a copy of the group's present governing document including its membership criteria. In the absence of a written document, the petitioner must provide a statement describing in full its membership criteria and current governing procedures.
Current Governing Document
The petitioner's current governing document, received with the petitioner's submission on May 16, 2005, is entitled "Constitution of The Sovereign Republic of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi." The Preamble states:
The Abenaki People of the St. Francis/Sokoki Band of the Sovereign Republic of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi and our descendants, recognizing the need to preserve the heritage of our Ancestors, our culture, our history, our language, our ancestral native lands, and our sovereign right to live free and commune with the spirits of the natural world, do hereby establish this Constitution as the Great Law Of the Sovereign Republic of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi.
The document is 11 pages long with 13 articles addressing membership, leadership, voting, meetings, justice and security, civil rights, assets, amendments, and ratification, plus a section entitled "Interpretation" containing definitions. Article XIII (Ratification) states "[t]his constitution was presented to the citizenry at a Special General Meeting on November 5, 1995," and that it "was ratified at a Special General Meeting on ... February 25, 1996." (94.) Article XIII is followed by the signatures of the "chief' and six "councilors" as well as the petitioner's seal (Petitioner 2005, 1996 constitution).
Previous Governing Documents
In 1982, the petitioner submitted a governing document entitled "Constitution of the Abenaki Nation of Vermont," which contained a preamble, interpretation (definitions), and seven sections (SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, 163-167). This document was unsigned and undated.
The July 22, 1982, minutes of the petitioner's governing body ("tribal council") note that "'when the council approved the membership criteria (attached) the council felt that the added criteria was needed to explain questionable members that already have membership cards" (SSA Minutes 1982.07.22). The membership criteria identified as "attached" to the minutes were not submitted with that document by the petitioner. However, a undated list of membership criteria
94. The available record contains no minutes of either of these special general meetings. There are no meeting minutes in the record for 1995, and the minutes for the "Abenaki Tribal Council" meeting on February 10, 1996, contain no mention of either the general meetings or the constitution (ATC Minutes 1996.02.10).
The October 6, 1981, minutes of the petitioner's "tribal council" note that the next council meeting, on October 20, 1981, will "[g]o through by-laws and change [them] (SSA Minutes 1981'.10.06). No minutes for a council meeting on October 20, 1981, and no by-laws were submitted by the petitioner.
Governance and Membership as Presented Miscellaneous Documents
Articles II through VII of the petitioner's current governing document are concerned with leadership. Article II provides that the "Chieftainship shall rest exclusively within the traditional hereditary families" and "shall be held for life and shall be without regard to gender." The document does not define "traditional hereditary families," and, although the article provides for the appointment of a successor by the "present Chief," no provision is made for succession if the "present Chief' dies or resigns without-naming a successor. The petitioner submitted a newspaper article dated September 12, 1989, which announced "Abenakis make leader chief for life." However, apparently no amended governing document, changing the leadership from a two-year term of office to lifetime appointment, was passed by the group until the current governing document was ratified on February 25, 1996. Article III defines the duties and powers of the office of the "Chief."
Article IV of the current governing document provides for the election of a "tribal council." There is no mention anywhere in the document of how many persons are to serve on the "tribal council" but eligibility to serve is defined in Article IV, Section 9, as persons "eligible to vote in the next annual Tribal elections." Voter eligibility is defined in Article IV, Section 4, as "[a]ny Tribal citizen at least fifteen (15) years of age." Article V defines the duties and power of the council, Article VI provides for recall of council members, and Article VII provides for council meetings.
Article VIII of the current governing document describes the duties of the "Tribal Judge" and "Head of Security," although no definition of eligibility or process for election or appointment of individuals to serve in these positions is provided.
(a) Membership Eligibility Criteria
Article I of the petitioner's current governing document defines and describes the registration of members. Section 2 states that persons applying for membership "must submit an official enfranchisement form and genealogical proof of Abenakl descent to the Chief and Tribal
a) Documentations of direct descent from an Abenaki family listed on the 1765 James Robertson lease. (95.)
b) Any person of Abenaki descent as determined by the Chief and Tribal Council, who is not a citizen of any other North American Tribe and who is not a citizen of any other country, is eligible for citizenship. The Chief and Tribal Council may seek advice and council from the Board of Elders regarding citizenship eligibility. (Petitioner 2005, 1996 constitution)
The "Board of Elders" is defined in the "Interpretation" (Definitions) section of the petitioner's current governing document as "a group of five or more citizens, age 50 years and over, who are steeped in the Law of the Nation" (Petitioner 2005).
In an earlier petition submission (SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, 181), additional "criteria used in determining membership," which were "otherwise tacit and taken-for-granted among Tribal Council members," included:
In the Absence of documented verification of Indian ancestry, membership iii family with long-standing local community recognition as Indian shall make a person eligible for membership.
Other Individuals who claim Abenaki descent, and who are closely affiliated with or related by marriage to current band members shall also be eligible for membership.
The Tribal Council may adopt into the band and nation any Indian or non-Indian they so choose. (SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, 181)
The current governing document does not address criteria or procedures for adoption of individuals into the petitioner's membership, nor does it specify any age requirement for membership. The petitioner has not submitted any definition of or examples of documentation acceptable for satisfying membership eligibility. The petitioner does not identify a specific "ancestral historical tribe" other than "Abenaki" in the current governing document. The only census, cited containing names of ancestral tribe members, from whom list, or other document cited as containing names of ancestral tribe members or eligible applicants should descend, is the 1765 James Robertson lease (Robertson 1765.05.28).
95. The FTMTM databases submitted by the petitioner do not contain the names of any descendants of the individuals named on the 1765 James Robertson lease, nor do these databases link the petitioner's current members to any of the individuals named on this lease.
Sections 3 through 7 of Article I of the petitioner's current governing document briefly address procedures for voluntary resignation of membership, causes for temporary and permanent expulsion, and removal from the "Tribal Roll or List." Reference is made to "resolutions" and "statutes" regarding these matters but no copies of these "resolutions" or "statutes' were submitted by the petitioner.
The current governing document, the February 25, 1996, constitution, submitted by the petitioner contains rules of government and membership. However, it fails to address some critical aspects of membership, administration, and governance.
Membership application procedures, genealogical documentation, maintenance of membership lists (like those outlined in the earlier governing document submitted in 1982) and membership files, membership severance and appeal, and identification of appropriate documents specifying the ancestors from whom current members descend and from whole applicants should descend, are not codified in bylaws, regulations, or official resolutions. If the petitioner has such additional governing documents, such as the "by-laws" mentioned in the October 6, 1981, minutes of the petitioner's governing body, it should submit them.
With regard to leadership, the term "traditional hereditary families" is not defined or the families listed so that leadership eligibility is clarified. Also, succession to leadership if the current leader does not name a successor is not described in detail. The number of "tribal council" members and the eligibility and election or appointment process for other offices are also not codified.
Although the criteria do not require the petitioner to address these concerns specifically, the petitioner is advised that future problems with group administration and membership certification may arise if these topics are not addressed in the governing document or in bylaws, regulations, or official resolutions. If the petitioner practices some method for determining eligibility and verification of descent from the historical tribe, it should provide a written statement describing these practices.
The petitioner has submitted a governing document containing membership criteria. Therefore, the petitioner meets the requirement of criterion 83.7(d).
the petitioner's membership consists of individuals who descend from a historical Indian tribe or from historical Indian tribes which combined and functioned as a single autonomous political entity.
The SSA claims descent from the Western Abenaki Indians who resided at Missisquoi, near present-day Swanton, Vermont (see Overview of the Petitioner). This historical group was identified in contemporaneous documents up to the mid-1700's as residing in the area of the northeastern shore and islands of Lake Champlain, as well as at the Indian village/mission at St. Francis (Odanak), in the Province of Quebec, Canada (see discussion under criterion 83.7(b)). The petitioner does not claim descent from St. Francis Abenaki Indians other than asserting that some residents there were Missisquoi Abenaki who relocated to St. Francis (Odanak) to escape warfare between England and France or between the American Colonies and England (see discussion in Overview of the Petitioner).
The petitioner claims that its members descend from "such historically documented family lines as: Cajiais, Morice, Nepton, Obomsawin, Philippe, Portneuf, St. Francis, Toxus, and Wawanolett" (SSA 2000.00.00 ca). It also asserts that its members meet the group's descent criteria as set forth in its constitution – that is,
a) Documentation of direct descent from an Abenaki family listed oil the 1765 James Robertson lease.
b) Any person of Abenaki descent as determined by the Chief and Tribal Council .... (Petitioner 2005, Constitution ratified February 25, 1996)
The petitioner does not specify, either in its governing document or in its petition, whether applicants for membership must meet both of these criteria or only one criterion.
The petitioner identifies 20 "historical 20th century social core families" that the petitioner asserts "comprised the [Missisquoi] Abenakie community. They are: Barratt, Belrose, Cheney, Colomb, Demar, Ethier/Hakey, Gardner, Hance, Hoague, Lafrance, Medor, Monts, Nepton, Obomsawin, Ouimette, Partlow, Phillips, Richards, St. Francis and St. Lawrence" (SSA 1995.12.11 [Second Addendum], 10). Although not specifically stated in its petition, the petitioner implies, through information supplied in its genealogical database and its petition documents, that the progenitors of these 20 family lines are the Abenaki ancestors of all of its current members.
Based on the SSA's governing documents and other petition documents, the petitioner's members and, by extension, its progenitors claim descent from individuals named on the 1765 Robertson Lease or from some other Abenaki entity that may or may not have resided at Missisquoi.
The regulations describe types of evidence that are acceptable to the Secretary under- 83.7(e). However, the acceptable evidence is not limited to the categories listed in the regulations. The specified types of evidence examined for this petition are described below.
(1) Rolls prepared by the Secretary on a descendancy basis for purposes of distributing claims money, providing allotments, or other purposes.
At this time, there is no evidence that the Secretary or any other Federal agency prepared tribal rolls for the Western Abenaki Indians or the petitioner's ancestors in the United States. However, tribal rolls prepared by the Canadian government do exist for the Abenakl affiliated with the 0danak Reservation at St. Francis in the Province of Quebec, Canada. These rolls include an 1832 return (report) naming heads of Abenakl families and young warriors (Nominal Return of the Abenaquois Indians 1832), 1873 and 1875 censuses listing the names and ages of all Abenaki household members at St. Francis (Odanak), in Canada but not at St. Francis, and in the United States (Recensement du Villages 1873, 1875), and an 1893 pay list naming heads of St. Francis Abenakis households (Indian Distribution Pay List 1893.04.14).
The State of Vermont submitted a photocopy of an original 1832 return (report) of the Abenaki Indians at St. Francis (Odanak), written in English, containing them names of 100 heads of families and young warrior above 15 years of age as well as a tabulation of persons in each household (adult males and females, boys, and girls) (Nominal Return of the Abenaquois Indians 1832). Although the report provides a great deal of information on Abenaki surnames, total population, and the size of families, it provides no information on kin relations beyond individual households or on adult ages. An examination of the names on the return reveals none of the names of the petitioner's claimed ancestors, although similarities of surnames alone would not constitute evidence of descent or tribal affiliation.
The State submitted a photocopy of an original 1873 census of the Abenaki Indians at St. Francis (0danak), written in French, and containing the names and ages of a total of 316 persons, including 154 adults, 65 school-age children, and 97 infants, making up approximately 72 households (Recensement du Villages 1873). (96.) It also contains information on families living away from St. Francis, including 5 families (28 persons) as "residents of Canada" (Residents [sic] En Canada) (not at St. Francis) and 7 families (23 persons) in the United States (Residents [sic] aux Etats Unis). It also reports population change, such as deaths and births in margin notes. This document provides a wealth of information on families, descendants, and intermarriage kinships because it lists the names of children and elderly parents living with adult couples, and frequently provides both the maiden name and married name of female spouses. For fathers and sons with the same name, each heading their own household, the list denotes which is the son (fils). If a woman is a head of household, it indicates whether she is a widow and often gives the complete name of her deceased husband. One of the petitioner's claimed Indian ancestors, Simon Obomsawin (1850-after 1930), is possibly the 22-year-old "Simon Obumsawin fils," enumerated at St. Francis (0danak) on this list with 16-year-old Marie Jeanne
96. All French spellings and diacritical marks are as they appear on the document quoted.
The State submitted a photocopy of all 1875 census of the Abenaki Indians at St. Francis (Odanak), written in French, and containing the names and ages of a total of 391 persons, including 250 adults, 56 school-age children, and 31 infants, making up approximately 75 household (Recensement du Villages 1875). It also contains information on families living away from the reserve, including 9 families (38 persons) as "residents of Canada" (Residents [sic] En Canada) (not residing at Odanak) and 13 families (45 persons) in the United States (Eats Unis). This document also specifies causes of population change (Causes de Diminution), such as "struck. from the list" (Rayes de La [sic] listed), "absent or away iii [United] States" (Absents aux Eats), "absent in Canada" (Absent En Canada), deaths (Deces [sic]), births (Naissances), and returnees (Retour [sic]). This document provides the same type of information as found on the 1873 census. In one instance, when a man is enumerated at St. Francis (Odanak) and his spouse and children enumerated as living in the U. S., his wife's entry includes a note indicating her husband's full name. One of the petitioner's claimed Indian ancestors, Simon Obumsawin (1850-after 1930), is again possibly the "Simon Obumsawin fils" (no age given) enumerated as "resident in Canada" on this list with "his sister", (sa soeur), Marie Jeanne (no age given). None of the other ancestors claimed by the petitioner are enumerated on this list, even though some were born in Quebec and may have been living near the reserve at this time (see list discussed above under the 1873 census).
The State submitted a photocopy of an original 1893 Indian interest distribution pay list for Abenakis at St. Francis (Odanak), written in English (Indian Distribution Pay List 1893.04.14). It contains the full names (given name and surname) of 115 adults, probably heads of households because beside cacti name is a tally of the number of men, women, boys, and girls presumably living in the household. The tally also indicates the number of individuals who emigrated, died, and were born since the last distribution. Although some names on this list are identical to some shown on the St. Francis censuses, it is difficult to verify identities because no ages or names other than the head of the household are given. Again, as in the 1873 and 1875 St. Francis censuses, the only one of the petitioner's claimed ancestors who may be found on the list is possibly "Simon Obumsawin fils," identified as a single head of household living alone. (97.)
None of the individuals named in these documents are specifically identified as Missisquoi Abenaki or other Abenaki coming from or living in the Swanton area of Vermont. The petitioner has not claimed or shown descent from individuals on these Canadian censuses, other than possibly "Simon Obumsawin fils."
97. The petitioner's claimed ancestor named Simon Obomsawin married in 1878 at Odanak and had at least three children by 1893 – William Simon (1879-?), Marion Marie-Anne (1883-?), and Elaine (1886-1967). All three would have been adolescents at the time of the 1893 census and most likely still living at home. It is possible that the 1893 "Simon Obumsawin fils" is the same person as the petitioner's claimed ancestor because the list shows four children of "Simon Obumsawin fils" adopted by three other individuals on the list. However, there were numerous Obumsawins named on the 1893 pay list and the "Simon Obomsawin fils," who was living alone in 1893 and had four children adopted out, may not be the petitioner's ancestor.
The State submit photocopies of numerous State birth, marriage, and death records for individuals the SSA claims are members or ancestors of members. These included 37 birth records for individuals born between 1904 and 1937 (Birth Certificates [BC] 1904-1937), 28 marriage records for unions recorded between 1820 and 1966 (Marriage Certificates [MC] 1820-1966); and 8 death records for individuals who died between 1885 and 1937 (Death Certificates [DC] 1885-1937).
The petitioner submitted transcriptions of 20 births in Swanton, Franklin County, Vermont, between 1904 and 1920 from Franklin County record books, claiming the births were "identified as mixed or Indian-White" (Swanton Birth Records 1900.00.00-1920.00.00). The petitioner did not submit copies of these original birth records from Swanton. However, among the vital records submitted by the State were photocopies of 37 birth records from Franklin County, including all 20 of the records itemized on the petitioner's transcribed list (Birth Certificates [BC] 1904-1937). Department researchers examined these records for authenticity, source, and other pertinent information. The birth certificates provided the usual genealogical information, such as date and place of birth, full birth name, color (race), sex, the "number of child of mother," and each parent's name, age, place of birth, place of residence, and occupation. This information enabled verification of some lineage information submitted by the SSA. However, the documentation of "color" (race) on these records is both unclear and inconsistent (see in-depth evaluation and discussion under criterion 83.7(b)), and does not note Indian ancestry for these named individuals.
The State submitted copies of 28 marriage certificates recorded in Vermont and Quebec Province, Canada, for individuals married between 1820 and 1966 whom the SSA claims as members or ancestors of members (Carriage Certificates [MC] 1820-1966). Of these 28 marriage records, 12 are official typed copies of certificates of marriage from the State Department of Health, which contain the most genealogical information of any of the records, including names of the bride and groom, their town of residence, place of birth, age, occupation, color, number of past marriages, all parents' full names and birthplaces, and date of marriage. Three of the marriage records were photocopies of the handwritten town or county marriage register for carriages in the early to middle 19th century. The remaining 13 records are copies of microfilmed town clerk information cards, including 10 groom and 3 bride cards. These cards do not provide information about the spouse other than the name. The remaining information pertains exclusively to the individual for whom the card was completed, including name, age, place of birth, occupation, residence, parents' names, date of marriage, place of marriage, and name of person officiating. None identified an individual as Indian. The genealogical information provided by these documents proved useful in verifying genealogical information submitted by the petitioner.
The State also submitted copies of eight death records for individuals who died in Swanton, Franklin County, Vermont, between 1885 and 1937, whom the petitioner claims were members or ancestors of members (Death Certificates [DC] 1885-1937). None of these records identified
In addition, Departments researchers examined historically Vermont records, Canadians records, and land transaction records, for both the colonial and post-colonial periods, dealing with the historical Western Abenaki tribe. These were submitted by the petitioner and the State of Vermont and included the transcriptions of a register of baptisms, marriages, and deaths recorded at Fort Saint-Frederic between 1732 and 1759 (Roy 1946, 268-312), a 1765 lease designated "Robertson's Lease" for land "in the bay of Missisquoi" (Robertson 1765.05.28), a 1766 speech of the Misiskoui Indians (Misiskoui Indians 1766.09.08), an 1874 petition of the Abenakis of St. Francois (Abenaki Indians of St. Francis 1874.04.24), and a 1788 declaration by Louis Outalamagouine (Outalamagouine 1788.09.01).
The register of Fort Saint-Frederic, written in French, was transcribed from the original records by Pierre-Georges Roy and published in Hommes et Chosen du Fort Saint-Frederic (Roy 1946, 268-312). It was submitted by the petitioner and covers the period 1732-1759. Fort Saint was a French military fort located on the southwestern shore of Lake Champlain, which was abandoned in the middle to late 18th century. The register, which appears to be an official record of the fort administrators, reported baptisms of 255 individuals (mostly children), both French and Indian, and listed both the names of the parents and the names of the godparents. Of these, 16 of the children baptized were designated as having parents who were "Abenakl Missisquoi" or "Missisquoi Indian." In addition, the parents of 21 children were designated "Abenaki St. Francis," the parents of one child were designated "Abenaki Becancour," the parents of one other child were designated "Abenaki Debaguanos? [sic]," and the parents of 15 children were designated simply "Abenaki." The total number of Abenakl or Missisquoi children whose baptisms were recorded totals 54. (98.) For non-Indian baptisms, both the given names and surnames of the parents and godparents were recorded. However, only the first name (given name) of the Indian parents and godparents was recorded. A total of 30 marriages were shown in the register but no Indian marriages were recorded. The register listed the deaths of 4 individuals whose parents or personal identity were designated "Abenakl Missisquoi," 12 individuals whose parents or personal identity were designated "Abenaki St. Francis" or "St. Francis Indian," and 2 individuals whose parents or personal identity were designated simply "Abenaki." The total number of deaths recorded in the register was 194, of which 18 were Abenakl or Missisquoi or St. Francis Indian deaths; 10 of the 18 Abenakl deaths appear to have included the surname of the individual. Only one Abenakl Indian couple recorded the baptism of more than one child (two). Kinship relations were available only in the form of parent-child entries in the baptismal records and parent-child entries for infant deaths. First names and the few available surname of the Indian individuals were compared with later censuses of Indians at St. Francis (Odanak) and other available evidence but could not be linked to known or claimed ancestors of the petitioner.
98. Abenakis, Missisquoi, and St. Francis Indians were. not the only Indians who had children baptized. The register includes at least seven baptisms of Iroquois du Sault Saint-Louis children.