Two affidavits of experts consulted by the State are attached to this Response to the Petition. Accompanying this filing is a collection of Exhibits comprised of articles, government records, newspapers, and manuscripts that are referred to in the response. 1.
Historic Tribe Elusive
A natural starting point in the historical examination of an Indian tribe would be the identification of the historic tribe. In this case, that is not so easy. The petition itself illustrates the difficulty. The original petition was submitted in 1982 by the St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Vermont. See "Resolution of Abenaki Tribal Council" (Petition:ii). Later correspondence to the BIA is from the Sovereign Republic of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi. See, e.g., 1995 Certification of Records with re-submitted
1. To avoid duplication, for the most part, documents cited in the Response which were provided to the BIA's Branch of Acknowledgment and Research by the petitioner have not been included in the State's exhibits.
Missisquoi villagers were never a tribe," but rather a changing groups of families who hunted in the area (Petition: 15). The confusion in nomenclature in the petitioners own submissions may indicate a more serious ambiguity as to identity and an uncertainty about community and descendancy.
The word Abenaki (or Wabanaki) refers to a group of Algonquian speaking tribes in Northern New England. Abenaki means "people of the dawn." They are divided into the Eastern Abenaki and the Western Abenaki. The Eastern Abenakis originally inhabited Maine and parts of New Hampshire. The name for these people stems from coastal view of the sun rise. Eastern Abenaki groups or tribes include the Penobscot and Maliseet. Western Abenaki include the Sokokis and Cowasucks of the upper and middle Connecticut River
2. Indeed, the relationship between the St. Francis Abenaki and the Missisquoi
groups is an intriguing puzzle embedded in this petition. If the Missisquoi was a separate tribal entity from the Abenaki at Odanak/St. Francis, then that historic tribe would have a claim for acknowledgment in the United States. If the Abenakis at Missisquoi were only an outlying temporary settlement of the St. Francis Abenakis then their claim should be directed toward Canadian First Nation status and the reservation
near Missisquoi Bay in Swanton, Vermont, the same area in which most of its members reside at present. This would suggest that petitioner's members view themselves as descendants of the Missisquoi, not the Sokokis. The history of the Abenakis of Missisquoi and those of Odanak/ St. Francis is extensively intertwined. The inclusion of the St. Francis tribal name in the petitioner's original submission indicates a sense of affiliation with that Canadian tribe. One theme of this Response to the Petition is that the Missisquois drew closer and closer to the Abenakis of Odanak/ St. Francis so that by 1800 they were
Major Scholars of the Western Abenakis
The scholar who devoted the most time to studying the Western Abenaki was Gordon Day. He was an ethnolinguist at Dartmouth College and the National Museum of Man (now the Canadian Museum of Civilization) in Hull, Quebec, where he held increasingly responsible positions over 35 years. Through his efforts to find native speakers of the Abenaki language, he uncovered the history of the people. As a child growing up in Vermont, he was intrigued by stories of Indians. Day spent two decades searching for and
2. (continued) established in Quebec. As will become evident in this Response, the ultimate significance of this puzzle may not matter, given the post-1800 history of Indians, or the lack thereof, in Vermont.
3. In this historical survey, care has been taken to avoid generalizations about Abenakis, or even Western Abenakis, since it is not clear that the history of the Missisquoi, for example, is the same as the history of the Sokokis, Cowasucks or Penobscots.
One of the scholars who Day met in his travels was a Catholic priest in Quebec who was himself an expert on the Abenakis. Father Thomas M. Charland made a significant contribution to the understanding of the history of the Abenaki with his work, including his book Histoire des Abenakis d'Odanak, 1675-1937 (1964). Day met Charland during his research trips and described him as a "careful scholar" (Day, 1981b:39).
Among more contemporary scholars, the one who has written and published the most about the Western Abenaki is Colin Calloway. Calloway's contribution lies less in the realm of significant new research, than in his clear and graceful writing. He primarily took Gordon Day's work and put it in a larger perspective or connected it to other events in New England. 4. The only area in which Calloway adds information to Day's work is in his smattering of references to events in the nineteenth century. However, this is not his own research, rather, it is traceable to unpublished writings of John Moody, an advocate for the Abenaki who authored the instant petition (Haviland & Power, 1994: 301, Petition: ii-iii). Moody's writing and his influence will be discussed in the section, Comments on Recent Scholarship.
4. In his book The Western Abenakis of Vermont 1600-1800 (1990:xix) Calloway wrote: "Anyone familiar with the literature will recognize my indebtedness to the handful of scholars who have published on the western Abenakis. Without the pioneering work of Gordon M. Day, Director Emeritus of the Canadian Ethnology Service, students of western Abenaki history and culture would still be groping in the dark."
We have a sketchy picture of Indians in northwestern Vermont for most of the seventeenth century. As Gordon Day wrote in the Handbook of North American Indians, of an unknown quantity to historians "The Western Abenaki have always been something something of an unknown to ethnographers" (Day 1978b:149). The history of the Indian village of Missisquoi and the identity of the people there have posed particular difficulties for historians over the years. The origins of Missisquoi are unknown (Day 1981 b:64). "This problem is part of a larger phenomenon, namely, a general deficit of ethnographic information for all northwestern New England (Day 1971:116). The movements of the Western Abenaki people "were not the principal concern of historians, either French or English, and this has weakened the record" (Day 1981 b:62).
Most histories have dealt with the lack of direct information about Missisquoi and
Indians in northwestern Vermont by writing around them. For example, in The Original Vermonters, William A. Haviland and Marjorie W. Power approach the seventeenth-century history of Vermont by devoting their discussion of that time period to "places other than Vermont." (Haviland & Power 1994:206-30). The bulk of the histories of Abenakis focus on the Eastern Abenakis of Maine, their migration to Quebec, and the subsequent events surrounding Odanak/St. Francis.
While Samuel de Champlain visited Vermont and the lake that bears his name in
By 1682 there were probably Pennacook and Sokoki Indians on Lake Champlain.
However speculation remains as to whether they were at the northern most reaches of the lake in Canada, or on parts of the lake in Vermont (Day 1981 b:22-24, 38, Dickason 1990: 87). How many natives lived or hunted in this area is a subject of debate. The petition claims there were as many as 4,000 Abenaki in the Missisquoi region (Petition: 13). Professor John Dickinson, an historian at the Universite de Montreal, disputes this figure (Dickinson Affidavit, Attachment B, 2). 5. Noting the tendency of authors at certain periods to exaggerate population, he states that
[t]only clear evidence available concerns the eighteenth century, and it would seem that the 60 to 80 warriors mentioned in French documents regarding the village Missisquoi relate to an Abenaki community of some 300-400 people. (Dickinson Affidavit, Attachment B, 2).
The petitioner's interest in rejecting the lower figure for population size is evident: if, as they argue, there was a greater number of natives as Missisquoi in the seventeenth century, then that bolsters the argument that the migration to Canada in the eighteenth
5. Professor Dickinson's affidavit is attached to this Response.
Some Noteworthy Events of the Seventeenth-Century
In 1662-64 the Western Abenaki began to retreat, in small numbers, to Quebec due to wars with the Iroquois (Dickason 1990:86 n. 28). During this time, the Iroquois terrorized all the Algonquian tribes as far east as Maine (Haviland & Power 1994:225). The Abenakis,for the most part, were allied with the French, so they tended to seek refuge in New France 7. (Haviland & Power 1994:2119-23). By contrast, the Iroquois were allies of the English. Around this same time, the first settlement of Europeans in the area of Lake Champlain occurred in the form of a French mission and fort of Sainte-Anne on Isle la Motte in 1666 (Huden 1956:116, Calloway 1990a:72).
The year 1675 was a significant one for the Western Abenaki (Dickason 1990:86). In that year, King Philip's War erupted—a war between the British colonists and Indians in southern New England. 8. One immediate consequence of King Philip's War was the creation of the refugee village at Schaghticoke on the Hudson River in New York. Many Indians from the Connecticut River valley, including Sokokis, fled to Schaghticoke at this time (Day 1981 b:29). A further effect of the war was the movement of large numbers of Western Abenakis into Canada (Dickason 1990:86, Calloway 1990:75).
6. The petition rejects, as low. Day's estimate of 5,000 natives for the larger region encompassing not only Lake Champlain, but also the Merrimack River in New Hampshire and the upper Connecticut River (Petition: 12). Professor Dickinson's own studies of native populations led him to conclude Day's estimate was quite reasonable. (Dickinson affidavit, Attachment B, 2).
7. The alliance of the Abenakis with the French was not entirely consistent and continuous. It required maintenance by the French in order to prevent it from deteriorating (Dickason 1990).
In 1700 this mission was transferred to the one on the St. Francis River (Dickason 1990:88).
The latter became the site of the Indian village of St. Francis, also known as Odanak.
Population Movements In and Out of Missisquoi During the Eighteenth Century
Describing both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Calloway wrote: Describing eighteenth Calloway:
Direct documentary evidence of the western Abenakis is scarce in the early historic period. The sources are relatively rich in information about the colonists' dealings with the Iroquois of New York, the eastern Abenakis of
8. Named for the Wampanoag Indian Chief Philip, King Philips War was the start of a series of wars between the British and the Abenakis, which lasted 85 years (Haviland & Power 1994:227).