Researchers Identify Vermont Abenaki as Tribe of the Past
The Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology published a Handbook Ethnology of American Indians North of Mexico in 1907, edited by Frederick Webb Hodge. This large and authoritative study "treats all of the tribes north of Mexico, including the Eskimo." Hodge stated the handbook's goal:
It has been the aim to give a brief description of every linguistic stock,
confederacy, tribe, subtribe or tribal division and settlement known to history or even to tradition, as well as the origin and derivation of every name treated. whenever such is known... (Hodge 1907:viii).
In this work, Hodge described the history of the "Abnaki," tracing their displacement from Maine to Canada. He noted that "[t]he descendants of those who emigrated from Maine, together with remnants of other New England tribes, are now at St. Francis and Becancour, in Quebec, where, under the name of Abnaki, they numbered 395 in 1903" (Hodge 1907:3-4). In addition, he noted the number of Eastern Abenakis—namely the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy-- in Maine.
As for the portion of the Western Abenaki who historically lived at Missisquoi in the eighteenth Century, Hodge recognized the "Missiassik" as an historical subgroup. However, he did not see it as an entity presently in the United States at the time of his writing. He stated that it was "[a]n Algonquian tribe or body of Indians belonging to the Abnaki group, formerly living on Missisquoi r. in N. Vermont" (Hodge 1907:87-2). He explained that "[t]hey had a large village at the mouth of Missisquoi r. in Franklin co., on L. Champlain, but abandoned it about 1730 on account of the ravages of an epidemic, and removed to St. Quebec" (Hodge 1907:872).
The petitioner cites Alfred Kroeber's Handbook of the Indians of California, published in 1925, as an identification of the petitioning group. Kroeber denied, however, that a Costanoan group continued to exist in 1925, despite his recognition that a "few scattered individuals survive...." These individuals "of mixed tribal ancestry," he contended, had long ago "abandoned" the natives' "old habits of life" and were living "almost lost among other Indians or obscure Mexicans." In this view, the surviving Indian descendants had lost a distinct culture and any distinct settlements. Therefore, although he knew that individual descendants of the Costanoan existed, Kroeber concluded that, "The Costanoan group is extinct so far as all practical purposes are concerned." (BIA Ohlone/Costanoan Muwekma Tribe 2001:5).
Another scholar sought to describe all the Indian groups he could find in 1914.
Warren K. Moorehead included a chapter on "Indians Today," in his book The American Indian In the United States; Period 1850-1914: The Present Condition of the American lndian: His Political History and Other Topics; A Plea for Justice. His description moved through the eastern United States as he identified groups of Indians continuing to live in tribal relations, such as the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy in Maine (Moorehead 1914:31-
48. See discussion above in section Nineteenth Century: Travelers, Historians, and Surveyors of In Indians.
--"some remained until the white men settled here,"
--fishing, hunting grounds in Sheldon "held tenaciously by [the St. Francis Indians], being yielded with great reluctance."
While he believed "that so far as Vermont is concerned the Indian population generally has been underestimated" historically, he was not aware of any Indians community in Vermont in is day (Crockett, 1921:5 1, 60, 64).
One of the most well-known anthropologists, Frank G. Speck, conducted a
considerable considerable amount of research on both the Western and Eastern Abenakis. He published articles on the Eastern Abenakis in Maine (Speck 1915, 1919), and articles referring to the Western Abenakis in New Hampshire and Odanak/St. Francis, Quebec (Speck 1947). Speck researched the Abenaki language and culture and made several visits to Odanak/St. Francis
It was not for lack of searching that Speck failed to mention Abenakis in Vermont. He was aware of Abenakis near Vermont, as shown by the fact that his papers included photographs of Abenakis at Lake George, New York, in 1952 (Speck 1952). There is additional evidence that Speck was familiar with a possible Abenaki village at Lake George, New York. A researcher in the 1950's referred to Speck's familiarity with an Abenaki woman at Lake George in a letter written to Speck's colleagues after Speck's death. The inquiry was for material regarding
an old St. Francis (Canada) Indian named Sabael (1745-1855) who settled in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. In talking with his great grand- daughter Mrs. Maud Nagazoa, I understand that Prof. Frank Speck once talked with her – I presme [sic] more about the Abenaki language. The locale language of this interview might have been lake George, or Sorel in Canada. (Cadbury 2/28/1959).
These materials demonstrate Speck's knowledge of the Abenaki in Quebec, Maine, New Hampshire, and New York. A survey of his published works and indexes to his papers at the American Philosophical Society has turned up no references to a community of Abenakis in northwestern Vermont or anywhere in Vermont. It is striking that an anthropologist who
49. Two such visits and conversations with Chief Laurent are referred to by Odanak/St. Francis Chief Joseph Laurent's son in an address to the Vermont Historical Society (Laurent 1955:187). As Chief Laurent died in 1917, these visits must have taken place before then (For Laurent's dates, see Hume 1991:104-105).
Likewise, the Webster/Dudley Band of Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuc Indians cites the absence of that band from Frank Speck's research as a reason why Criterion (a) was not met there (BIA Webster/Dudley Band of Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuc Indians (#69B) 2001:84). In that case, Speck's interviews with one band of Indians did not turn up any mention of the Dudley/Webster group. Despite the fact that he was in the same area researching Nipmuc Indians, Speck made no visits to the Dudley/Webster descendants. This lack of identification by the renowned anthropologist weighed against a finding of acknowledgment under Criterion (a) (BIA Webster/Dudley Band of Nipmuc Indians (#69B)
There were also no Indians indicated in adjacent Grand Isle County, the one which encompasses the Lake Champlain islands. Three of the enumerated Indians were listed in Essex County on the other side of the state, bordering New Hampshire and the Connecticut River. 50. The other two individuals were listed in central parts of the state, Rutland and Washington counties. This lack of Indians in Vermont cannot be attributed to a general invisibility. Abenaki Indians were fully visible in areas not far away, as the 1900 federal
50. There is some evidence that Indians seen in Essex County could be from Old Town, Maine. Thomas Daniels wrote "[a]s late as 1910, Indians from Old Town, Maine traveled up the Androscoggin River to St. Johnsbury, where they gathered bark from the swamps to make dye" (Daniels 1963:13).
Federal census records are a standard source of external identification consulted in federal acknowledgment cases. They are considered a reliable source (BIA Duwamish Tribal Organization 21001:24). The fact that none of the ancestors of the petitioner is identified as Indian in the census records can be a major obstacle to federal acknowledgment as it was in the MaChris Proposed Finding (BIA MaChris Lower Alabama Creek Indian Tribe 1987:6).
51. Prior to 1900 there was one other special census of Indians in 1890. In Vermont, this census listed 34 Indians not on reservations. Although the individual listings of the 1890 census were destroyed in a fire, a compilation summarizing the results of the Indian census survived. This ccompilation shows the counties in which those 34 Indians lived, none lived in Franklin or Grand Isle counties. The largest group containing 13, was located in Essex County, on the eastern side of the state bordering New Hampshire. Another 12 were located in central or southern counties. That leaves 8 listed in Chittenden County, and in Orleans between Franklin and Essex (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1894:602).
Records of the Vermont Eugenics Survey Do Not Identify Any Abenakis
One characteristic of the evidence in the Muwekma case that occurs in the instant petition is the identification of the Indians in the region as belonging to another Indian tribe belonging or group. In order to be federally acknowledged and meet the requirements of c. the ancestors of the petitioning groups need to be identified by the correct tribal name. This is to make sure they have not broken off from another tribe that is otherwise recognized, or that they are not a newly formed group that did not exist historically. In the Muwekma case, there were various Indian settlements in the area, so it was important to determine to which group petitioner belonged. Since the evidence in that case associated petitioner with another tribe—not the historic Verona or Muwekma Indians—the balance weighed against acknowledgment on Criterion (a). (BIA Ohlone/Costanoan Muwekma Tribe 2001:2-4).
Furthermore, only a few of these individuals are even ancestors of the petitioner according to the genealogical material submitted to the BIA in 1995. Family Descendancy Charts. Specifically, the references to Indians in the Eugenics Survey who are listed by petitioner as ancestors are as follows: 52.
"Matilda Leopard Phillips (Young Matilda) ... says that Old Antoine had Indian blood and had something to do with the Kickapoo Indians. 53. (Agent H.E.A. thinks that the above statement is probably rather doubtful except for the fact that Old Antoine did have Indian blood and probably was related to some of the inhabitants of an Indian reservation in southeastern Canada.[)]"
listed in Eugenics Survey as a son of Antoine. "Peter Phillips the first was part Indian, part French, and part Negro. On his death certificate he is recorded as colored. He was very decidedly Negroid in appearance. [Police] Chief Russell of Burlington remembers Old Peter Phillips who looked like an Indian."
listed in Eugenics Survey as son of Julia Phillips and
52. The relevant pages from the Survey arc included in the Exhibits (Eugenics Survey of Vermont 1926-1930]a and [1926-1930]b).
53. There is other evidence of some people of Kickapoo descent in Vermont (Needham 1965).
There are two other people whose descriptions in the Eugenics Survey include
references to Indian heritage, but they did not have any descendants among petitioner's members:
listed in Eugenics Survey as wife of Peter Phillips. She
"was part Indian and part French. She came from an Indian Reservation Caughnawagha, sixteen miles from Montreal." According to the Phillips Family Descendancy Chart, she married Peter Phillips (individual #2). No children are listed, thus her line does not continue to today's petitioner.
"The Peterses were half French and half Indian."
According to the Phillips Family Descendancy Chart, he is shown as marrying Jane Virginia Phillips (individual #7). No children are listed; his line does not continue to today's petitioner.
Lastly, one other individual is mentioned as having some Indian blood, but he does not show up in petitioner's Family Descendancy Charts at all:
George Louis Jerome
"The Jeromes were part French and part Indian, and
probably part negro."
As for other ancestors of the petitioner who were profiled by the Eugenics Survey, most of them are described as French. The following are notable examples:
Hoague Family Descendancy Chart (individual #11)
Columb Family Descendancy Chart (individual #54)
Emeline/ Minnie Vincelette
Married Joseph Hoague.
One is described in the survey as Irish:
Married Mary Zelda Hoague. John Morits Family Descendancy Chart (individual #16)
Newspapers Fail to Identify Any Abenaki Tribe in Vermont
The December 4, 1913, issue of the Swanton Courier newspaper ran three articles related to, or referring to, Indians. All spoke of the Indians as a past feature of Swanton; they made no mention of any continuity to any existing community of people in the area. The first article, on the front page of the paper, was entitled "The Indians." It discussed the relics that had been found in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties and went on to give a concise history of Indian occupation of the area. The last sighting of Indians was given in the following
[After the treaty of 1763] The Indians, who had sided with the French in the wars of the past, were now left in the hands of their enemy [the English], and their gradual withdrawal from this territory followed. They continued to occupy, however, up to at least as late as 1800, and it is said by old