There Has Not Been a Continuous Geographic Concentration of Indians in Franklin County
The geographic concentration of the residences of the petitioning group can be used geographic petitioning to satisfy Criterion (b). It can be used for "high evidence" of geographical concentration, by demonstrating that "[m]ore than 50 percent of the members reside in a geographical area or almost exclusively composed of members of the group, and the balance of the group maintains consistent interaction with some members of the community" (25 C.F.R. 83.7(b)(2)(i)). Or, it can be used as part of the overall presentation of evidence as was done in the Wampanoag and Narragansett cases (BIA Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head 1987:5, BIA Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island 1982:9). Significant numbers of Narragansett Indians lived within a ten-mile radius of the town of Charlestown from the mid-1750's to the time the petition was filed. Emigration from the area was limited (BIA Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island 1982:9). The lack of geographic concentration can also be important. The MaChris case illustrated the need for both geographic clustering and identification of an area as Indian:
While Federal census and county records show there has been some residential clustering and interaction among the principal families in the group from 1850 to the present at various and somewhat scattered locations in
The St. Francis/Sokoki Abenaki materials follow the latter illustration. The petition
admits that the outsiders did not regard the areas where petitioner lived as Indian (Petition:159). In addition, although the petition talks a lot about the continuity of habitation in Swanton and surrounding areas of Franklin and Grand Isle counties, the federal census records present a picture of Indians scattered around the state from 1860 to 1970, with almost no at all Indians in Swanton (see Table 1 above).
Even within Franklin County, the federal census records do not depict a distinct
community. The census records from the late nineteenth century show the petitioner's ancestors living in French Canadian neighborhoods, holding jobs that were the same as their non-Indian neighbors (Davis Affidavit, Attachment A:1-2).
The Petitioner Did Not Immigrate to Vermont as a Group at Any One Time
In contrast to the Narragansett, the St. Francis/Sokoki group was not stable. It
exhibited a great deal of immigration and emigration. Movement alone does not disqualify a group from federal acknowledgment. However, the movement must fall in a pattern that shows "a group whose history could be traced through time and place" (BIA Steilacoom Tribe of Indians 2000:5881). To satisfy the "community" criterion, the evidence should "demonstrate that immigrants to the same place had preexisting ties based on earlier marriages, common residence in a settlement, or membership in a group" (BIA Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, Charts, 2000:4). They need to have migrated to the area together as a group, or in waves that show a connection between the old place of
However, that is exactly what we have here. The petitioner's Family Descendancy Charts provide a useful means of examining the immigration pattern of the families that supposedly make up the present community. Those charts, supplemented with information from other parts of the petition, show that families came to Swanton, or the surrounding area, over a hundred and twenty year period, from a variety of locations:
Date Arrived in Swanton: 1820's
Source: John Morits was born in Quebec; no town given. His son, John F. Morits, was born in Highgate in 1826.
Family: St. Laurent
Date Arrived in Swanton: 1830's
Former Location: Quebec
Source: Hippolyte St. Laurent was born in Quebec; his children Sophie and Marie (and their husbands, Joseph Bourgeois and Lewis Colomb) were also born in Quebec, according to census records. The first grandchild to be born in Vermont was Mary Colomb in 1833. Family: Colomb
Date Arrived in Swanton: 1830's
Former Location: Waterloo, Quebec
Source: Joseph Colomb was born in Quebec, as were his three children. His first grandchild to be born in Vermont was Mary Colomb in 1833. Joseph Colomb Chart.
proposed finding against federal acknowledgment for the United Houma, that evidence led to finding against conclusion that the petitioner did not exist continuously as a distinct community from historical times to the present. As the Proposed Finding stated, there was "no evidence for a Finding stated, there was "no evidence for a
The UHN ancestors who first settled the bayous of southern Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes, Louisiana, did not enter the area together. The UHN petitioner presents a situation in which a small number of individual Indians, from partially unknown tribal backgrounds (two unrelated Indian women and a single Indian nuclear family), and numerous non-Indian individuals, coalesced into a distinct community on Bayou Terrebonne between 1810 and 1830. Geographically, the origins of the individual families can be traced to several locations...
The petitioner's ancestors who would meet in Louisiana's lower bayous had few, if any, previous relationships, other than those within nuclear families.... The documentation indicates that the vast majority of the ties among the UHN's ancestors developed only after the families had settled on their land in Terrebonne Parish after 1800. After moving onto Spanish-era grants along Terrebonne Bayous near present-day Montegut, they united through marriage, economic undertakings, and other social interactions. After these immigrants had become one another's neighbors, over the course of a generation, the settlers evolved into the small farming community shown on Federal census records and General Land Office records in the 1830's. (BIA United Houma Nation 1994:12).
There is another way to examine a cross-section of the group described by petitioner. Instead of using the Family Descendancy Charts which list the ancestors of the present day community, we can examine names from the petitioner's list of prior generations in the petition's Appendix 1B to the Petition Addendum. 67. Names found in the federal census for 1870 and 1900 include information on the birthplace of the individual and his or her parents, as well as immigration and naturalization dates (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1870a, 1870b, 1900d, 1900e). This is summarized in the following table:
67. This list contains some names not found in the 1995 Family Descendancy Charts because petitioner narrowed its focus over time. The changing lists demonstrate the high decree of uncertainty in petitioner's proof.
Date of Immigration or Naturalization:
Number of Generations born in Canada:
Emma Penell (wife of Frederick)
Sarah Bushware (wife of Fred)
Once again, the obvious conclusion is that the people who supposedly comprised the Abenaki community in Franklin County did not move to the area all at the same time. Moreover, they did not move there after only a short, temporary sojourn in many cases they had lived in Canada for 2 or 3 generations before taking, up residence in northwestern Vermont.
There is one interesting exception to the disordered picture of immigrants to Swanton who now claim to be Abenakis of Vermont--that is the Obomsawin family. They did retain a connection to a "predecessor community," and it was an Indian community. They kept up their ties to relatives at Odanak/St. Francis. They appear on the rolls of Abenakis maintained at Odanak/St. Francis. The 1875 census of the Abenakis in the village at St. Francis lists dozens of members of the extended Obomsawin family. Simon himself, the father of Marie, Elvine, Marion, and William, appears as a young man with his father and siblings in the list of tribal members who lived off the reserve in other parts of Canada 68. (Canada, Indian Affairs 1875:6).
That 1875 census for Odanak/St. Francis counts how many members of the tribe were "Absents aux Etats," or absent in the United States (Canada, Indian Affairs 1875:5). The
68. The Family Descendancy chart for Simon Obomsawin says he was born in 1850. That fits with the individual listed on the 1875 Odanak/St. Francis census here.
The Abenaki Language Was Not Spoken by Petitioner
One type of evidence listed in the federal regulations that will satisfy Criterion (b) is retention of a unique cultural trait such as the speaking of an Indian language (25 C.F.R. 83.7(b)(1)(vii)). The Jena Band of Choctaw kept their language; this was positive evidence in favor of acknowledgment in their case (BIA Jena Band of Choctaw 1994:4). Among the petitioner's ancestors the Abenaki language died out. The petition stated in 1982 that "Research to date has not found any contemporary speakers" of Abenaki in Vermont (Petition:95). When Homer St. Francis spoke of large gatherings at his father's house in the first half of the twentieth century, he said the visitors all spoke French—and he could not understand them (Petition:92).