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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 230 to 244:


Federal Census Records and Community
One of the criteria that petitioners must meet for federal acknowledgment focuses on community. The federal regulations, 25 C.F.R. 83.7 (b), require that

A predominant portion of the petitioning group comprises a distinct community and has existed as a community from historical times to the present.

This is a very difficult criterion to examine for the petitioner, because there appears to be no historical times from which to begin. However, assuming the historical times are the late 1700's, the only time there appears to be a community of Abenaki Indians in Vermont is prior to 1765, when Robertson's lease was signed. Instead of tracing the descendants of members of that community down to the present, the petition attempts to show a community by listing all of the people who may have surnames similar to today's members. The petition lists both people who have married in to the group, who are non-Indian, as well as those who may have Indian ancestry. This confuses the issue. In various forms of the petition submitted at different times, census records are used to show the appearance of persons from whom the modern-day community may descend.
In examining the federal censuses for all available years, and especially the 19th century, I find the ancestry of today's petitioner looking much like the rest of the communities that were predominantly French Canadian. Many had the same occupations, such as farm laborer, day laborer; many could not read or write English.
Their uniqueness from the other communities appears to be that they or their parents were born in Canada. They did not identify in the records as Indians, and were living intermixed with other French-Canadians, and many others. Although the petition attempts to give reasons for this phenomenon, the fact is there were other persons listed in Vermont as Indian when these censuses were taken. For instance, in 1880, in Grand Isle, Grand Isle, Vermont, William and Mary Bomsawin [sic] were listed as Indians. They are not ancestors of the modern-day community members. The ancestors of the modern-day community were consistently listed as white on Federal Census records.
The petition stresses that the ancestors of the modern-day community lived in the Back Bay section of Swanton. From the 1870 census records, I was able to determine that these people were scattered through Back Bay and Swanton. They were often as many as 5 or 15 houses away from each other. This entire area was populated by French Canadians. It was not a neighborhood uniquely populated by the petitioner's ancestors.
The several Federal censuses for communities in the 19th century show that the families are not only scattered about, but they do not appear to be interacting with one another. They were not distinct from their non-Indian neighbors. Few, if any, were identified as basket maker, broom maker, hunter, fisherman, etc., as found in other Indian tribes. Rather, their occupations were given as day laborers, masons, farmers or farm laborers. In the 1870 Federal Census, there were scant listings of anyone as basket maker. One found was that of Mary Francis, 23, who was living with Elizabeth Francis, 44, both born in Maine; Mary was listed as a basket maker. Another woman in the same household,

Eunice Francis, age 77, was also listed as a basket maker. She was born in Canada. (In the same household was a child, Lewis Francis, age 3, born in Vermont and Frank Ross, 22, basket maker, born in Canada.) None of these persons is claimed to be an ancestor of the modern-day petitioner.
In addition, the petitioner worked hard to present what may look like interacting communities of people, listing the numbers and surnames shown on many censuses. These appear in the many appendices submitted with the Addendum to the Petition in 1986. Researching many of those names in vital records, I discovered that the majority of the people listed were not ancestors of the present-day petitioner, nor even of documented Indian descent.

In recent findings, the BIA has said,

In this case, the DTO's [Duwamish Tribal Organization's] interpretation of historical events pertaining to its ancestors is not accurate or complete, even when the circumstances of contact are taken into consideration. For example, [petitioner's expert] does not give specific descriptions ofeach ofthe petitioner's isolated family enclaves which the writer says were widely distributed in the Puget Sound region. The PF [Proposed Finding] found that many Duwamish maintained contact with one another or those who moved to reservations, despite the impact of Euro-American settlement. However, these Duwamish were not the petitioner's ancestors. The petitioner's ancestors were not in contact with the Duwamish tribe.

(Final Determination for the Duwamish Tribal Organization, p. 18)

[T]he primary problem is that the petitioner is a group that was formed in recent times, specifically during the last two decades of the 20th century.
(Webster/Dudley Band of Chaubaunagungamaug Nipmuck Indians Proposed Finding, p. 104)

Descent From a Historic Tribe
One of the tribal acknowledgment criteria applied by the Bureau of Indian Affairs is 25 C.F.R. 83.7(e)(1), which says

The petitioner's membership [must] consist[ ] of individuals who descend from a historical Indian tribe or from historical Indian tribes which combined and functioned as a single autonomous political entity.

The problematic wording of criterion 83.7(e)(1), "who descend from a historical Indian tribe," may imply that any historical Indian Tribe will do. However, the last portion of the criterion, "which combined and functioned as a single autonomous political entity," clearly shows that the tribe must have functioned as a political entity. This means the group must have behaved as a political entity throughout time, since first contact. Though the petitioner may be able to show that its members descend from people considered Indians, the political entity was nonexistent. If there was a historical tribe of Abenaki, it was in Canada by the time of the formation of the United States.
The tribal acknowledgment process requires an examination of just who the present-day members of the petitioner are. Though the petitioner has submitted many community surveys, census surveys, etc., those materials include many persons who are not listed as ancestors on the Family Descendancy Charts submitted in 1995. Perhaps the petitioner was attempting to make a more all-inclusive list of Indians, but what they compiled was a more all-inclusive list of French Canadians and their non-
Indian spouses' families. This method of attempting to produce a base roll of ancestry is flawed at best. The most effective way to identify ancestry is to look at the 18th-century lists that did identify Abenaki in or near Vermont, attempt to find those individuals on the earliest census records of Franklin and Grand Isle counties, and follow them through the more recent census returns. In attempting to research in this manner, tracing such individuals did not lead to the petitioner's members.
In an effort to identify individuals and spouses who may be Indian, I have searched through church, vital and war records. Many of the church records were located in Canada, and are written in French. Other names submitted on the petitioner's Petition Addendum Appendices were searched in the Vermont vital records and federal census records. These were examined and most of the individuals were found to be non-Indian. None was listed as Indian. Rather, many of them were born in Canada and listed as white in the vital records. No trend of immigration was noted.
From all of the records, it appears that descent from an Abenaki tribal entity is not only non-existent, but impossible to document. That some families may have Indian ancestry is not in question; it is the tribal ancestry that is lacking.
In the 1900 and 1910 federal censuses, when self-identification was recommended to census enumerators, giving special attention to Indians and Indian tribes, the compilation of the total number of Indians for the entire State of Vermont listed 5 Indians in 1900, and 26 in 1910. In Franklin County, in 1900, not a single Indian was listed. In 1910, 5 were listed, but they were from one of the New York tribes and none of them were the ancestors of the
modern community of Abenaki. These Franklin county census records are significant,
because Franklin County was the residence of the majority of the ancestors of the modern community. The census of 1920 showed no Indians in residence in Franklin County as well. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census of the United States taken in the Year 1920, vol. III, Population, (1922), p. 1049 (listing figures for 1900, 1910, and 1920)).
Some familial connections were extracted from information of burials in the St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery in Swanton. Ledoux, Tom, and family, "St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Swanton, Vt.," Swanton Historical Society, August 1993. There does not appear to be a distinct burial pattern, but the information about the persons buried was helpful to identify maiden names and familial connections. The graves of the ancestry of the petitioner appear to be scattered throughout the cemetery, and no specific "Indian Burials" were noted. Just as with the census information regarding residence and occupation patterns, nothing in the burial records suggested that the petitioner's ancestors were any different from the rest of the French Canadians in Swanton.

Did the Eugenics Survey Identify the Petitioner's Indianness?
The Eugenics Survey of Vermont in the 20th-century included some of the ancestry of today's petitioner. It has been given a great deal of weight in the public statements of the petitioner as a reason for lack of evidence necessary for federal acknowledgment as an Indian tribe. Because the Eugenics Survey has been misinterpreted and misused by the petitioner, I comment on it here.
The Eugenics Survey (hereafter called the Survey) in Vermont was one of many eugenic programs of the 1920's and 1930's in the United States, especially on the East Coast. Established in 1925 in Vermont, the Survey was organized and directed by Henry F. Perkins, Chairman of the University of Vermont Zoology
Department. In 1927 the Survey was expanded to address all factors affecting rural life. It became part of the Vermont Commission on Country Life. The Survey ended its activities in 1936. (Gallagher, Nancy, summary of Eugenics Survey of Vermont, Vermont Public Records website: www.bgs.state.vt.us/gsc/pubrec/referen/eugenics.htm).
According to a paper read by Perkins and reprinted in The American Eugenics Society, Inc.'s publication Eugenics in 1930, the aim of the Survey was "to secure usable data upon the hereditary aspects of what we have called the Human Factor." He went on to describe the ethnicity of Vermont, stating that "[t]he largest single foreign element is French-Canadian." (Perkins, Henry F., "Hereditary Factors in Rural Communities," Eugenics, vol. III, no. 8, August 1930. Offprint in Vermont Historical Society pamphlet collection, Montpelier, Vt ). He explained that some fifty-four families were worked up, some including 5 to 7 generations per family. I examined those family charts and quote from some of them in this paper.
While it is true that the Survey included some of the ancestry of today's petitioner, I do not find that they survey was directed toward Indians. I have researched the Survey in depth, and found that the ancestry of the petitioner was not targeted as Indian, but perhaps as French Canadian. Some of these French Canadians mentioned their Indian ancestry, but that was not the focus of the Survey.
In looking at communities from which to study the inhabitants, the eugenics program looked at the community of Grand Isle and reported that:

[There are] Two distinct classes. Quite old settlers (Democrats) and the French who have come in from Canada (Catholics). The French Canadians
farm and are gradually buying farms of their own. They do not mix with the others. The former class of people are well read and intelligent. They are said to buy more magazines than most other towns. They are not all college graduates but seem to be quite well educated. They do not allow the French-Canadians to mix with them, although of course, the children of both classes go to school together. The French-Canadians take an active part in politics and have social organizations of their own. They have been in Grand Isle a long time. French Village is part of the town, where some French-Canadians have settled. Few Catholics go to high school and they are not as educated as the other class. One of the Catholic organizations is the Woodmen's Club.

(Eugenics Survey Papers, "Towns Suggested for Study, Grand Isle," p. 1)
Though some of the persons in Grand Isle that were French-Canadian may have had Indian ancestry, it is clear that they were not targeted as Indians, nor identified as Abenaki.
She says that Old Antione had Indian blood and had something to do with the Kickapoo. (Agent H.E.A. thinks that the above statement is probably rather doubtful except for the fact that Old Antione did have Indian blood and probably was related to some of the inhabitants of an Indian reservation in southeastern Canada.)
(Eugenics Survey Papers, "Phillips General History")
She came from an Indian Reservation Caughnewaga, sixteen miles from Montreal.
(Eugenics Survey Papers, "Phillips General History, Delia Bone, Generation II")
Interestingly, one of the writers on the Survey team used the term of "tribe" when discussing the above-mentioned families, but she used the term in the context of a family.
Peter Phillips and all his tribe were constantly traveling. They traveled all over northern and eastern Vermont, the Vermont border of New York State, the Vermont border of New Hampshire, and went as far as Belfast, Maine.
For a great many years and probably until his first wife Delia Bone died, the headquarters of the tribe was South Burlington. Peter's children call that part of the country "The Plains. " Here the tribe camped down in winter and devoted themselves to making baskets and collecting horses. In early spring as soon as they could travel they started out selling baskets. When their baskets were sold they started to trade horses.
After Delia died, on one of their trips they camped for a while in Danville and Peacham. While there they found "Old Jake" Way (whose mother was Sarah Jane nee: Woodward, daughter of Darius Woodward and Nancy Taylor) and his daughter living in Paradise Alley in Peacham, near West Danville. The Phillipses joined forces with the Ways in Paradise Alley and made their rendez-vous [sic] for some time, when they were in the eastern part of Vermont.
(Eugenics Survey Papers, "Phillips General History, Generation II, Delia Bone")

Though the term, "tribe" was used in that passage, nowhere in the entire papers of the Survey were the people ever identified as belonging to an Abenaki Tribe. Indeed the term "Abenaki" was never used, only "Indian," and that very sparingly.
Years later, after some of the claimed Abenaki descendants began their campaign for recognition as Indians, writers began writing about the Eugenics movement as including those of Abenaki descent. This story caught the attention of the media and received a great deal of coverage.

In 1991, Kevin Dann wrote that the Survey's purpose was "to gather information, as full and accurate as possible, that can be used for the social betterment in Vermont." (Dann, Kevin, "From Degeneration to Regeneration: The Eugenics Survey of Vermont, 1925-1936," 59 Vermont History 5, 8 (1991)). In the gathering,

[no] people represented a mobile, uncontrolled social group in Vermont better than the first two subjects of the Eugenics Survey investigations - the "gypsy" and "pirate" families. Principally of Abenaki and French - Canadian
ancestry, the "gypsies" moved freely about a wide part of the state, almost entirely outside mainstream economy and society.

(Kevin Dann, p. 14)

I found no evidence that these families were Abenaki. He added,

That the program of the Eugenics Survey was still largely a racist hereditarian endeavor was betrayed by the first section of the Third Annual Report, which was a list of English corruptions ofFrench names. Such corruptions, especially those whose spelling changed through successive generations, "might throw one offthe track for a long time. " Seemingly an allusion to the difficulty that the Eugenics Survey fieldworkers had with French names in their genealogical detective work, the publication of the list, accompanied by the statements that the Eugenics Survey had a cross index of ninety such names, was clearly intended to alert readers to the ethnic background of third and fourth generation Vermonters of French-Canadian descent whose ethnicity might not be apparent by their surnames. Indeed one of the names in the list was that of the family upon whom the Rector narrative was based. A strong current of anti-French-Canadian bigotry runs through the work of the Eugenics Survey.
(Kevin Dann, p. 15)

The Eugenics Survey of Vermont was disbanded in 1936, yet it smoldered on during WWII when a paper on mental deficiency was written. Statistics had been released following WWI that showed,

Vermont...had the highest number of rejections except Rhode Island of any state in the Union for nervous and mental diseases, mental deficiency, epilepsy, psychoses, neuroses...When returns from the induction centers in the present war gave us no better reports we became a bit panicky.

(Ainsworth, Lillian M., "Vermont Studies in Mental Disorders,"
[1944], typescript, Vermont Historical Society, MS/613.94/Ai66.)
The author continues by praising the Survey and the 1941 law setting up a Board for Control of Mentally Defective Persons. Again, identification, registration, segregation, education and supervision of mentally defective persons were codified in law. If the same families were targeted as were in the Survey, no wonder the families felt more anxiety than did those of other Vermonters. Clearly, French-Canadians were targeted; some of the ancestors of the petitioner were French-Canadians. Thus, family tradition may have blamed the Survey for causing Indians to hide their identity as well, regardless of whether they had any Indian identity to hide.
As time passed, the role of the Eugenics Survey took on more significance in writings about the Abenaki. Since the "emergence" of the Abenaki in the early 1970's, there were marked changes in the literature. In a history kit published by the Vermont Historical Society in 1998, an explanation was given for the absence of Abenaki history.

History books have long claimed that the Abenaki "disappeared" from Vermont. While some Abenaki did leave Vermont for Canada, many others remained. As the Abenaki began to speak French or English and adopted European dress, historians of the nineteenth century assumed that the Abenaki had vanished. The Abenaki families who remained in Vermont survived in a variety of ways. Some lived a nomadic life and were called "gypsies." Others remained on the outskirts of their communities and lived off the land as they had for centuries- hunting, fishing, and trapping.

From the 1920's through the 1940's the Eugenics Survey of Vermont sought to "improve " Vermont by seeking out "genetically inferior peoples" such as Indians, illiterates, thieves, the insane, paupers, alcoholics, those with harelips, etc. ... As a result of this program, Abenaki had to hide their
heritage even more. They were forced to deny their culture to their children and grandchildren ...

("Abenaki in Vermont," A History Kit for Students and their Teachers, p. 31)

It is interesting that the kit made up to teach Vermont's children about the Abenaki does not mention that for at least 100 years prior to the 1920's, the purported Abenaki in Vermont did not identify as Indian on any public documents. They do not self-identify as Indian in census records or military records. It is incorrect to blame the Eugenics Survey for the denial of their culture to the public, and certainly incorrect to blame it for the denial of their identity to their children and grandchildren. The Eugenics Survey of the 1920's has been used as a tool to try to explain why the Abenaki have no presence in the 200 years of history from the time of the American Revolution to the time of the Abenaki "emergence" in 1972.
As time went on, the flame of the Eugenics Survey ignited. In 1999, Nancy L.
Gallagher wrote a book about the Survey. When writing about it she said,

The "Gypsy family " of Vermont was one of the first and most extensively studied kinship networks in the survey. Harriett Abbott's genealogical work had traced the family line back five generations to an ancestor from Quebec of "mixed ancestry with apparently very strong doses of Indian and Negro. " His descendants, Perkins claimed, retained "their ancestor's roving or Gypsy tendency. ... What is startling about the Gypsy family is that, over a period of four months, Abbott had been able to triple the number of descendants and relatives of these families, bring their numbers to 436. ... They bore a resemblance to the "inferior class" of French Canadians that Rowland E. Robinson claimed had "infested the state" and then mysteriously disappeared, but they also seemed a lot like the Native American nomadic families that nineteenth-century Vermonters had also called Gypsies. ... The descendants of the French Canadians who settled in Vermont, after moving back and forth across the border for seasonal work, represented, in Robinson's analysis, an "insidious and continuous invasion" of remnants of a defeated enemy.
 (Gallagher, Nancy, Breeding Better Vermonters: The Eugenics Project in the Green Mountain State (1999), p.81)

Frederick M. Wiseman, in The Voice of the Dawn: An Autohistory of the Abenaki Nation, written in 2001, spoke of the Vermont Eugenics Survey, as follows:

Soon the lens of genocide was trained on the Gypsies, Pirates, and River Rats, as well as other ethnic groups. Employing the latest genealogical research and statistical record keeping techniques, the survey added new technologies to the list of ancient genocidal procedures used by New English authorities against the Abenakis. In addition, they provided social and police organizations with lists of families to "watch. " Unfortunately, the social gulf between elite Anglo culture and the village dwelling River Rats and Pirates was not so wide that they could entirely escape notice. Major Abenaki families at Missisquoi were especially at risk. The more "hidden" families and the Gypsies partially escaped unheeded - for a while. But then began ethnic conflict incidents as Gypsies and Pirates had their children taken from them. The theft of children and the hatred emanating from the burning cross and Ku Klux Klan rallies are still recalled by Abenaki and French Canadian elders in Barre, Vermont. Any family who still had thoughts about standing forth as Abenaki, due to the tourists' continued interest in our arts and culture quickly retired to obscurity as the tide of intolerance rose. We continually needed to be on our guard with the police, the tax man, and the school board, the eyes and ears of the survey.

(Wiseman, pp. 147-148)

Mr. Wiseman became a member of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi in 1987, and later became a citizen ofthe St. Francis - Sokoki band. (Wiseman, p.231)
In the papers of the Survey, clearly the Indians were NOT targeted, but French-Canadians were. The survey may have included some persons with Indian descent, and especially two families that intertwine with others of Indian descent. However, there is no documentation that these people were Abenaki. So how did the ALLEGED and RE-INVENTED Abenaki use the Eugenics Survey to their benefit?
1) By using such a disagreeable subject as ethnic cleansing to excuse their lack of documentation as a tribe.

2) By eliciting sympathy from Vermonters who were no doubt ashamed of their state's participation in the Survey. (This is an especially effective tool after WWII and Hitler's ethnic cleansing.)

3) By swaying public opinion towards allowing less documented facts and more


4) By influencing historians and others writing about them to include undocumented suppositions on the grounds that the Eugenics Survey had made real evidence scarce. Examples of this include:

a. Colin G. Calloway's The Abenaki in the Indians offorth America series. His information is mostly about the Maine Abenaki, but he generalizes it to apply equally to Vermont, as if one branch of Algonkians s equal to another. Generalizations are abundant.

b. Gordon Day's study of Odanak/St. Francis. It was quoted widely in the Abenaki Petition, but Day does not document the people in Vermont. He does mention that some have probably remained, but in his own journal, he notes that he went to Swanton, yet does not mention visiting with any Indians there. (Day, "Abenaki Journal," Dartmouth College, 1955).


As I examined the petition, and the genealogical and historical material, and compared it with my understanding of federally acknowledged Indian tribes, I came to the conclusion that this petitioner cannot satisfy the criteria for federal tribal acknowledgment. There is no continuity of community or political authority evident
in the petitioner's records. The genealogical materials related to petitioner's ancestors do not establish descent from an Abenaki tribal entity. The petitioner simply does not have the necessary Historical-Genealogical or Social characteristics of an Indian Tribe.


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