a predominant portion of the petitioning group comprises a distinct community and has existed as a community from historical times until the present.
Criterion 83.7(b) requires that a "predominant portion of the petitioning groupcomprises a distinct community." The term "predominant" establishes the requirement that at least half of the membership maintains significant social contact (59 FR 9287). This means at least half of the membership of the petitioner must participate in the social relationships, interaction, or institutions used to demonstrate community, and the remainder of the membership should be connected to those who participate.
The Federal acknowledgement regulations provide a specific definition of community.
Definition (83.1): Community means any group of people which can demonstrate that consistent interactions and significant social relationships exist within its membership and that its members are differentiated from and identified as distinct from nonmembers. Community must be understood in the context of the history, geography, culture, and social organization of the group.
To meet the requirements of 83.7(b), the petitioner must be more than a group of Indian descendants with common tribal ancestry who have little or no social or historical connection with each other. Sustained interaction and significant social relationships must exist among the members of the group. Petitioners must show interactions have occurred continuously since first sustained contact with non-Indians. Interaction should be broadly distributed among the membership, not just small parts of it.
The regulations also require the petitioner be a community distinct from other populations in the area. Members must maintain at least a minimal social distinction from the wider society. This requires that the group's members are differentiated from and identified as distinct in some way from nonmembers. The existence of only a minimal distinction provides no supporting evidence for the existence of community among the membership.
As the following analysis shows, the available evidence does not demonstrate a predominant portion of the SSA petitioning group's members or claimed ancestors have maintained consistent interaction and significant social relationships throughout history. Instead, it shows the petitioner is a collection of individuals of claimed but not demonstrated Indian ancestry with little or no social or historical connection with each other before the early 1970's. The evidence also establishes that the petitioner's claimed ancestors did not maintain at least a minimal distinction from nonmembers in the northwestern Vermont area and Lake Champlain region from historical times until the present.
In its 1982 petition, the group submitted charts for about 15 claimed family lines from the Swanton, Highgate, and St. Albans areas of Franklin County. According to those charts, some of these family lines from unidentified origins began arriving in or establishing these "neighborhoods" around the 1850's (SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, 219, and Family Charts 1-8). But their point of origin is unknown and the limited available evidence does not demonstrate that these families were previously connected to one another as a group.
By 1986, the petitioner had expanded the number of claimed family lines from the 19th century to hundreds in as many as three dozen "neighborhoods" from about a dozen towns in the Franklin County area of Vermont (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 132, 133, also SSA 1996.01.17, Appendix IA). The total number of ancestors claimed by the petitioner ranged from 378 (or possibly as many as 3,000) in 1790 to 1,623 in 1910 (SSA 1996.01.17, Appendix 1A). (32.) The petitioner also indicated that many of the "neighborhoods" containing its claimed ancestors were in place as early as 1800. In its 1986 petition submission, the group concluded that the 1982 Petition's "basic position that the Abenaki Nation at Missisquoi lived a dispersed, family band existence from 1790 to 1840" had been "confirmed" (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], xiv). According to the petitioner, their research had confirmed "the perspective of a large, tenacious network of families and neighborhoods which remained centered around [sic] Missisquoi in the 1800 to 1920 period" (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 1). These two conclusions seem contradictory, as the petitioner has not clearly explained the social processes that maintained both a "dispersed, family band existence" and a "large, tenacious network of families and neighborhoods" centered in the vicinity of the Missisquoi delta during overlapping time periods. However, the petitioner further explained in its 1986 petition narrative: "The distinctions between neighborhoods and the lifestyles of certain families reflected in Moody (1979) and the [first] Petition has fallen away to accomodate [sic] the commonly heard statement in the contemporary Abenaki community that 'we are all related"' (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 21).
The State's Comments
In its comments, the State disputed the petitioner's argument that the group's claimed ancestral families constituted a distinct community during the 19th century. It argued as follows:
The lifestyle and migration pattern described by the petition is not evidence that these families are Indians. The movements of these people are the same as the travel patterns of the French Canadians who were migrating into and through
32. The petitioner provided no membership figures for its membership from 1910 to 1980, and has not explained this gap. Census population schedules for 1920 and 1930 were not available at the time of the 1982 and 1986 submissions, but were accessible for the petitioner's 2005 submission. Presumably there is other available documentation, such as local, church, and school records, newspaper accounts, oral histories, and genealogical materials for this 70-year period that could be used to provide population data. The petitioner is encouraged to submit such evidence supported by as many copies of primary documentation as possible.
Elsewhere, the State cast doubt on the petitioner's documentation of its claimed ancestral family lilies:
The petitioner has submitted various charts and lists of people who it claims are Abenaki-Indians of the Franklin County area: These lists have the quallty of shifting sands ever changing and impossible to grasp. In the 1982 submission, petitioner included family charts of approximately fifteen extended families. Petitioner also provided a small group of names from the federal censuses from the first half of the nineteenth century to demonstrate the presence of Abenakis in northwestern Vermont. In 1986, petitioner vastly expanded it's submission and included names of hundreds of families from the early nineteenth century (and into the twentieth) who it claimed were Abenakis. The 1986 list of names from the 1800 to 1830 censuses was over five times as large as the previous list submitted in 1982. The number of names that petitioner gleaned from the 1840 census and labeled as Indians grew fifteen fold between its 1982 and 1986 submissions. (VER 2002.12.00-2003.01.00 Response, 162-163).
The Problem of Using Family-Name Variations to Demonstrate Community
The petitioner identified the surnames of its claimed ancestral family lines based on variations of family names found mainly on 19th-century lists of St. Francis Indians at Odanak in Quebec. As best as can be determined, the group took the family names of present-day members and searched for variations of those surnames that appeared on these lists of the Saint Francis Indians at Odanak. The group next searched for further variations of those surnames in local church, town, land, school, and census records from the 19th century in the Franklin County area of Vermont, or from the "oral traditions" of current members. Once the petitioner perceived similarities between the surname of a current petitioner family line and surnames on these records, it designated the family line on the record part of an "Abenaki" community in the Franklin County area during the 19th century.
The use of such a methodology to demonstrate consistent interactions and significant social relationships for the group's claimed ancestral family lines under criterion 83.7(b) is unpersuasive. (33.) Using such a process means that these families were identified as part of a claimed ancestral community based mainly on the assumption that individuals with similar surnames had shared social interaction, and not because the record actually demonstrated consistent interactions and social relationships among them.
In addition, the petitioner has not submitted the primary documentation it used to create these lists of claimed ancestral family lines. While the petitioner described the contents of various town, church, and census records, and abstracted lists of unconnected surnames of claimed
33. The problem of using family-name or surname variations to demonstrate descent from the historical tribe is discussed in criterion 83.7(c).
Finally, the petitioner has not provided evidence to demonstrate the claimed ancestral family lines which shared these surname variations were consistently interacting in a way that could be used to meet the requirements of criterion 83.7(b). For example, the petitioner has submitted little or no primary documentation from the 19th century to show these claimed ancestral faintly had significant marriage rates within the group, significant social relationships, formal or informal, connecting individual ancestors, important cooperative labor or other economic activities among claimed ancestors, or noteworthy sacred or secular behavior involving most of the claimed group. These forms of evidence may be useful in satisfying criterion 83.7(b). It is also unclear if all the claimed ancestral family lines from the 19th century actually have descendants in the current group.
For the most part, the petitioner in both its 1982 and 1986 narratives relied on routine residency and biographical information to describe its claimed ancestors. This process involved using lists of family names abstracted from Federal censuses and local records to show that claimed ancestors belonged to a certain family line that lived in the Franklin County area, sometime between 1790 and 1910, or that they had a particular occupation, or attended a specific school (see, for example, SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 67-86). But the petitioner did not provide evidence of what the claimed ancestors were doing together as a group during specific time periods in the 19th century to give some chronological orientation to their possible activities. The petitioner is encouraged to review criterion 83.7(b)(1) and (2), and to submit additional evidence and analyses, perhaps arranged by decade, to demonstrate that its claimed ancestors meet the definition of community during the 19th century as defined in 83.1.
The Problems of Using the Four Categories of Evidence to Show Community
In its 1982 submission, the petitioner claimed four categories of evidence demonstrated the continued existence of an Indian community of its claimed ancestors in the Lake Champlain area after 1800 (SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, 53). The available documentation, however, does not demonstrate that these four evidence groups, accounts by local historians, church and town records, Federal censuses, and genealogical research on "Abenaki" surnames, as described in the petition narratives, show evidence of consistent interactions and social relationships among a predominant portion of the group's claimed ancestors during the 19th century.
Accounts by Local Historians and Other External Observers
The difficulty with using the accounts of local historians, mostly described but not submitted by the petitioner, is that they were typically brief sketches of widely dispersed, unidentified Indians who are not connected to the group's claimed ancestors by any evidence submitted by the petitioner (see, for example, SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, 53-56). In the main, they depicted one or two individual Indians or small groupings of migratory Indians, often portrayed as being from St Francis in Quebec or an unknown place of origin. Some of these sightings were actually
In 1809, Edward Augustus Kendall described in six-volumes his travels throughout the northern regions of the United States. In the third volume, he related some of his travels in New England. He stated the Indians of Saint Francis and Becancour in Quebec still occasionally passed "between the Saint Lawrence and the Penobscot [northeastern Maine] and Saint John's [New Brunswick, Canada]" (Kendall 1809, 67-68). He also discussed some brief encounters with these Indians, none of whom were described by name or origin. Elsewhere in the volume, he recounted his travels in Rutland, Burlington, St. Albans, and Swanton, Vermont (Kendall 1809, 276, 304). While he provided an explanation of the Indian name of the Missisquoi River in this portion, he did not describe a group of the petitioner's claimed ancestors in the Franklin County area or any other Abenaki Indian entity that had remained in Vermont. For that time, the petitioner contends its claimed ancestors numbered 591 in the Franklin County area of northwestern Vermont, with 100 in Swanton and 81 in St. Albans." In 1810, the population of Franklin County was 16,427 (US Census Bureau 1872). The population of Swanton at the time, according to the website of the Swanton Historical Society, was 858. Assuming that the petitioner's figures and the Historical Society's figures are both correct, Kendall failed to mention that Swanton's population was 12% Indian. It is highly unlikely that the author would have overlooked or neglected to mention a concentrated population of Indians in Swanton.
In its 1982 submission, the petitioner quoted from but did not provide a copy of an 1820 account from the Burlington Free Press of a "strolling party of Indians consisting of nine persons," which had camped out near the town of Rutland in Rutland County, Vermont, about 80 miles south of Swanton. The newspaper described these unidentified Indians as "squatters" from an unspecified area who intended to "remain during the winter" (SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, 56). While this account may show that some unidentified, migratory Indians were present in Rutland, Vermont, in 1820, it did not provide any specific tribal affiliation for these Indians, name any of the petitioner's claimed ancestors, or describe any social interaction among these Indians and the petitioner's claimed ancestors that would demonstrate community under criterion 83.7(b). In 1822, Jedidiah Morse compiled a report for the Secretary of War on Indian groups in the United States based on Ills 1820 travels, in which the listed the numbers of Indians cast of the Mississippi. Some of these Indian groups came from isolated areas similar to northwestern
34. For the petitioner's population estimates of its claimed ancestors please see SSA 1996.01.17, Appendix IA, 9-10.
Six years later, F. S. Eastman produced an early history of Vermont and its "original Indian inhabitants." Following a discussion of those original Indian he stated not "a vestige of them" remained as "the encroachments of the whites" pushed "them farther and farther on" (Eastman 1 828.00.00, 20). He also discussed the "application" of "some of unidentified Indian Chiefs from Canada, claiming a large tract of land in the northwest part of the state" (Eastman 1828.00.00, 78-79). These were representatives from the so-called "Seven Nations" (see criterion 83.7(c) for a full discussion of these land claims). There is no available evidence that the petitioner's claimed ancestors were involved with these land claims. Eastman did not describe the claimed ancestors of petitioning group, who, at the time, according to the petitioner's calculations, numbered about 700 in the Franklin County area. (36.)
In April 1835, the Green Mountain Democrat of Vermont published an article called "An Indian Encampment in Connecticut." The article described a party of 15 Indians encamped for the winter at Windsor, Vermont, on the Connecticut River, which is about 100 miles southeast of Swanton, Vermont. It portrayed the Indians as "part of the tribe of the Missisquoi," which lived "a wandering life on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain." The group was traveling to Hanover, New Hampshire, "for the purpose of entering a member of the family in Dartmouth College" (Green Mountain Democrat 1835.04.03). The 17-year old potential scholar ("Say-so-saph Saba-tese Al unum") was the only Indian identified by name. This description of these Indians provided here does not indicate that they were part of an Indian community composed of the petitioner's claimed ancestors in the Franklin County area, who, according to the group's statistics, numbered about 700 people in 11 towns at the time. The petitioner loosely translated the young boy's name as "St. Joseph St. John Baptiste Alanum," but admitted the Alanum family name had not been identified in either the present Odanak community in Quebec or the petitioning group. Nonetheless, the petitioner made tenuous connections to some members of the group who have claimed "St. John" ancestors, and then concluded this account was "a major confirmation of the continued Abenaki community in the Champlain Valley after 1800" (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 311-312). A close reading of the document does not warrant such a claim, since it is only a brief, first-time sighting of a small group of mostly unidentified Indians, sighted far away from Lake Champlain, who then disappeared from the record.
In its 1986 submission, the petitioner described a July 1835 letter by Amable Petithomme, a French missionary from Burlington, Vermont, in which it claimed he made the statement: "'I sleep in the poor cabins of the Indians' when traveling along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain" (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 312-313). The petitioner did not provide a copy of the letter, and the State claimed the archives which housed the letter reported it "missing from their files" (VER 2002.12.00-2003.01.00 Response, 35). As the State correctly observed, the petitioner's quoted portion of the letter did not actually describe the location of these Indians
35. In 1820 the population of Franklin County was 17,182 (US Census Bureau 1872).
36. Two years later, in 1830, the population of Franklin County was 24,525 (US
Census Bureau 1872).
In 1845 Samuel G. Drake's Book of the Indians was published, in which he provided a history of the Indians of North America since first discovery. In it, Drake supplied an alphabetical listing of Indian groups in the United States. Under "Abenakies, he stated they were "over Maine [sic] until 1754, then went to Canada; 200 in 1689; 150 in 1750" (Drake 1845.00.00,v). He listed several Eastern Abenaki groups in Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, but it is unclear at times if he believed all these were still extant or not. He stated that there were a small number of Passamaquoddies in Maine. Other small groups from New England described were the Wampanoag of Herring Pond, Mashpee, and Gay Head (Drake 1845.00.00, vi-xii). He did not describe the petitioning group's claimed ancestors or any Indian entity in Vermont. At the time, the petitioner's claimed ancestors, according to the group's estimates, numbered 912 people in 37 neighborhoods from 10 towns around the Franklin County area. (38.)
From 1848 to 1857, several works by Henry Schoolcraft were published. Schoolcraft wrote extensively on and traveled among numerous Indian groups during his life (1793-1864), starting as early as 1806. In his writings, he described and gave population estimates for many New England Indian groups, large and small. In none of these accounts did he describe the petitioning group's claimed ancestors in the Franklin County area, who by 1860, according to the group's statistics, numbered about 1,282 people in 32 neighborhoods from 8 towns. (39.)
37. The claimed quote in Mouly read "Ainsi va le missionaire, Le Pere reconnait lui-meme qu'il une vie difficile et qu'il loge habituellement dans des cabanes" (Mouly 1960.00.00, 44).
38. In 1840, the population of Franklin County was 24,531 (US Census Bureau 1872).
39. See The Indian in His Wigwam or Characteristics of the Red Race of America (New York, 1848). This book contained only one reference to "Abenakee" on page 234 in a section entitled "Ethnology." It referred to the group as "Eastlanders, a distinct people, consisting of a plurality of tribes, who formerly occupied the extreme north eastern part of the United States." See Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers: with Brief Notices of Passing Events, Facts, and Opinions, A.D. 1812 to 1842 (Philadelphia, 1851). In this work there was no mention of any contemporary Abenaki group in his journeys from 1812 to 1842. See American Indians, Their History, Condition and Prospects, Original Notes and Manuscripts (Buffalo, 1851; reprint New York, 1977). This was an expanded version of the 1848 book. It included the same reference to the Abenaki cited above. See Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States; Collected and Prepared under the Direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs per Act of Congress of March 3rd, 1847, Volumes 1-6 (Philadelphia, 1851-1857). Volume 1 of this work on page 524 gave an 1847 census of Indians. No Vermont or New Hampshire Indians were listed. Volume 3 on page 583 also provided a census of Indians groups in 1825. Schoolcraft listed 200 St. John's Indians in New Brunswick, Canada; 379 Passamaquoddies and 277 Penobscots in Maine; 320 Mashpee, 40 Herring Pond Indians,
Seven years later, Samuel Sumner produced a local history of the Missisquoi Valley, which detailed the Franklin County area in northwestern Vermont. On pages 26 to 27, Sumner described an encounter in the winter of 1799-1800 between sonic of the early settlers near Troy, Vermont, about 30 miles east of Swanton, and a "small party" of nomadic Indians led by a Captain Susap (Sumner 1860.00.00. 26). One of the Indians was a medicine woman named Molly Orcutt. They were selling baskets and trinkets, and, according to the author, left in the spring and never returned (Sumner 1860.00.00. 26-27). Other evidence demonstrates that these Indians were probably originally from Maine. (40.) Sumner did not describe the petitioning group's claimed ancestors, who, at the time, according to the group's statistics, numbered about 1,282 in the Franklin County area, or any social interaction among them. (41.)
In 1863, John Perry wrote a history of Swanton, Vermont, which was published in 1882 in the Vermont Historical Gazetteer. In it, Perry described the origins of the St. Francis Indians of Quebec and the Missisquoi village near Swanton. According to Perry, the Missisquoi began moving to Canada after the American Revolution, as their sympathies lay with the British, and
340 Gay Head Indians, and 50 Troy Indians in Massachusetts; 420 Narragansett in Rhode Island; 300 Mohegan, 50 Stonington [Pequot], and 50 Groton [Pequot] in Connecticut. No Indians were listed for Vermont or New Hampshire. It also included a Table G on page 590, which indicated in 1829 there were 6,273 Indians in states from South Carolina to Maine. Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island were all listed as having Indians. Vermont and New Hampshire were not. Volume 5 provided the totals of Indians in 1825 for Maine (956), Massachusetts (750), Rhode Island (420), and Connecticut (400). No Indians were noted for Vermont or New Hampshire. Volume 6 on pages 686-689 contained a census for 1857. It listed 420 Narragansett in Rhode Island, 379 Passamaquoddles and 297 Penobscots in Maine. No Indians were included for Vermont or New Hampshire. The State quoted from Volume 4 (1851-1854, page 542), claiming Schoolcraft asserted the Abenaki were now "seated at the St. Francis Village" [Quebec] and inhabited territory "situated on the south of the St. Lawrence, between the St. John's of New Brunswick and the river Richelieu, Canada."
40. See the Autobiography of a Criminal, A Narrative of the Life, Adventures, Travels and Sufferings of Henry Tufts. This 1807 book chronicled Tufts sojourns among the Abenaki of Maine from 1772 to 1775. On page 60, he claimed to be in Sudbury, Canada, which Gordon Day in his article, "Henry Tufts as a Source on Eighteenth Century Abenakis," identified as actually being Bethel, Maine (Day 1974, 191-192). Tufts apparently traveled around visiting various Abenaki camps, and contended the "entire tribe" was "in number about seven hundred of both sexes, and extended their settlements, in a scattering, desultory manner, from Lake Memphremagog [southeast Quebec just north of Newport, Vermont] to Lake Umbagog [Maine near the far northern New Hampshire border], covering an extent of sonic eighty miles" (Tufts 1807, 60, 64). Day believed these were Western Abenaki from (Day 1974, 192). During his visits, Tufts encountered the Molly Orcutt mentioned in the Sumner book. The petitioner's current members claim no descent from Molly Orcutt.
41. In 1860 the population of Franklin County was 27,103. No Indians were listed (US Census Bureau 1872).