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Friday, November 5, 2010

State of VT's Response to Petition for Federal Acknowledgment of the St. Francis/Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Vermont: Pages 25 to 32:

Populations suggest that withdrawal from Missisquoi in the early years of the Revolution did indeed remove many families permanently to some other location. The most probable place of removal is Saint Francis. (Day 1981b:56)

Reports of Indians at Missisquoi after the American Revolution are infrequent. One of the first Americans to survey the Indians was Thomas Jefferson. He compiled two lists in 1782 from available sources of his day. These were entitled, Indians Northward and Westward of the United States," and "Indians Within the Limits of the United States" and published in his Notes on the State of Virginia (Jefferson 1782:229, 230-32). He drew primarily on sources from 1758 to 1779. Jefferson sought to "state the nations and numbers of the aborigines which still exist in a respectable and independent form" (Jefferson 1782:227). He did not identify any Abenakis in the area of Vermont. He located them only north of the U.S. near Trois Rivieres, Quebec (Jefferson 1782:229).
There are instances of sightings of Indians at Missisquoi after 1775. 22. One incident occurred in 1784, after James Hunter and Charles Grajon attempted to claim lands through title from James Robertson—the one who leased the lands from the Abenakis in 1765 for 91 years. This is recounted by Charland as follows: 23. Ira Allen had settled other families on that land and refused to recognize the lease, saying the Indians lost their title when the British defeated the French in 1763. Hunter, upset over his inability to remove the families on the land, warned that the Abenakis would return and claim their rights by force. Thereafter, a group of St. Francis Abenakis appeared at the mouth of the Missisquoi and made threats.
22. Other sightings are traceable to Cauhnawagha Indians, not Missisquois (Day 19 lb:57).
23. For an English retelling of Charland's account, see Calloway's Western Abenakis of Vermont. (Calloway 1990b:225-29).
Allen appealed to General Haldimand saying he had no objection to the Abenakis asserting claims but believed they had been incited by Hunter and his accomplices at St. Jean. 24. Haldimand attempted to calm Allen and instructed his officers to investigate Hunter (Charland 172-74). The fact that Allen attempted to settle the problem through correspondence with the Quebec Governor indicates that the Abenakis were within the control of the Canadian authorities. Haldimand's investigation of the incidents in St. Jean, Quebec, also confirms that the Abenakis were using Canada as a home base from which to accost the American settlers. Allen's request of aid in this matter from a foreign power, indicates that the Indians were not local residents of the Missisquoi area.
The next reported incident was in 1787 and 1788 when twenty Indians appeared in Swanton and demanded rent from farmers Waggoner and Tichout. These Indians raised a British flag upon setting up camp; an indication they had come from Canada—most likely from Odanak/St. Francis (Day 1981 b:56, Calloway 1990b:228, Barney 1882:999). Again, the Quebec officials attempted to resolve the dispute by arranging a meeting between the Abenakis and the American settlers. The Abenakis did not succeed in removing the settlers. Day observed that the Abenakis came to realize they had lost control of these lands at Missisquoi by this time (Day 1981b:60).
Shortly thereafter, in 1789, the Abenakis petitioned the Governor of Quebec "to
indemnify them for the loss of their lands on the Missisquoi River" (Day 1981 b:60; Charland 1964:175-76). They renewed their request in 1797 and 1803. The British governor in Canada finally approved their request and issued the Durham grants to the Abenakis in Montreal.
24. St. Jean is located on the Richelieu River, southeast of Montreal. It was the site of a fort in the eighteenth century where many loyalists went after the American Revolution (Canadian Encyclopedia:1985b; see Map at page vi of this Response).
1805 25. ( Charland 1964:76). The final granting of this petition may also be attributed to the overcrowding of Odanak/St. Francis at that time (Haviland & Power:245, Day 1973:55). The population of Odanak/St. Francis had grown significantly after the American Revolution—again confirming the migration of Abenakis from Missisquoi to St. Francis (Day 1981b:56, 61).
Perry's history, written in 1863 also maintains that, of the Indians at Missisquoi,
"most withdrew to Canada, between the close of the Revolution & 1790" (Perry 1863:203, Clifford 2001:223). While he noted that "a few still lingered on the Missisquoi at that time, he reported that "[t]hey had, to a large extent, retired to St. Francis"' (Perry 1863:240). He went on to note that

The village of St. Francis having become the principal center of the few who survived, the tendency was in that direction. Consequently one family after another withdrew from Vermont, & only returned to Swanton, for a few weeks or months each year, to engage in hunting & fishing. (Perry 1863: 241).

A bit further on he wrote that "they continued to leave the place, a few at a time, until 1798, when all that remained took their departure. Since that year, they have only returned in small parties, at long intervals, to remain for short seasons" (Perry 1863:2241-42).
Confirming this view of Odanak/St. Francis as their center, Calloway wrote that In 1800, Odanak/St. Francis was the location where "the exiles coalesced into a new community in St. Francis and reassembled the last vestiges of Abenakis political power in the northeast" (Calloway 1986:221). St. Francis became the melting pot for Northeast Indians. The last of the large groups to arrive there were the Abenakis of Missisquoi (Day 1971:1 19). And, as
25. The members of the Durham reserve were re-absorbed into Odanak/St. Francis in the 1830's (Day 1981b:61).
Day concluded, it is at Odanak/St. Francis that the culture and language of Missisquoi survived—not in Vermont (Day 1973:56).

The Insubstantial Evidence of Continued Tribal Presence in the Nineteenth Century
While the early historic period of the eighteenth century has been described as lacking material on the western Abenakis, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are even more spotty. Faced with an almost total lack of evidence of any continued Abenaki presence in northwestern Vermont after 1800, the petitioner has constructed a speculative argument to explain this away. It contends that the Abenakis adopted a strategy of blending in with thecommunity, in order to avoid discrimination and ill-treatment in the face of adversity (Petition: 145, 148-50, 154). The problem is, they blended in so well that they do not show up in the records as a tribal entity until nearly two hundred years later—in 1976.
Petitioner lists only a few sightings and reports of Abenakis in the Missisquoi region between 1800 and 1900. Almost every one of petitioner's reports evaporates upon close examination. Many are either open to alternative interpretations or are unverifiable. Most have no proven connection to the Missisquoi region in northwestern Vermont.
The petitioner's evidence of an Abenaki presence in Vermont in the nineteenth
century amounts to the following:

1. a story about Madam Campo waiting for visitors at her home (Petition:54);
2. references to Indians in local histories (Petition:54-56):
3. an account of Indians in Rutland, Vermont. in all Burlington Free Press
article home (Petition:56);
4. records of baptisms in Chambly, Quebec, in the early 1800's home (Petition:58-59);
5. federal census records home (Petition:61-66);
6. a local history reportIng that bands of eight to ten families drifted back for part 271 of the year as late as 1835 or 1840 home (Petition:71);
7. a record of an 1814 marriage at Caughnawagha to a "sauvage abenaquis d'un village d'amerique" (Petition Addendum:307);
8. an 1835 article In the Green Mountain Democrat regarding Indians from the eastern shore of Lake Champlain camping at Windsor, Vt., on the Connecticut River (Petition Addendum:308), and
9. a letter from Father Petithomme in 1835 reporting that he sleeps in the cabins of the Indians on Lake Champlain (Petition Addendum: 312-13).

The first item offered in support of the continued presence of Abenakis at Missisquoi is the story of Madam Campo awaiting a visitor home (Petition:54). Petitioner uses this as an indication that there were other Indians in the vicinity who were calling upon Madam Campo. This appears to be a misreading of the quotation. The woman is described as "the sole representative of her tribe," and she was "hopeful that the lands of her fathers would be restored to her." Her costume and behavior are described at a time "when she anticipated a business call from the possessor of her assumed heritage. While petitioner claims she
awaited other Indian visitors, Professor Dickinson interprets this quite differently. He says a proper reading of this passage indicates that

she expected a visit from the white person who occupied the land she claimed to settle her case. The words "possessor of her assumed heritage'' indicates that she awaited the person [who] occupied an inheritance that she assumed was hers. (Dickinson Affidavit, Attachment B:6).
The second piece of evidence cited by petitioner in support of nineteenth century Abenaki presence is a group of citations from local histories written in the 1870's. These descriptions of Indians have two features: (1) they do not name the Indians as Missisquoi Abenakis, as generic Indians, or as St. Francis Indians from Canada, and (2) they speak of them as seasonal hunters, not as residents. The last one in particular, referring to Indians seen in Richford, concerns "hunting along the Missisquoi River and mountains in winter...[and] pass[ing] down the river into Lake Champlain and the Sorel River to Caughnawagha to market" (Petition:55). From these geographic clues, Professor Dickinson concluded that this passage does not refer to Abenaki Indians:

The final citation [on page 55 of the petition] clearly refers to Mohawks who also had claim to the Lake Champlain area. Traveling and hunting expeditions were part of both Abenaki and Mohawk lifestyles and this does not seem to demonstrate much except that Natives were still hunting in the area. (Dickinson Affidavit, Attachment B:7).

The 1820 Burlington Free Press article, the petitioner's third piece of evidence, does not substantiate the argument that Missisquoi Abenakis were a consistent presence in the northwestern part of the state (Petition:56). The article describes a family of nine Indians who camped near Rutland for the winter. As the Missisquoi Abenakis' general approach was to retreat northward to Canada or eastward toward Lake Memphrernagog, it is unlikely that these Indians near Rutland came from the group that had previously been in Missisquoi near Swanton. Indeed, Rutland is over 100 miles south of Swanton. Moreover, there is evidence of other Indians in that area—namely, the Mahicans from Schaghticoke (Ulrich 2001:347-48, attributing basket lined with 1821 Rutland Herald newspaper to Mahicans at Scaticoke). It is at least as likely that Indians in the Rutland area were from New York State, since we know
there were Indians documented in federal census records around Lake George, New York, during the nineteenth century (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1900a, 1900b). 26.
Baptisms in Canadian parishes, such as Chambly, are the fourth type of evidence of Abenaki continuity cited in the petition as well (Petition:59). However, the existence of these records does not necessarily confirm that Abenaki continued to live in the Missisquoi region of Vermont. As petitioner itself contends, some Abenakis left Missisquoi and went to Clarenceville, Quebec. The individuals who used the Catholic parishes whose records are cited here could have been residents of Clarenceville, not Vermont (Petition:59). See Map above, p.6.
The families could also have used these parishes as they were traveling from
Missisquoi to Odanak/St. Francis. The baptism of a child of Antoine Portneuf could be explained that way, rather than as proof of Missisquoi residence. The Portneuf family shows up in all the Odanak/St. Francis censuses from 1829 through 1875 (Day 1981 b:93). There is even an A. Portneuf on the list of Veterans of the War of 1812, who could be the Antoine Portneuf who took a child to be baptized at Chambly in 1800 (Day 1981b:72).
Furthermore, the baptisms cited by the petitioner are not conclusively Abenaki
baptisms. The petitioner relies on the "lack of a first or last name, as well as the sound of Wabisan, and the residence being simply on the river" to conclude that the baptism of Marie Appolinaire Wabisan is an Abenaki baptism. However, the parents' residence on the river is near Fort St. Jean, Quebec, not Vermont. In addition, the father's occupation is given as
26. Rutland, Vt., is about 100 miles south of Swanton, Vt., but only 40 miles north of Lake George in Warren County, N.Y. (see Map above, p. vi).
"day laborer," an occupation that does not immediately suggest Indian. Were he described as an Indian hunter, one might conclude otherwise.
The fifth category of evidence upon which the petitioner relies is federal census
category records (Petition:61-66). A more detailed examination of these records is presented in the analysis of the genealogical evidence of descent from a historic tribe, Criterion (e), but a few comments are appropriate here. First, the petitioner itself acknowledges that these people were not identified as Indian in the census. In addition, the petitioner makes grand assumptions based on similarities of names to support its conclusions. For example, it assumes that Canance is Annance, Mower is Morin. Kady is Kedzi, Benway is Benedict, Legur is Lazare, etc. Without birth, marriage, or death records that show the connections between these particular individuals and descendants bearing the transformed names, these assumption are not justified.
Moreover, even the petitioner's evidence points to other conclusions that undermine the assertion that the Abenakis maintained a continuous presence at Missisquoi. The fact that the names listed in one decade are all gone in the following decade undercuts the argument of continuity. Also, the connection between names on the censuses and family names at Odanak/St. Francis confirms the primacy of Odanak/St. Francis as an Indian center from which individuals occasionally traveled to Vermont.
Lastly, this census list's inclusion of Francis Benway of Milton on the grounds that
"Benways would marry with Abenakis in Grand Isle County," indicates a fundamental mistake in the petitioner's approach. Non-Indian ancestors of current tribal members are not transformed into Indians because later generations married Abenakis. The presence of these

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