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Friday, October 15, 2010

St. Francis/Sokoki Band of Vermont Abenakis: Proposed Finding--Summary Under the Criteria--That This Group Does Not Exist As A Indian or Abenaki Tribe: Pages 68 to 75:

St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Vermont Abenakis:
Proposed Finding - Summary Under the Criteria
Page 68
described any Indian community in northern Vermont. Describing this "community" as "widely known" during the early 20th century also contradicts the petitioner's own claims that the group was "underground" during this time. To maintain that the "community" must have been widely known or else Ms. Roy's father would not have been able to locate it is also erroneous. Without the text of the interview to examine, it is impossible to know how the "community" was located by Ms. Roy's father he could have come upon the area by accident, or been told by someone else where the "community" was located. The excerpt also does not describe whether the community" was visited repeatedly, or if Ms. Roy's father went only one time. The petitioner did not include the name of Ms. Roy's father, his occupation, or under what circumstances he may have been visiting an "Indian" community. The petitioner's brief abstract of second-hand information does not support the "reasonable likelihood of the validity of the facts" (83.6(d)).

The petitioner describes a basket set collected in the 1920's by a local woman who purchased or bartered with "the Gypsies" for the objects. The petitioner maintains the people who made these baskets were "probably the Phillips family, who seemed to have the Route 15 trail to themselves" (Wiseman 2005.00.00, npn). This statement apparently refers to one of the families of descendants of Antoine Phillips (1781-1885), a claimed ancestor of some group members. However, the petitioner offered no information as to how it reached this conclusion. The petitioner did not include any information as to the location of the family farm where the baskets were supposed to have been obtained. There is also no information as to how the petitioner learned this particular family traveled this particular route. Other information included in the petition does indicate that Peter Phillips (abt. 1829-1906), his wife Eliza (Way) Phillips (dates unknown), and some of their other family members did sell baskets (Eugenics Survey of Vermont 1930, npn), and are claimed ancestors of some group members, but there is no information in the petition that links this particular faintly to these specific baskets. (51.)

The petitioner also submitted additional information about other "Abenaki" baskets in their collection. However, the petitioner and the State both submitted evidence which demonstrated that Western Abenakis from Odanak and Passamaquoddy and Penobscot from Maine traveled to the large summer resort hotels throughout the region, selling baskets and other crafts to tourists. This tourist trade started in the 1870's, when Victorian Americans traveled to northern New England in large numbers. Some built summer homes, while other stayed at large resort hotels. Many of these resorts were built near mineral springs believed to be beneficial to health, where many traveled to take in the waters. At the same time, Indians from the United States and Canada were often hired as hunting and fishing guides, and found a receptive market for their handicrafts, particularly baskets. By the 1880's, Abenaki Indians from Quebec and Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians from Maine were beginning to manufacture baskets specifically for the summer tourist trade.
57. It is also important to note that Indians were not the only people who made baskets. Articles submitted by the State include information of baskets being made and sold by Roma Gypsies and French people (Lester 1987; Pelletier 1982.00.00; Salo and Salo 1984.00.00). In some cases, Gypsies apparently purchased baskets from the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot, and sold them on their own travels (Lester 1987, 57). In the case of the Phillips family, from whom some petitioner members descend, one record indicates that they learned basket making from a Frenchman while in residence at the local poor farm (Eugenics Study of Vermont 1930, npn).
St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Vermont Abenakis:
Proposed Finding - Summary Under the Criteria
Page 69
Highgate Springs, a town approximately three miles north of Swanton, was a popular tourist resort and a very well-known stop along the basketry trail until the 1930's. One Abenaki woman from the Odanak reservation, Sophie Nolett, recalled spending summers there.

I started making baskets when I was nine Because my mother always said if you want to earn some money, you'll have to make baskets. So we made baskets, lily sister and 1. Every summer we used to go to Highgate Springs. We rented a house, and we had like a counter to sell the baskets. We used to leave for there at the end of the school in June, and. we. went back first September to. go. to school again. There's a lot of families used to go and sell baskets in the States. It was good, then, those years were good. (Vermont Folklife Center 1997.00.00, 13)

There is no indication in the materials submitted that the Indians who came to sell their baskets in the vicinity of Swanton visited or associated with any local Indian community. Nothing in Ms. Nolett's interview or any other documents submitted indicated that the Indians who traveled to the area to sell baskets visited with the ancestors of the petitioning group, or identified them as fellow Indians or Abenakis. No other information in the submission indicates that the baskets were made by members of a Swanton-based Abenaki community.

The petitioner's "catalog" describes a curved knife stamped with the name of the recipient and dated 1913. According to the researcher's notes "the Indians made this distinctive of [sic] knife as a presentation piece for my Grandfather, apparently having it professionally stamped with his name. It was from the "West Swanton Indian Fish Camp" (Wiseman 2005.00.00, npn). (58.) However, the petitioner has not submitted information describing any of the group's claimed ancestors as Indian members of this camp. Just as some Abenakis from Canada and Maine traveled to the area to sell baskets, others traveled there to serve as fishing and hunting guides. The petitioner has not provided information demonstrating that the "West Swanton Indian Fish camp" was actually an Indian or Abenaki endeavor rather than simply a local commercial business using the term "Indian" in its name without any actual association with Native Americans.

Another object from this early 20th century period describe by the petitioner as an item indicative of an Abenaki community in Vermont is a gold watch with a beaded watch-fob. The watch is inscribe "Presented to Arthur Stevens May 16 1918 from Abenaki Tribe for Faithful Work." The petitioner claims these items

...probably together comprise the most important object [sic] in the collections from this time period. The fact that the watch is an American Waltham Watch Co., [sic] and the engraved message is in English is indicative of an American, rather than Canadian origin. Furthermore, the included elaborate American Flag watch-fob has a fringe type that was commonly made by Native People in the late 19th and early 20th Century. This indicates both the presence of an "Abenaki
58. The petitioner submitted a photograph of six men with the caption We Were Always Here: Missisquoi Abenaki Guides, Camp Cooks and Their Clients, Metcalf Island, Missisquoi River Delta, 1910 (Wiseman, 1910.00.00, npn). None of the individuals, either clients or guides, were identified.
St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Vermont Abenakis:
Proposed Finding - Summary Under the Criteria
Page 70
Tribe" and the collective resources to purchase a 14k gold watch to give to the bearer of a Euroamerican name. (Wiseman 2005.00.00, npn)

There are several problems with the petitioner's analysis of this watch. The petitioner offered no explanation of who "Arthur Stevens" was or why he would have received such an elaborate gift from the alleged "community" in and around Swanton (which was described as quite poor in other petition documents). There are no newspaper articles or other documents which describe any ceremony where the watch was presented, or what "faithful work" Stevens performed. The petitioner also did not include any interviews or oral histories describing Stevens or the awarding of the watch.

There is also another, more plausible, explanation for this object: the Improved Order of the Red Men (IORM). This organization, still in existence, was a very popular fraternal order during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The organization, successor to the Order of the Red Men, describes itself as "devoted to inspiring a greater love for the United States of America and the principles of American liberty" ( The IORM and its sister organization, the Daughters of Pocahontas, had many small chapters (called "tribes") across the United States during this time. These "tribes" were often named after tribes (such as "The Ponca Tribe" and "The Iroquois Tribe"), and also used proper names from a variety of Native languages, or "Indian-sounding" phrases to designate these chapters (e.g., "'The Canonicus Tribe," and "The Grey Eagle Tribe"). Members of these early "tribes" appear to have all been white men inspired by various idealized and romantic images of the early Native Americans. (59.)

Members sometimes dressed in faux Indian regalia for certain ceremonial occasions, and used "Great titles as "Great Sachem," Great Chief of Records," and "Great Keeper of the Wampum" to describe their leadership positions. Most importantly for this finding's purposes, the group often gave engraved watches to its members commemorating their years of service to the organization (D. Lintz, OFA researcher personal communication, 6.8.2005). Considering that many of the men were patriotic war veterans, the presence of a beaded American flag watch fob in an organization consisting of Indian hobbyists would not be unusual.

Records were kept by each individual "tribe," but many chapters dissolved without notifying the national headquarters. There is no record of an "Abenaki tribe" in 1918, but there are records of an "Abenaki Tribe #538" in Girardville, Pennsylvania, before 1925 (D. Lintz, OFA researcher personal communication, 6.8.2005). There were also two other chapters using the name "Abenaki" in the early 20th century, one in Ohio and the other in New York. It is plausible that the watch included in the petitioner's collection and described in its submission has nothing to do with an Abenaki Indian entity in Vermont, but was connected to a fraternal order of Indian
59. For example: "Outside of and in addition to the patriotic, fraternal and charitable beauties of our Order, there is a fascination for Red Men in the imagery and poesy of the thoughts and language of the aboriginal people whose names we have taken, whose virtues we emulate, and whose traditions and custom, form the structure on which has been built what is conceded to be the most beautiful ritual extant." (Introduction in Donnalley 1908, npn)

60. For more information regarding the Improved Order of the Red Men, see Hand-Book of Tribal Names of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1908; Thomas K. Donnalley, ed.
St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Vermont Abenakis:
Proposed Finding - Summary Under the Criteria
Page 71
admirers. The petitioner needs to document who "Arthur Stevens" was, where he lived, and his connection to any "Abenaki tribe" that may have existed. Likewise, the petitioner needs to document that there was an "Abenaki" entity, other than the IORM, which was conferring gifts for services rendered.

'The "catalog" submitted by the petitioner describes many other items, including other baskets, clothing fragments, and assorted implements which the petitioner claims are evidence of its ancestors' presence as "Abenaki" in the vicinity of Lake Champlain. However, it has not demonstrated that the objects are necessarily indicative.of a community, Abenaki or otherwise, populated by its claimed ancestors. To support its contentions, the petitioner should submit full-text interviews, as well as original documents (not petitioner-created extracts). Further, it should present evidence which demonstrates the items and documents refer specifically to its community and its claimed ancestors, rather than Indians who visited the area seasonally.

Canadian Abenakis in Vermont

As was noted in the previous section, many Abenakis (Western and Eastern) traveled to Vermont during the summer to work in the lucrative tourist industry that existed there during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, some Abenakis of Canadian descent moved to the United States and established small communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York in the early 1900's and particularly after the Second World War (Day 1948.07.00- 1962.11.13, 2, 15, 18, 19). Some of these people maintained close ties to the Canadian reserve of St. Francis/ Odanak in Quebec, while others lost touch with the home community.

The petitioner has a few members who claim to trace their ancestry to the Obomsawins, a well-known Abenaki family originally from Canada which settled in the United States. These members are descended from Simon Obomsawin (abt. 1850- aft. 1930), who was born, married, and raised his children at Odanak until the death of his first wife. He left Canada for the United States early in the 20th century (Royce 1959.00.00, 1-2), and built a house at Thompson's Point, Vermont, in 1907. His children Elvine (Obomsawin) Royce (1886-1967) Marion (1885-1980), Marie (dates unknown), and William (abt. 1879- aft. 195 9) (61.) moved to that location shortly after their father had established his residency. Simon, his second wife Agatha, and his daughter Elvine were all recorded on the 1910 Federal census, all enumerated as "Indians" (US Census
61. Neither Marion nor William was described by Gordon Day or John Huden as having children. An article written by a daughter-in-law of Elvine Royce also describes Marion and William, and makes no mention of either having children (Royce 1959.00.00, 1-2). However, some abstracted materials submitted by the petitioner indicate that Marion was married and had two children (14 and 15) in 1929. It is possible that the similarity of names between "Marion" and her sister "Marie" resulted in sonic confusion between the two siblings. "Marie" is described as having married and moved with her husband to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to sell baskets (Royce, 1959.00.00, 1). A "Marie Remington" is recorded in the petitioner's abstract living in Charlotte, Vermont, and is described as a basket maker and mother of two. A "Fred Remington," born in New Jersey, appears on the 1930 Federal census of Charlotte, Vermont, as a "grandson" in the household of "Simon Obomsawin" along with "Marion Obomsawin," "William Obomsawin," and a non-Indian lodger (US Census 1930, Chittenden County, Vermont). The 1920 and 1930 Federal censuses and documents located independently by Department researchers all recorded "Marion" under the surname of "Obomsawin," never "Remington," and as "single," not "divorced" or "widowed." Further, "Marion Obomsawin" was enumerated on the 1920 census with her father and brother, but without the four and five-year-old children she should have had with her if she was "Marie Remington." The evidence indicates that these two women had their identities confused at various points in time.
St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Vermont Abenakis:
Proposed Finding - Summary Under the Criteria
Page 72 
1910, Chittenden County, Vermont). Elvine also told Gordon Day that she had lived for a time at Intervals, a famous Indian summer camp in New Hampshire, where many Abenakis (and other Indians) sold baskets and other crafts to visiting tourists (Day 1948-07-00-1962.11.13, 9). Most of the petitioner's members who claim Simon as an ancestor are descended from Elvine, who married a non-Indian named Daniel Royce sometime around 1913, moved to -Montpelier, and had four children. Unmarried siblings Marion and William were recorded on the 1920 and 1930 Federal census with their (now widowed) father in the house he had built. Although they are not known to have returned to Odanak, the siblings had many Abenaki visitors from both the United States and Canada at the lie family home in Charlotte, Vermont. The siblings spoke Abenaki, and were informants for Gordon Day.

The petitioner and the State of Vermont have both submitted documents related to the Obomsawins and their descendants. (62.) However, all the submitted evidence indicates that the relationship between these descendants and the Swanton-based membership is of relatively recent origin, not pre-dating 1975. (63.) The documentation does not describe any interaction between the Obomsawins and the petitioner's ancestors. The petitioner has not provided any explanation as to why, if there was a large group of Abenakis living in Swanton, there are no records of their interacting with the people living at Thompson's Point. The Obomsawins continued to be a part of a widespread, well-documented social network, maintaining social ties with other Abenaki living in the United States and on the Canadian reservation, even though they had left-the reservation many years before. No such information is available for members of the Swanton-based membership. Further, the Obomsawins were well-known and acknowledged by non-Indians in Vermont as Abenakis (1910, 1920, and 1930 Federal censuses all record the Obomsawin family members as "Indians"). There is no available information of the Obomsawins or the other Abenakis with whom they associated being forced "underground," or denying their Indian ancestry. The petitioner has not provided any information to explain why its claimed ancestors had to deny their heritage, while the Obomsawin descendants and the other Odanak Abenakis with whom they associated openly celebrated theirs.

The lack of information regarding social relations with other Indian people in the area is especially difficult to explain in the early years of the 20th century, when many of the Indian groups in New England were forming pan-Indian organizations. Groups such as the Algonquin Indian Federation included members from several groups in southern New England (e.g., Pequot, Wampanoag, Narragansett, and Nipmuc). Before the development of these organizations,
62. A 1976 report commissioned by the State in response to the group's early political activities cited one of Elvine's descendants as having "decided that knowledge and awareness of Abenaki heritage would only make life more difficult" and therefore did not teach her child the "lifeways, secrets, and language of the Abenaki" (Baker 1976.10.15, 6-7). Aside from a glaring error in recording the family genealogy (Baker identified Elvine's daughter Nettie as her granddaughter, an error that the petitioner repeated without correction in their 1982 submission), this particular description of Elvine is out of character with other descriptions of her, particularly in regards to the use of the language. In fact, Day's field journal specifically addressed Elvine's use of the language with her children, stating that she tried to speak Abenaki to them and that they knew some words but were not fluent (Day 1948.07.001962. 11.13, 9, 16).

63. The petitioner also describes 30 people in its first 2005 membership submission as having ancestry from other Odanak Indians. These members do not appear on the 1995 membership list, and their involvement with the group apparently does not pre-date the 1990's.
St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Vermont Abenakis:
Proposed Finding - Summary Under the Criteria
Page 73
Abenaki Chief Joseph Laurent of Odanak organized several well-known Indian "camps," the first and most famous being the camp at Intervale, New Hampshire. This "camp," which is still in existence, was first established in 1884. Indians from across New England and Canada spent summers there educating tourists and selling baskets and other handicrafts (Hume 1991, 7). However, none of the information submitted identifies any participation by the petitioner's claimed ancestors in the activities at Intervale. While the petitioner makes the argument that its claimed ancestors had to go "underground" to avoid detection by non-Indians who wished them ill, no argument with supporting evidence has been offered to explain why these people remained remained hidden from other Indians as well.

Social and Economic Connections

The 1982 Narrative and 1986 Response included a description of informal social gatherings, called "tunks" or "katunks" prior to World War II (SSA 1982.10.00 Petition, 91-2; SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 114-15). These get-togethers included card-playing, square-dancing, and drinking. The petitioner indicates these gatherings occurred in several different neighborhoods and on some of the islands in the vicinity, and were attended by many of the petitioner's claimed ancestors. A document submitted by the State also identifies "tunks" occurring in Vermont, and describes them as French-Canadian social gatherings (Horsford 1925, 12). If "tunks" were held by the petitioner's claimed ancestors, the group should present evidence of them and describe how they differed from those of French-Canadians in the area.

The petitioner referred to some ancestors traveling together during the summer during the first half of the 20th century. According to Leonard "Blackie" Lampman (1922-1987), his parents traveled to the mouth of the Pike River with members of the St. Francis family. (64.) Lampman also described groups of families picking and selling berries, and also selling fish around Swanton (SSA 1986, 98-99). For this time period, descriptions of these types of activities may be used as evidence to demonstrate a significant degree of shared or cooperative labor or other economic activity among the membership" (criterion 83.7 (b)(1)(v)). The petitioner should submit the full text of this interview, paying particular attention to identifying the family members and individuals who may have worked and traveled together as a group. The petitioner should also include more information about any other trips, including the destinations, when and how frequently they occurred, and if they continued after the 1930's. The petitioner also should indicate who the travelers saw or visited with while away from Swanton and how long they stayed before returning.

The petitioner also included some descriptions of people coming together to build a house or raise a barn. An excerpt of an interview with a member identified as Joe Bellevue stated that he had a photograph of his grandparents engaged in building a barn. According to the interview, the photograph was taken by a visiting Indian from Canada (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 118). There are, however, two problems with this interview in that the full text of the interview and the photograph are not included in the submission. The group should include full-text interviews
64. The excerpt from the interview with Lampman (SSA 1986, 98-9) does not provide a date for this activity, but if Lampman was born in 1922, the events probably occurred in the early 1930's. The interview refers to Nazaire St. Francis, Sr., (1869-1936) as one of the individuals the Lampman traveled to Canada with; it is also possible that it was actually Nazaire Jr. (1890-1960), who was closer in age to Lampman's parents.
St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Vermont Abenaki:
Proposed Finding - Summary Under them Criteria
Page 74
describing any communal labor efforts, and supporting documentation, such as captioned photographs.

The petitioner has also claimed that annual fish runs were occasions for members of the group to come together and celebrate. The 1986 Response specifically mentions gatherings on Charcoal Creek to catch bullheads (SSA 1986.05.23 (Addendum 131, 105). However, springtime in New England attracted (and attracts) people of all backgrounds to catch fish or otherwise enjoy natural resources. If use of this location was exclusive to the group's ancestors, the petitioner should include descriptions of this spot (including a map), as well as interviews naming specific years and specific participants. This would also apply to other places, such as berry patches or hunting areas, which the petitioner maintains were sites of social gatherings. (65.) In each instance, the petitioner must submit evidence of the years these gatherings were held, and the names of the participants.

Social Bonds

The petitioner included descriptions of its claimed ancestral families in the area it identifies as "Back Bay" (66.) sharing resources, such as vegetables and game, times of scarcity. The petitioner also described how residents of the neighborhood, particularly children, could rely upon a number of households if they needed a place to sleep or food to eat (Wells, Bob and Alma 1982.03.18, 11). There is no information detailing whether all the residents of "Back Bay" participated in the sharing and "open door" relationships or only members of the petitioner's ancestors assisted each other. The petitioner's unsupported contention that the group was receptive to visits from "Indians from Canada" might be used as evidence to demonstrate a distinctly "Indian" community. Evidence, however, is lacking. The interviews do not include the names of these visitors from Canada or adequate details of specific visits.

The 1986 Response maintains that "one memorable Abenaki-style winter burial" occurred in 1926 (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 106). However, the petition does not include any information regarding who was buried or who attended the ceremony, and there is no evidence that the burial was of anyone connected to the petitioner. The petition did not specify what made this particular burial an "Abenaki" burial, as opposed to any other type of burial. Another quote from the 1986 Response maintains that people used to "dress up in their costumes" and also smoke what the interview subject referred to as "peace pipes" (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 106-7), but the interview subject is unnamed, (67.) and the quote does not contain the names of the
65. Maps of the area located by Department researchers did not include any body of water called "Charcoal Creek." The petitioner should identify geographical features by their formal names, as well as by any local appellations.

66. Although the petitioner makes several references to the "neighborhood" of "Back Bay", maps of Swanton located by Department researchers do not refer to any specific area of the town by this name. The petitioner also did not supply any map indicating where this neighborhood was located, although information included in the submission indicates it includes Swanton's Liberty, Pine, and First Streets. The Swanton Historical Society indicates this area also includes Bushey and Elm Streets (Swanton Historical Society, 2005, OFA researcher personal communication). The petitioner should submits a detailed map of "Back Bay."

67. The interview subject's father's name is given in this particular quote, but it appears to be a nickname rather than a given name. Without the given name or some other identifier, it is not possible to identify the person who provided
St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Clermont Abenakis:
Proposed Finding - Summary Under the Criteria
Page 75
people who attended this event. The quote also does not indicate the date of these events, while the preceding paragraph states only that these events occurred "...within the last sixty years" (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 106-7). If the petitioner wishes to demonstrate that funerals were important events among its ancestors, additional evidence of important funerals (such as sign-in books and newspaper obituaries) should be submitted to demonstrate who attended these events.

The petitioner mentioned that some groups members had been buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Swanton, Vermont. However, the group did not submit any documents providing the names or the number of the group's members burled in this cemetery. The State did include a book which lists all of the people buried in the cemetery (Leduox, 1993.08.00) but did not perform any analysis of this record. The records submitted contain the surnames of many of the families claimed to be ancestral to the petitioner, which indicates that some of the petitioner's claimed ancestors are buried in this cemetery. However, nothing in the record shows that cemetery officials segregated or treated the petitioner's claimed ancestors differently from other people buried there. Several members of two well-known petitioner families (the St. Francis and Brow families) are buried in St. Mary's cemetery, but a brief analysis of the cemetery records indicates the graves of these individuals were located in several different areas rather than a specific location. The petitioner should submit a list identifying the petitioner's claimed ancestors buried in this cemetery, as well as an analysis of the location of those graves.

The petitioner maintains that "Cadell Brow" "frequently appeared as the 'Informant' or death, as well as birth records" (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 107) for many of the petitioner's claimed ancestors. This is another reference to Cordelia Freemore Brow, who was also described as a midwife in the petitioner's 1982 narrative and 1986 response. Again, the petitioner did not submit copies of the actual death certificates, so this claim cannot be verified. The State submitted some death certificates of the petitioner's claimed ancestors (including Brow's own), but they reveal no pattern of any person serving repeatedly as an informant. The petitioner may wish to submit copies of the death records that it claims demonstrate individuals serving as informants for many of the petitioner's ancestors. The petitioner needs to demonstrate that these alleged "informants" were not merely performing this service for their close relatives, but also executed this service for people from a number of other families.


From the records presented by the petitioner and the State, it appears that the claimed ancestors of the current petitioners were part of the Swanton general population. Although the petitioner has maintained that the "stigma" associated with being identified as Indian kept its claimed ancestors from publicly identifying themselves as Indians, the petitioner has not included any "...evidence of strong patterns of discrimination or other social distinction by non-members," as defined by criterion 83.7(b)(1)(v).

Many people identified by the petitioner as ancestors of the current membership were Catholic, which may have separated them (to some degree) from the Protestants in the town, but not from the French-Canadians and Irish Catholics. As children, these claimed ancestors attended public
67. continued ...this information or verify the claims.