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Friday, October 29, 2010

Preliminary Report on Abenaki Petition for Tribal Recognition - [Exhibits]: March 12, 2002: Exhibit 2 - Continued:

Page 15
Observations on Community Life.
Despite the rapid advance of civilization and its disastrous effect upon the Indian population in New England, there are a few survivors to be found in the different communities in which we find the same strength of character and poise which characterized their aboriginal ancestors. This does not necessarily apply exclusively to the older members of the groups in question for we have a group of younger Indians who are strongly Indian conscious in manner and philosophy of life. I do not allude to the spectacular side of Indian life, that is, merely wearing the garb and performing before the public, but rather to the true inner convictions of the individuals. The modern trend of events conflict with the ideas of conservative Indians. Therefore, there is a general desire on the part of our better organized groups of Indian descendants for seclusion and quiet. They are, naturally, more thoughtful and in harmony with nature which tends toward making them better constituted for rural life than the average white groups. The yearly round of events furnish work and pleasure for the average Indian and he appears not to be concerned with the problems of modern times.
There are also those who have left the Indian reservations and towns to seek fame and fortune in the white man's world. OF this absentee wandering element, only a small percentage have been successful. Home and family mean much to the Indian and many who have wandered far and near finally return to their respective groups to settle down in their natural environment. A few have profited by their experiences and are working for the good of the members of their tribes
Page 16
Observations on Community Life. (continued)
while others return sick and discouraged.
A glance at the accompanying chart will show that in this area there are State Reservations, non-reservation groups, and independent Indian towns. In addition to the various types of government, heterogeneous group composition, both in ethnic, and physical traits, present problems which deserve most careful consideration.
Much of the way of social and economic reconstruction in the various groups can be accomplished through strengthening of our local tribal organizations. This applies more specifically to the small groups in southern New England. While our Maine groups do need a great deal of help and encouragement in maintaining their tribal organizations that are so well established, the groups in the southern portion of the area are so hopelessly in the dark at the present time. With the exception of the Mohegan-Pequot, the other groups in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut (Pequot proper) have not kept up tribal organizations, but have been endeavoring to reorganize and gain recognition for over a period of some twenty years. Some have been successful in reviving a spark of the old life of their tribes and others are still creeping. There is something strangely pathetic in the scenes presented by these groups of Indian descendants who are making desperate efforts to hold their place in Indian society, or perhaps I should say, to regain their place. Ten years ago, an attempt was made by an elderly historian and Indian enthusiast of Rhode Island to form a New England Indian Council. This man's dream was to have a confederacy and to have it include all of the surviving bands of Indian descendants living in
Page 17
Observations on Community Life. (continued)
New England. Delegates from every band attended the first meeting and it was an impressive and decisive meeting. The Maine Indians were not favorably impressed by the mixed Indian and Negro element representing certain of the groups and the old animosities of the groups in southern New England toward one another was a cause of nearly all of the groups dropping out after the first year. The organization has survived with a following of whites and some Indian descendants but it is not a New England Indian Council. A similar organization was started a few years later by an Indian leader of the Pequot tribe but a confederacy is short lived in this area. Independent tribal organizations can be successful if organized and managed properly. The Indian descendants are beginning to see the value of group organization in communities where they have been loosely organized. What they need is advice and help, perhaps some special training of leaders in one or two cases.
Through improved tribal organizations, community life in the Indian towns will take more interest in things in general. The organization will have a health committee, an education committee. And with active health and education committees the reconstructive program will be well underway. We lack leadership in the New England field and the Indians prefer Indian leadership. Along with the proposed improvement in local tribe organization there is much to be done to preserve the arts and crafts, language and ceremonies and to revive certain of the above traits that have been lost or with the members of the groups are only slightly acquainted.
Page 18
Observation on Community Life. (continued)
Many will contend that our Indians are not resourceful and that they lack initiative. Others there are who question the integrity of the Indian. We excuse these accusations knowing that the average white man does not understand the Indian and we do not understand the white man. We do not like the speed and apparent efficiency with which the white man approaches us and we drew within our shells. The Indian is skeptical and rightly so after centuries of persecution and injustice. An educated or "city Indian" is treated very much the same as a white person if he goes back to his group with the high powered salesman attitude. If he returns as one of them, living with them to learn from them and in return teaching by act, rather than word, some of the worthwhile things which has learned from his outside experiences, he will ever have the confidence of his people. Two things are necessary to accomplish this--time and tact. In this machine age, no doubt, it is distressing to certain observers to view the conservative members of our Indian communities in their apparent contented state and laissez faire attitude toward modern problems. This does not mean that the Indian is not resourceful and that he is lazy. In viewing conditions in the various communities one is soon convinced that the Indians are resourceful and that they have to work very hard for the few material comforts which they enjoy. They are very ingenious, evidence of which is visible in every dwelling or camp.
There is a tendency on the part of the members of certain white communities to class the Indian in their towns with the criminal and inebriated element of the population but personal investigations

Page 19
Observations on Community Life. (continued)
show that minor crimes and intemperance average about the same as in white communities and in most cases less in proportion to the population. It should be noted that major crimes are absent. Generally speaking, the Indians are not profane. Where intemperance and sloth do exist the conditions are brought about through contacts with undesirables from neighboring towns. The effect of such contacts is noticeable in the Mashpee, (Mass.) Penobscot and Passamaquoddy (Maine) settlements. In the case of the Gay Head band, isolation has been a blessing in many ways. There in there Island settlement one finds a group not breaking under the contaminating influence of civilization.

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