany, NY, or the small, 100 household Odanak Reserve in Canada to the Bellows Falls region. The "domicilium vacuum (or transient Indian)" argument is a well-known gambit used to deny Native Americans aboriginal rights to their homelands. Hayes pointed out on pages 45-49 of his book that in 1856, the "Last Chief of the Abenakis" chose to die at Bellows Falls. This chief, who proudly bore a George III silver peace medal, was buried in an unmarked grave in the "old Catholic cemetery" in Bellows Falls, VT. His avowed reason for dying there was to be "buried with his fathers." This geographic death choice of an obvious high ranking Abenaki official – to be buried "with his fathers," is corroborating evidence of an important antecedent, probably 17th or 18th century, Indigenous settlement at Bellows Falls. Combining this information with the archaeological data of more ancient native residency, with the well-described mid 19th century Pine Hill and Saxton's River Native settlements, we have verification of an important but heretofore un-researched 18th - 19th century Native community. Apparently there is a documented "… early picture of the toll bridge here (Bellows Falls), (which) shows a rope ladder let down from the bridge with an Indian in a rude chair spearing passing salmon" mentioned in the website vermontgenealogy.com/history/indian_fishing_rights.htm. We would expect that this image would be mid or later 19th century. There is also beaded wristband of a type not worn as a souvenir by Euroamericans (Figure 1). It is of the 1850's- 1870's period and has a solid Bellows Falls, VT provenance, so we suspect more artifactual materials await discovery, research and curation.
There was third important historic Native settlement in the Lower Coos; at the mouth of the West River; in the Brattleboro, VT area. In the Annals of Brattleboro (unfortunately no author and no pagination), "Chapter One: Indians and Fort Dummer," there are references to Indian petroglyphs, granaries, underground barns, the remains of stone agricultural implements such as pestles, and burial grounds (with flexed burials like at Bellows Falls and Newbury), documentary references to Native settlement in the southeastern-most part of Vermont. There is also a tintype that has the inscription "Indian girl from Brattleboro" inscription scratched into the black "japanning" on the back.
Second quarter of the 19th century, Vernon, VT
If we move our perspective from the Connecticut River floodplain zone, Lyman Hayes notes (p. 29), that there were also contemporary "roving parties of Indians" in the hinterlands of Southeastern Vermont during the 19th century. Apparently these people lived in the uplands and foothills of Windham County. In addition, the dying chief of Bellows Falls may have been referring to these shadowy people in his apocryphal quote "You see yonder mountain-you find the bear there, you find the wild cat there, you find the deer there, you find the Indian there," (vermontgenealogy.com/history/last_abenaqui_chief.htm). The subsequent history of these upland people is hinted at in the photographic image and reference to the Jamaica, VT ethnic enclave described below. Also, a possible artifact resulting from their shadowy activity was described in the 1808 record of a large pine tree in Weathersfield VT that was carved with images of three men and a woman. According to newspaper reporter Mark Bushnell (Times Argus 6/21/2009), this reference was by expatriate Englishman Edward Kendall on page 219 of his Kendall's Travels Vol. 3 "Brattleboro."
The 19th century was a complex time in the Southernmost Lower Cowass, with at least three geographic "hot spots" of documented Indian activity in the Connecticut River floodplain on the VT side, as well as a possibility of groups of itinerant "roving" Indians scattered in the uplands and foothills of Windham County. However, this area has seen the least concerted ethnographic and material culture survey and collection dealing with the 19th century, of any region in Vermont. We expect that, as time goes on, more old 19th century documents, memories and artifacts will emerge with satisfactory Southern Lower Coos provenance.
Conversations with local Windham county residents by Elnu tribal members, as well as a local historical society (e.g. The Jamaica Historical Foundation) officers, reveal an unexpectedly large number of people who claim Native ancestry. Unfortunately, there is little current research into the 20th century culture and craft arts of the southernmost Lower Cowass area. However there is some evidence of continuity, at least in the materialist realm of personal attire.
A Ms. Ruth W. Stark appears in an early 20th century photograph curated at that Jamaica (VT) Historical Foundation. She wears a "cut cloth fringe" dress quite similar to the fringed dress from the White River VT area of the Lower Cowass. Also included in the photograph is a small wigwam, based on earlier conical bark wigwams, that was often used to signify Indian status in pageants and festivals: Ms. Karen Ameden, Chair of the Foundation, told author Chief Sheehan that the woman in the photograph was known to be part of a significant local Native enclave. Therefore, Ms. Stark may be an early 20th century descendent of Hayes' 19th century "roving Indians" of Southeastern VT. We would suspect that Ms: Stark's "enclave" may perhaps, with more research, be found to represent a 19th and perhaps 20th century location of an old river-oriented subsistence/settlement zone such as we see elsewhere in Vermont.
One of the authors (Vera Schulmeisters) has a digital video recording of Chief Longtoe's father and aunt discussing a "great-great aunt" who wore "Indian clothes, around the time of the Second World War." This anecdotal information is probably the latest evidence of New England Abenakis using distinctive regalia before the renaissance of the 1970's. It would be interesting to know what these late Indian clothes looked like, but so far no items of early mid-20th century style attire have surfaced in the Southern Lower Coos area with a solid provenance. We would expect, however, that they would resemble either a late, degraded version of "Niagara Style" Beadwork, or the early post-war "Pan-Indian" long-fringe, leather-based style found elsewhere at this time.
Complementing materialist history, there has been a very strong tradition of ceremonial observance at ancient sacred places in the Southern Lower Coos region. One of us (Chief Sheehan) has pointed out that until recently, local indigenous people would go to "the (Bellows) Falls" to carry out rituals of observance and respect. During his research field work in the 1980's, Dr. Fred Wiseman saw medicine bundles of red cloth, tied with appending beads and turkey feathers bound with leather and cotton cordage to branches at the Bellows Falls petroglyph site. They were of different ages, some heavily weathered and worn, some relatively recently made. These bundles were almost certainly filled with tobacco, an enduring result of Native American honoring ceremonies that took place at this important ancient rock art site decades ago. Supporting Wiseman's observation, rock art scholar Edward Lenik noted on pages 100 and 101 of his 2002 Picture Rocks: American Indian Rock Art in the Northeast (UPNE,) that the Bellows Falls petroglyphs are still venerated by Indigenous people. He says "...Abenakis still live in the area and it is likely that they still visit the (Bellows Falls) site." Chief Sheehan's own family, as well as other Elnu citizens, performed these rituals at the petroglyphs every October. Sheehan has also referred to proprietary beliefs held by the Elnu Abenakis regarding the water across from the petroglyphs. These retained memories and practices, as well as an artifactual record, are importance evidence of a tradition of Native American reverence for this section of the Connecticut River.
The political renaissance of the "Southern" Lower Coos began in the last two decades of the 20th century, including many people who are modern Elnu Tribe citizens. The regional Abenaki renewal at first centered on the "Tolba (Turtle) Clan," in the Southern portion of the VT Connecticut River Valley. It later spread to the uplands surrounding the Valley on the VT side. The "Tolba Clan" renaissance of the 1990's was led by Ms. Kevin Parson as "President" and Roger Longtoe Sheehan as "Vice President" Ms. Parson noted that the Tolba Clan organization evolved from (or was based on) what she called the "Old Tolba" of the area. The antecedent Tolba cultural group is the fourth regional signifier like the Deer ("Nolka Clan") of the Thetford VT area or the Bear and Wolf clans (unknown exact location). With such a Connecticut River Drainage toponymic (culture place-name) context, the "Tolba" designation is probably an authentic cultural entity. This inference is bolstered by living memory of this area being a "turtle region," perhaps another indirect reference to the "old Tolba.” A colleague of Chief Sheehan traces his distant Native ancestry to the Brattleboro, VT area -- and mentioned that his grandfather used a "turtle" signifier in discussing that
To culturally separate themselves from any antecedent groups, this descendent group chose the simple "Elnu" (a variant spelling of "human being" in the Abenaki language) appellation. The inter-related core families retained memory of Abenaki heritage with a focus on Native-style subsistence and the more traditional craft arts. In the last twenty years, this family-based cultural legacy has been tied to a unique collective interest in using and amplifying these traditional skills within the parameters of an almost academic historical awareness. It is this shared technical and traditioanl interest that, in great part, binds the group together. For example, their constitution was, until recently unwritten, but a traditional living document remembered by the leadership, perhaps enhanced from time to time by wampum strings. As pointed out above, they have also been involved with the old Bellows Falls petrogylph and native settlement area as focus of ceremony and feeling of homeland, a second cultural element that unites the group. The Elnu Abenakis have delighted in practicing their culture through living history and educating others about Abenaki historical technology. Status within the group is based first on kinship, but secondarily on traditional knowledge and/or artistic proficiency. As scholar Laura Peers has shown in her recent (2009) book Playing Ourselves (Altamira Press), this very delicate and complex, tribal-based "living history"/experimental technology approach is a critical part of tribal revitalization and recognition -- and the Elnu Abenakis may be considered on the "cutting edge" of this aspect of Abenaki culture. Due to the complex segregation of the micro-regional bands in the Connecticut River Valley; as well as people wanting to join Elnu because of their living history interest; Elnu Tribe citizenship rolls are managed by an active and rigorous genealogy program. Elnu has developed a creative solution to the "wannabe" (non Natives who wish to "play Indian") problem. It is an "auxiliary" non-tribal organization called the "Woodland Confederacy" that undocumented Abenakis, other Indian people, or even non Indians, can join to participate in living history, reenactments or other activities with the Elnus. In the last decade, the Elnu Tribe has reached out to other VT Indigenous peoples in their regional revitalization, as well as VT state activities such as the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial celebration (see Attachment I). Their experimental ethnography focus and the commitment of Elnu citizens to travel probably make them the Abenaki band most familiar to most Vermonters all over the state, as well as in New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Today, they are important political allies of Vermont's other indigenous peoples in their collective political aspirations -- such as VT state recognition.
Since the Elnu Abenaki Tribe exercises political power internally, as well as represents its citizens, history and culture in local and state Euroamerican politics; it is our opinion that the Elnu Abenaki Tribe meets the historical and geographic criteria for designation as a Vermont Indian tribe.