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Saturday, December 18, 2010

State of VT's Response to Petition for Federal Acknowledgment of the St. Francis/Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Vermont: Pages 219 to 229:

Attachment B
Review of Historical Narrative, pages 1-70, of
"Petition for Federal Recognition as an American Indian Tribe
submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs
by the Abenaki Nation of Vermont dated October 1982"
by John Alexander Dickinson
Professor, University of Montreal
The historical document drawn up on behalf of the Abenaki tribal council of Vermont, presents a reasonable reconstruction of most historical events and relies on widely held assumptions concerning social and political organization amongst hunting-gathering communities in the Northeast. Unfortunately, the Western Abenaki remain a largely unknown quantity and much of their history must be pieced together using indirect evidence which is open to interpretation. For example, Volume 1 of the Historical Atlas of Canada, does not indicate any Native populations in the Appalachian region from the Green Mountains to the Gaspe.
I will first go over the entire document submitted to me and comment on statements that I find incorrect or interpretations that could be challenged. Then I will answer in more detail the specific questions raised by the Vermont Attorney Generals office.
It is erroneous to state that Champlain learned of the Abenaki on his 1609 expedition to Lake Champlain (pages 2 and 24). Champlain states that the area along the Richelieu and Lake Champlain was formerly inhabited and that there were rich corn fields east of the Lake (without specifying that these fields were along the Missisquoi or elsewhere). From the native peoples that were accompanying him, Champlain understood that these lands were formerly occupied by the Iroquois but that they had been abandoned because of warfare (Biggar edition, Vol. II, pp. 90-93). The Iroquois referred to here might be Saint-Lawrence Iroquoians, who left sites along the Richelieu River and who mysteriously disappeared before 1580. It is also possible that Champlain, who was not familiar with the region or its inhabitants, misunderstood his informers (the competence of interpreters at this early stage can be called into question), and that the residents of this region were Sokokis, Pennacooks or Mahicans; nations that later merged to form the Western Abenaki.
Early town histories written in the nineteenth century are not usually the most reliable sources, but do contain oral traditions otherwise forgotten and details not found in archives. At best, however, they provide indications of a Native presence in the region in a not too distant past, but have more difficulty establishing exact dates. They are also very imprecise as to the exact identity of the peoples they deal with.
The question of whether land was held in common or by individual families (raised on page 9) is a difficult one. The opinions of Speck, once seen as a model for family
hunting territories, have been challenged by Leacock and more recently both were put into question by Feit (in G.W.Stocking ed., Colonial Situations. Essays in the Contextualization of Ethnographic Knowledge, Madison, 1991). It seems evident that the Abenaki frequented the Missisquoi area throughout most of the eighteenth century and developed a spiritual relation with the spirits of the lakes and rivers of the region. During the nineteenth century, they probably continued to hunt in areas not occupied by Euro-American settlers on both sides of the Canadian-United States border, as before. Property is probably not the correct concept to use here, but familiarity with the game and geography gave certain hunters a prime role in exploiting the area. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to identify exactly who these hunters who lead bands were.
The problem of estimating pre-contact native populations is extremely difficult (pages 12-14). The authors cited were all writing in a period when it was current to exaggerate the effects of epidemics and, as David Henige mentions in several articles, high count with no real documentary basis. Days estimate of 5000 is plausible. The flora and fauna of the region could probably sustain a higher population, but was the maximum carrying capacity attained or had warfare dispersed populations? It is impossible to answer these questions in any definitive manner especially given the paucity of documentary and archeological sources. The 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 at Missisquoi relate to an Abenaki community of some 300-400 people. According to figures worked out by W.A. Starna for the neighboring Adirondacs, such a population would require an area of about 1000 to 1500 square kilometers (up to 600 square miles) for subsistence hunting (see my article in S. Courville et N. Seguin, dirs., Espace et culture/Space and Culture, Quebec, 1995, pp. 117-125). Such a population could have continued to exploit areas of northern Vermont and New Hampshire after the advent of Euro-American settlers and after the American Revolution without entering into conflict with the latter and without disrupting their traditional way of life. The references to small groups of hunters could refer to such bands continuing to occupy the territory, but they could also refer to bands from St-Francois coming south to exploit traditional territories. The evidence is not clear enough to definitively state which of these two possibilities (or both of them) is actually what happened.
The paper is correct to emphasize band rather than tribal organization as the basic socio-economic and political unit. The description of a fluid group is appropriate and follows the standard interpretation of what hunting community organization was like (my only complaint would be with the introduction of a Delaware matrilineal pattern which is something of a red herring since it refers to groups farther south cultivating more corn and relying less on hunting). Unfortunately, it is impossible to say with any certainty how many bands exploited the Missisquoi watershed and what their relations with the bands at St-Francois were.
Mission communities in the St. Lawrence valley had become somewhat acculturated by the eighteenth century with populations adopting some elements of European apparel and some other elements of material culture. The most important link to Europeans, however, seems to be the Roman Catholic Religion although there is considerable debate amongst scholars as to the degree to which Catholicism had been internalized. The different communities did have a clear identity within the French domain, however, and French documents refer specifically to the Abenaki whereas British documents after the Conquest of New France often subsume all mission Indians under the term Seven Nations of Canada. This alliance was certainly present as of the American Revolution and oral tradition would have it beginning in the seventeenth century (see Jean-Pierre Sawaya, Les Sept Feux du Canada, Sillery, 1998). This political organization existed and was at a level superior to the hunting band throughout the period 1760-1840. The Missisquoi Abenaki would have been considered part of this larger unit prior to 1783. The recognition by Britain of an independent United States, however, would have put them outside the geographical limits of Quebec and, in British opinion, out of the alliance although the exact boundary line was not clearly known in the area for several years. The Missisquoi Abenaki would probably still have considered themselves part of the Saint-Francis mission political unit.
The establishment of Kanhnawake in 1668 had nothing to do with a desire to link the Iroquois and the Abenaki. From an Iroquois perspective, it was established to exploit traditional fisheries in the region and to enable some converts to have access to missionaries. From a French perspective, it drew christianized Iroquois and captives and thereby enfeebling the Five Nations confederacy as well as establishing a protective shield to the south of French settlements. The alliance between Kahnawake Mohawk and Abenaki was a later development and these groups only really acted in unison at the end of the French and Indian War. D. Peter MacLeod (The Canadian Iroquois and the Seven Years War, Toronto, 1996) considers that the Abenaki were already involved in warfare since 1750 to defend their traditional hunting grounds in Vermont and were more willing partners than the Iroquois. After the war and during the American Revolution the Canadian League became firmer with the Kahnawakes playing a leading role and often speaking for the other members in formal meetings with government authorities. It is often difficult to distinguish which is the voice of the Mohawks and which is the voice of the confederacy.
There seems to be a contradiction in stating that the hunting grounds of this extraordinarily rich area would have been depleted in 1700 (page 26) and then claim that many Abenaki were living there. It is true that the area to the east of Lake Champlain was little known and it is reasonable to assume that the Abenaki established at St-Francois would exploit the area south of them as a hunting territory. However, at this time both French and British had mapped the area and territory. However, at this time both French and British had mapped the area and claimed it as their territory. The French claim rested mainly on allied Indians occupying and exploiting the region and this justified the concession of seigneurial grants down the Richelieu and around the north of Lake Champlain in the early
eighteenth century. It was certainly at this time that a group of Abenakis from St-Francis established a village at Missisquoi. Whether they were returning to lands they had previously occupied or not cannot be proved, but their occupation of the area in the last half century of French domination in Canada is certain. Refugees from Shaghticoke might have joined the original groups or may have been some of the original inhabitants. Again, this cannot be demonstrated one way or another.
The question of political authority is difficult. Europeans had difficulty recognizing Native systems of social control and what they have to say, if taken too literally, can be misleading. French officers, especially during the wars at the end of the French period, were often critical of Natives and considered them undisciplined. This stemmed from misunderstanding of Native goals and the need to proceed through consensus rather than by command. Europeans took note of war leaders who were helpful to them but not of other leaders who probably had as great if not greater influence in the community. At times, the French tried to impose chiefs they thought would do their bidding, but this was generally refused by the Natives, although the French continued to treat "their chief' as the principal spokesman for the nation. Grey Lock was recognized as a major war chief, but this would not necessarily have made Missisquoi a "center" (p. 30) since the French amalgamated his actions with those of the Abenakis in general.
The Dutch were not a threat during the French and Indian War (p. 31)
The population counts on page 32 are speculative. There was a lot of population movement, but it is unlikely that the Abenaki of St. Francois and Missisquoi would have grown to more that 1300-1500 in the period. The Missisquoi population for the 1750s seems very optimistic since the village was on the front line and the growth of Odanak is probably attributable to families moving back there from Missisquoi. The number of hunting bands in the interior would have had been based at a permanent settlement (probably St-Francois). Likewise, Bougainville's report concerns warriors that were with the army and they came from St-Francois as well as from Missisquoi. I believe that it would be wrong to assume that the 100 to 150 men were all from Missisquoi.
I am wary of Bougainville's statement that Abenaki youth had less respect for their elders that other Indians nations (p. 34). Native government was not coercive and chiefs had little authority (as Europeans understood the term) over their followers. It is strange that a document written to reflect Native views would uncritically accept such claims by European observers who had little knowledge of Indians especially at a time when French officers views were becoming more racist (Saliha Belmessous thesis at Ecole des Hautes Etudes, 2000). The Abenaki continued to be represented by the Seven Nations of Canada in the years after the 1760 so there is evidence of a political grouping above the family hunting band.
  We know too little of the movements of Native populations to state that "Indians from all over New England were on the move" (p. 36) in the period right after the
surrender of New France. Most were pragmatists and would have realized that they would have to deal with British authorities in the future.
Perry's suppositions are merely that and there is no proof that there were more Abenaki at Missisquoi than elsewhere (p. 37). Lower Canada did not yet exist when Murray was governor, but this passage indicates the uncertainty over the boundary. There is no proof that the Charlotte mentioned a little lower was the daughter of Grey Lock. Charlotte is such a common Christian name that nothing certain can be deduced from this.
The lease in Appendix A and mentioned on page 38 certainly is clear evidence that the Abenaki considered the land around Missisquoi as their land. The collective signing can be interpreted as evidence of a higher political organization than that of the hunting band. At this time it was still rare for Natives to consider property as being held individually but rather as a collective gift from the Creator. The signatories would seem to be the elders responsible for community organization.
The relations between Kahnawake and the other members of the Seven Nations of Canada are not always clear. Kahnawake often spoke for the "confederacy", but it would seem normal for the Mohawk to look out for their interests first. Any claims they made, could be claims for the entity. Lake Champlain was a frontier between Mohawk and Abenaki hunting territories since the 17th century and both nations could stake legitimate claims. The Abenaki would, however, have a stronger claim to the eastern shore. This comes up again on page 52 and the petition on page 313 was clearly signed by 20 chiefs of the Seven Nations which included the Abenaki.
I do not see that the reference to the problems of the Abenaki at St. Regis (p. 41) is an indication that Missisquoi was considered their territory. The Abenaki at St. Regis had no chiefs recognized by the British, but this does not mean that they had no chiefs (p. 42). The Abenaki did not get along well with the Iroquois at St. Regis and most found their way back to St. Francois.
The Abenaki population in Vermont at the beginning of the Revolution is impossible to determine (pp. 43-44). The "evidence" presented is largely hypothetical and I would hesitate attributing more than 500 Abenaki to the area at this time. It is impossible to determine whether they considered themselves part of the St. Francois Abenaki or an independent group.
The question of Native baptisms is a difficult one. Natives were nominally Catholic, but it is unsure how complete their conversions were especially in periods of turmoil when priests were not available. Often, Natives brought several children, some adolescents, to be baptized at the same time (the Tadoussac register contains many examples of this type). The ritual would not seem, therefore to be of prime importance to them. Were the Abenaki equally nonchalant about such matters? The period during the war and after the Conquest was a difficult one for the Quebec Church: it was not legally recognized and lacked priests. Natives were not a priority

for the hierarchy and I do not believe that there was a Catholic community in the future United States that was accessible. Abenakis can be found in several parish registers. The register for Pointe Olivier (St. Mathias de Chambly) mentions two Missisquoi Abenaki baptisms in June 1755 and April 1759. The Chambly register has two Missisquoi baptisms : Rene Portneuf in April 1760 and Marie-Madeleine in 1763. But it also contains two baptisms of St. Francois Abenaki in December 1756 and June 1764. (The published registers stop in 1765 so I cannot know if there were any at a later date.) The two other parishes in the vicinity with registers before 1765 were St. Philippe and St. Constant but they have no Native baptisms. Only one other parish was opened before 1799, Blairfindie, that might contain Abenaki acts. All the other parishes closer to the U.S. Canada border were opened in the period 18231843. What can be deduced from this scant data? Abenakis were not having many children baptized outside the mission communities. Chambly was a stopping point for Abenakis moving north from Missisquoi to St. Francois and for residents of St. Francois going south to hunt.

I do not share the interpretation of the citation on page 54. I believe that the citation says that Madame Campeau wore a green ribbon on her hat when 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 occupied an inheritance that she assumed was hers.
I believe that the question of where the Indians were from is important (page 55). The final citation 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.
The Bouchette citation on page 69 says little about the Abenaki at Odanak. Bouchette, as other European-Americans, had a great disdain for Native practice and was looking for signs of agricultural improvement on the British model. I believe that the Abenaki were continuing to exploit hunting territories along the upper St. Francis and into Vermont and New Hampshire, but these were Odanak Abenakis. Their relations with Abenakis living on a continual basis south of the 45th parallel are not clear.
The genealogical data, based largely on oral histories, is difficult to demonstrate, but I believe that most of it going back 200 years or so is probably quite accurate. Beyond two centuries, there is a lot of conjecture. Family names were not well fixed and since most Natives continued to speak their own languages into the 19th century, not very reliable. First or Christian names were not varied at the time and offer little precise information on family trees.
A major question that is not really resolved in the document is the relationship between the Missisquoi Abenaki and the residents of St. Francois. To my mind, the Missisquoi were a branch of the larger community at St. Francois throughout the
French regime and there was certainly considerable movement back and forth between these communities. Did the Missisquoi band ever have a distinct identity and political organization? During the French period, the Abenaki themselves would not even have considered this a valid question. It was only after the American Revolution divided hunting territories to the south and to the north under two distinct Euro-American authorities that this problem might have been raised. Given the uncertainty as to where the boundary was during the early years and the paucity of white settlement, especially in the mountainous areas used for hunting, the bands exploiting the region probably did not think it necessary to deal with this question. Only in the nineteenth century, as white settlement progressively took away their hunting lands would a new form of accommodation be required. Genealogies indicating their settlement in white communities and work as day laborers would answer this, but I cannot give a definite opinion with the material at hand.
Attachment C
Addendum to Review of Abenaki Historical Narrative
by John Alexander Dickinson
Professor, University of Montreal
Quebec, Canada
The question of the relationship between St Francis and Missisquoi continues to bother me. I do have a plausible hypothesis but cannot back it up with clear documentation and I am not sure it is really helpful. There are perhaps some clear references in the official correspondence of Beauharnois or Hocquart but I do not have the time to read several hundred manuscript pages.
When the Abenaki established a village at Missisquoi, it was in the context of French government efforts to limit the effect of the disastrous Treaty of Utrecht (1713) in which France relinquished vast territories (notably "Acadia") and recognized British sovereignty over the Iroquois. The French were also trying to develop a naval shipbuilding program and the best oak stands were in the Lake Champlain Richelieu River region as the construction of a sawmill at Missisquoi attests. Hocquart was also actively granting seigneuries in this area from 1733 on. Although he stated in a letter to the minister that the Lake Champlain region was more advantageous than the upper St Lawrence because of its climate (Munro, Seigniorial Tenure, pp. 180, 183), 1 believe that strategic considerations were more important. Also native peoples were often seen as the line of first defence to protect agricultural establishments. This was the rational behind the concession of the Lac des Deux-Montagnes to the Sulpicians in 1717 so that they could relocate the Iroquois then living on Montreal Island.
From these considerations, I infer that French authorities encouraged the St Francis Abenaki to consolidate the hunting camp at Missisquoi and make it a true village hoping thereby to better protect French settlers. With expansion up the Richelieu, a complete displacement of St Francis south might have been considered by the authorities. Some Abenaki were favorable and did move to Missisquoi, but the majority remained in St Francis they were after all independent allies and not subservient subjects. Ties between the Abenaki at St Francis and Missisquoi remained strong and they almost certainly considered themselves part of a united Abenaki nation with much movement back and forth for hunting, social interaction and trade. Since Missisquoi was uncomfortably close to British military forces after 1750, St Francis was the logical refuge and indeed I remarked in my article on population that numbers in the mission communities increased in times of conflict and then went down again with peace as refugees returned to their lands. After the fall of New France, the military threat disappeared for a decade but the Revolution and white penetration into the area for settlement threatened to disrupt the old relation. Hunting territories in the uplands could be maintained and sustain a
population. It is unlikely, however, that a complete break with the parent community would have occurred since family ties, the need to find mates, and religious convictions would draw the Vermont Abenaki north. Only in the nineteenth century as the Abenaki were forced to abandon a traditional hunting lifestyle and find employment in Vermont communities would they become truly distinct from the St Francis Abenaki.
To summarize: Abenaki movement to Missisquoi clearly fit in with French imperial policy but only in as much as Missisquoi was still a subdivision of the St Francis Abenaki. Until the American Revolution, nothing disrupted the unity between two villages sharing common family ties and political goals. "Authority" was centred in St Francis as the parent community. The creation of a border between the two communities obliged the Abenaki living to the south to become more independent but without breaking the social links to the parent community for many years.

NOW COMES J. Kay Davis and duly swears upon oath as follows:
1. I, J. Kay Davis, am a genealogist and consultant specializing in issues relating to tribal acknowledgment.
2. I am currently the historian of the Bois Forte Band of Minnesota Chippewa. I am a member of that tribe.
3. From 1993 to 1996 I held the position of Assistant Genealogical Researcher at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Branch of Acknowledgment and Research, in Washington, D.C.
4. I obtained my B.A. in Native American Studies from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, in 1995. I served as a workshop presenter in genealogy at the Idaho Historical Society in 1993 and 1994. I was the project designer for an exhibit about Native American New England Immigration to Idaho at the Idaho Historical Society in 1992.
5. I have served as a consultant to the Vermont Attorney General's Office on genealogical issues relating to the criteria for federal tribal acknowledgment. Throughout the period of consultation, I provided guidance to the Attorney General's Office on sources of genealogical, census, and community data.
6. I reviewed the following documents provided to me by the Vermont Attorney General's Office: (a) Petition for Federal Recognition as an American Indian Tribe submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs by the Abenaki Nation of Vermont dated October 1982, (b) Addendum to the Petition for Federal Recognition as an American Indian Tribe submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs by the Abenaki Nation, January 10, 1986, along with Appendices (c) Second Addendum to the Petition for Federal Recognition as a Native-American Tribe, Genealogy of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi, submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, December 11, 1995, including the

Family Descendancy Charts. The copies of the documents I reviewed had been redacted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to remove names of living people. However, I was able to review unredacted copies of the redacted pages of the 1982 petition, as the original petition is on file in a publicly accessible library in Vermont.
7. Upon request of the Attorney General's Office, I also prepared a report containing my comments on certain aspects of the Abenaki petition based on my examination of genealogical records. That report is attached hereto as Attachment A.
8. The report is based on my knowledge of Proposed Findings and Final Determinations issued by the Bureau or Indian Affairs in federal acknowledgment cases, my experience in conducting genealogical research related to Indians, my review of the petition documents, and my review of genealogical and historical material collected by me or under my direction. The types of genealogical and historical material I examined included, but were not limited to, vital records, church records from the U.S. and Canada, cemetery records, federal census records, military records, historical lists of Abenakis in Canada, records ofthe Carlisle Indian school, and Gordon Day's "Identity ofthe St. Francis Indians."

The foregoing statements are based on my personal knowledge and are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Signed_____this day of __________, 2002
J. Kay Davis
COUNTY OF_____________ , SS.
Subscribed and swore to before me,
this_____ day of October, 2002.
Notary Public

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