The Petitioner's Claims
The petitioner claims to have descended as a group mainly from the Missisquoi, a Western Abenaki tribe of Algonquian Indians which occupied the Lake Champlain region around the town of Swanton in northwestern Vermont during the colonial period (1650-1776). In the preface to its 1982 petition, the group defined itself and the historical tribe from which it claims to have evolved in this way:
It has been almost two centuries since the Indian ancestors of the contemporary Abenakis were driven from their villages by the tide of white settlement in northwestern Vermont. Some fled to Canada. Others stayed. Some who fled returned, joining others that stayed, accomodating [sic] themselves to a changed world. This petition contains a history of the Abenaki people of the Lake Champlain valley and Missisquoi Bay, and of individuals and families that maintained themselves in their traditional home. After years of silent and sometimes painful accomodation [sic], these families are now seeking recognition as an American Indian tribe. (SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, iv-v)
The petitioner further claimed the following:
While precise figures will probably never be known for certain, it is clear by now that a number of Abenaki families never left Vermont, and that by 1830, many had begun to reestablish communities in Swanton, St. Albans Bay, and Grand Isle which have a documented existence down to the present day. (SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, 9)
The State's Comments
The State disputes the petitioner's claim to have descended from the historical Missisquoi tribe from the Colonial period. It points out that the petitioning group adopted several names since 1976 that has confused the issue of the historical tribe. These names include the "Sovereign Republic of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi" and the "St. Francis/Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Vermont." According to the State, this "suggest[s] three possible historical tribes:
St. Francis Abenaki, Sokoki, and Missisquoi" (VER 2002.12.00-2003.01.00 [Response], 1-2). It describes these three as follows:
The St. \ Francis Abenaki is, and was, a Canadian tribe based in St. Francis, Quebec, also known as Odanak, Quebec. The Sokoki, a tribe within the Wabanaki Confederacy, inhabited the Connecticut River Valley along the border between Vermont and New Hampshire. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they resettled at Odanak/ St. Francis. The Missisquoi inhabited the upper Lake Champlain region on the western side of Vermont. They have often been thought to be an offshoot of the Abenaki tribe at Odanak/ St. Francis. Even the petitioner admits that "the Missisquoi villagers were never a tribe," but rather
On the question of the historical tribe, the State concluded thus:
The petitioner claims its historic origins lie in the northern Lake Champlain Valley, near Missisquoi Bay in Swanton, Vermont, the same area in which most of its members reside at present.. This would suggest the petitioner's members view themselves as descendants of the Missisquoi, not the Sokoki. The history of the Abenakis of Missisquoi and those of the Odanak/ St. Francis is extensively intertwined. The inclusion of the St. Francis tribal name in the petitioner's original submission indicates a sense of affiliation with that Canadian tribe. One theme of this Response to the Petition is that the Missisquois drew closer and closer to the Abenakis of Odanak/ St. Francis so that by 1800 they were indistinguishable. (VER 2002.12.00-2003.01.00 [Response], 3)
Scholarly Views of the Evolution of the Historical Western Abenaki from 1600 to 1800
The most authoritative scholarship on the historical Western Abenaki comes from Gordon Day, an ethnologist from Dartmouth College and the National Museum of Man in Quebec, Canada. Day devoted over forty years of scholarship, from the late 1940's to his death in 1993, to the Western Abenaki. This research included extensive field work and interviews, mainly among Indians from the St. Francis Reservation in Quebec, Canada (3.) According to Day, the Abenaki tribes of northern New England were divided into two groups, the Eastern Abenaki and Western Abenaki, distinguishable by an Algonquian language different mainly in "phonology, grammar, and lexicon." Generally, the Eastern Abenaki, which included the Penobscots, occupied portions of Maine and some sections of eastern New Hampshire during the period. The Western Abenaki inhabited most of Vermont, including the eastern section of the Lake Champlain Valley, most of New Hampshire, portions of central Massachusetts along the Connecticut River, and parts of southwest Quebec in the region of the Richelieu, Missisquoi, and St. Francois Rivers (Day 1978a, 148). Day estimated the pre-contact population of the Western Abenaki was about 5,000 before plague and war brought by European settlers severely reduced their numbers (Day 1978a, 152-153).
According to Day, the "geographically central tribe of the western Abenaki region, the one that formed the beginnings of the village of Saint Francis (Odanak)," was called "the Sokoki of the upper Connecticut River" (Day 1978a, 148). Primary documents from the 17th century show, according to Day, that the Sokoki inhabited "the entire upper Connecticut River, which would extend the name Sokoki to the Cowasucks at Newbury, Vermont." Other component groups
2. See page 15 of the 1982 petition narrative.
3. The scholarship includes dozens of books, articles, and reviews on the Western Abenaki. The best overview of Day's scholarship is In Search of New England's Native Past: Selected Essays by Gordon H. Day, edited by Michael K. Foster and William Cowan (Amherst, 1998).
Day also asserted the following:
The Vermont shore of Lake Champlain was probably occupied by Western Abenakis from prehistoric times. Villages at the mouths of the Winooski, flic Lamoille, and the Missisquoi rivers, on Grand Isle, and elsewhere are known. But in the eighteenth century, their population gradually concentrated at Missisquoi, and the Missisquoi tribe came to stand, in most writings, for all the Lake Champlain Abenakis. (Day 1978a, 149)
Day maintained that almost all of these Western Abenakis, "the inhabitants of the country from the Merrimack River to Lake Champlain," eventually relocated to the Saint-Francois River area of Quebec," and became part of the St. Francis [Odanak] village, which also incorporated " some Eastern Abenakis from the Chaudiere mission and some southern New England Indians, probably mostly Pocumtucks and Nipmucks" (Day 1978a, 149).
The first French settlers arrived in the area between 1669 and 1672, and established a mission at St. Francis in Quebec in the late 17th century (4.) The exodus of Western Abenakis in New England to the village, sparked first by Indian conflicts and later colonial warfare between the French and English, commenced in the late 1660's and continued until just after the American Revolution (Day 1981, 5-12).
When the French settlers first arrived in the late 1660's, there were probably already some Sokoki Indians in the area. It appears that the Sokoki were using the region south of the St. Lawrence River as hunting territory in the early 17th century. The Sokokis came from the upper Connecticut River near northern Massachusetts and southern Vermont. Their main village was called Squakheag at Northfield, Massachusetts. In the early 1660's, the Sokoki may have been visiting Canada to trade with the French. In 1663, following an attack by the Iroquois [Mohawks, Onondagas, and Senecas], they began gradually migrating to the St. Lawrence River area. They abandoned Squakheag soon after and other Sokoki north on the Connecticut River soon followed. Additional Sokoki refugees came to the St. Francis region in Quebec during King Philip's War from 1675 to 1676 (Day 1981, 12-16, 62-63). Day stated that "we cannot confidently reconstruct the population of Squakheag nor form a good estimate of the size of the groups which left the Sokwaki [Sokoki] country at different times for different destinations." He cited one scholar who estimated settlement sizes as "500-750 persons for Pocumtuck and from 1,764 to 2,000 for the middle Connecticut Valley between Springfield and Squakheag and 500
4. The village, about four miles from the mouth of the Saint Francois River in Quebec, has been in existence since at least 1672. The French mission was established in 1683, and was originally located at the mouth of the Chaudiere River near Quebec City, before it was moved southward around 1700 to the Indian village. Historians and other observers have tended to refer to the French mission and the Indian village as St. Francis. The Indians always called the village Odanak (Day 1978a, 1-2; 1981, 1, 5). In this finding, the Saint Francis Village or Reservation and Odanak are sometimes used interchangeably as a term for the location of the St. Francis Indians of Quebec, Canada, a Canadian-Indian entity which has existed since the colonial period. The petitioner has adopted the name "St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Abenakis of Vermont," but it is not the same entity as the St. Francis Indians of Odanak in Quebec, Canada, and should not be confused with it.
St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Vermont Abenakis:
Other Western Abenakis began arriving in the St. Francis area in Quebec in 1676, one year after the outbreak of King Philip's War. The first migrants, possibly some Pennacooks from New. Hampshire, arrived in the spring of 1676, when the war's course turned against the Indians (Day 1981) 18-19). As stated previously, more Sokoki were displaced and joined other extant tribal members who had left earlier. In the summer of 1676, about 250 Indians of various New England tribes, including some Western Abenaki, involved in the war fled across Massachusetts to settle in the Schaghticoke refugee village in upstate New York just north of Albany (Day 1978, 150; 1981, 20-21). A number of Schaghticoke refugees began gradually migrating to St. Francis in Quebec in the early 1690's, some briefly stopping on Lake Champlain, and continued to do so for about 50 years (Day 1978a, 151; 1981, 64). Day also thought it probable that some Sokoki and Pennacook may have briefly settled in the Lake Champlain area of northern Vermont following King Philip's War, and that there was a settlement, perhaps even a short-lived French mission, for these Indians in the early 1680's at the lake's northern end (Day 1978a, 150-151; 1981, 64).
The next Western Abenaki group to relocate to St. Francis in Quebec was the Cowasuck. The Cowasuck, a group closely related to the Sokoki, had inhabited the upper Connecticut River valley in the vicinity of Newbury, Vermont, possibly as early as 1663. They apparently abandoned the Newbury area in 1704 during Queen Anne's War (1701-1713), and probably remained largely absent from the location until the 1760's when English settlers began occupying the area in force. During this time the Cowasucks "may have been either at Odanak or the headwaters of the Connecticut River" (Day 1978a, 151; 1981, 52, 65). Day believed about 700 Cowasucks and Androscoggins still "remained in relatively safe retreats in the forests between the American and British frontiers in 1775" (Day 1981, 65). By 1798, most of these Indians had migrated to Odanak (Day 1981, 111).
Indeed old "Chief" Indian Philip, Metallak, etc. were "left behind" in the "English settlements" by approximately 1796. Most of these elderly Indian people's "Abenaki" families had indeed relocated to Odanak, Quebec, Canada.
It is difficult to determine the population of the St. Francis village in Quebec during this period, since it fluctuated dramatically with the influx of refugees seeking shelter or warriors desiring to use it as a base of operations during the colonial wars. In 1727, just after Dummer's War (17221727; sometimes called Grey Lock's War) between the Abenaki and Massachusetts, the village probably had 60 warriors or 300 people, although some may have been refugees who later returned to their homelands (Day 1981, 38). In 1752, just after King George's War (1744-1748), Day estimated there were about 900 people at St. Francis in Quebec. In 1763, due to deaths and dispersal during the French and Indian War, the population had shrunk to about 400 (Day 1981, 42-45, 64).
The last significant component of Western Abenaki to migrate to St. Francis was the Missisquoi, who occupied the Lake Champlain region of northwestern Vermont. The petitioner claims to have descended from this group. Day believed evidence showed the village of Missisquoi (located near the contemporary town of Swanton, Vermont) was already in existence by the late
From about 1743 to 1759, there was a small French presence at the Missisquoi village. The French first established a mission (1743) and later a sawmill (1754) at the site. They were permanently driven out of the village by English troops in 1759 during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). For the most part, the Missisquoi Indians remained in their territory "until the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775" (Day 1981, 49). The Revolution caused divided loyalties among many eastern Indians, including the Western Abenakis, who tried to remain neutral but were frequently drawn into the conflict anyway (Day 1981, 52-55; see also Calloway 1990a, 204-223). The precise location of many Western Abenaki during the war is difficult to determine because of the resulting disruption. Some retreated to safe zones in the forests between the American and British frontiers. Others made their way to St. Francis in Quebec (Day 1981, 52-55, 65). According to Day, Missisquoi
was seemingly abandoned for a time, but it is unclear what part of the population went to Odanak and what part merely withdrew to temporary havens close by. There was one camp at Clarence, Quebec, in 1782. A small village still existed at Missisquoi in 1786 after the war. Only some twenty persons remained in 1788, and these may have stayed on to contribute to the present-day Indian group at Swanton, but most of the Missisquoi had left by 1800. However indirect their withdrawal, there are a dozen Missisquoi family names in the 1829 census of Odanak. (Day 1981, 65)
Permanent non-Indian settlement of the Missisquoi area in northwestern Vermont began in the late 1780's, and played a key role in displacing the few remaining Indians. (5.) Indeed, "all but a few scattered" Western Abenakis appeared "to have left northern Vermont, New Hampshire and western Maine for Odanak, although they continued to hunt south of the border for several years." As Day saw it, the "village of Odanak was essentially complete" by 1800 (Day 1981, 65).
Since the 18th century, the St. Francis Indians at Odanak have had a well-documented existence on Canadian government censuses and other lists. According to Day, these censuses at Odanak showed "the great majority of the family names were of Missisquoi origin." This development meant that in the 20th century, scholars were able to work "directly with the descendants of Missisquoi families, many of whom returned regularly to Missisquoi until the 1920's," making it
5. English settlers in significant numbers occupied most of Vermont except for the Missisquoi region during the 1760's and 1770's. The disruption of the American Revolution essentially delayed the inevitable settlement of the Missisquoi area until the 1780's (see Calloway 1990a, 183-186).
The other leading scholars on the Western Abenaki are Colin Calloway and William A. Haviland. Calloway, a professor of history at Dartmouth College, has written several works on the Western Abenaki, focusing on the period before 1800 (6.) On the whole, Calloway's work reflects the main arguments of Gordon Day with only minor variations. The major difference. between the two occurs in Calloway's brief discussions of the fate of Vermont's Indians after 1800. In brief, Calloway, like Day, argued that the Western Abenaki had been adversely affected by war and migration before 1800. Most, by that time, had left northern Vermont for the St. Francis village, which during this period incorporated other displaced Indians and even European captives from other locations from northern New England. Calloway, however, diverted from Day's thesis by arguing that some of the Western Abenakis in northern New England remained behind, living on the fringes of white communities, and practicing a transient lifestyle. He claimed at one point several hundred lived in northwestern New England. Calloway portrayed these people not as one group or as living in a particular settlement, but as a "fluid network" of family bands (7.) Yet, when offering documentary evidence for their existence, he could provide only sporadic descriptions or reminiscences, mainly from pre-1860 Vermont newspapers or local histories, of mostly unidentified, isolated, dispersed, or nomadic Indians or Indian families (Calloway 1990a, 234). Much of Calloway's thesis regarding the post-colonial period also depended heavily on the work 'of the petitioner and its researcher, John Moody, which, as this finding demonstrates, is highly speculative and not reliable.
William A. Haviland, a professor of anthropology at the University of Vermont, co-authored The Original Vermonters, published in 1981, and revised in 1994. (8.) Most of this work, except for the final chapter, covered Western Abenaki history in Vermont before 1800 with little difference from Gordon Day's research. For the period after 1800, both editions drew heavily on the unpublished work of petitioner researcher John Moody and the group's petition for Federal acknowledgment. (9.)
6. The major works are "Green Mountain Diaspora: Indian Population Movements in Vermont, 1600-1800," Vermont History 54 (Fall 1986); "Survival through Dispersal: Vermont Abenakis in the Eighteenth Century," AHA Meeting, 1987; "Surviving the Dark Ages: Vermont Abenakis during the Contact Period," Vermont History 38 (Spring 1990); The Western Abenaki of Vermont, 1600-1800: War, Migration, and the Survival of an Indian People (Norman, Ok, 1990).
7. See Calloway 1990a, 238-251; 1986.00.00, 220-222; 1987.12.30, 5-6.
8. Marjory Powers was co-author.
9. On page 301 in the bibliographical notes, the authors stated: "For events following 1763, we have relied almost exclusively on Moody (1979) and data froth Abenaki petition (1982) and its addendum (1986), much of which were gathered by Moody."
Haviland provided no documentary evidence to demonstrate the existence of these "communities,"or to connect them to the petitioner. Like Calloway, he relied mainly on occasional references in local histories of sporadic sightings of unidentified Indians usually described as being from Canada. In addition, he also depended heavily on the highly speculative work of the petitioner and its researcher John Moody for his analysis on the post-colonial history of Vermont's Western Abenaki. That research does not demonstrate the existence of a Western Abenaki community in northwestern Vermont, nor does it show that the petitioning group descended from any Western Abenaki entity in Vermont or Canada. Indeed, the available documentary evidence indicates that by 1800 almost all of Vermont's Indians had withdrawn to the village of St. Francis, and the few who remained behind did not thereafter constitute a community distinct from other people.
The Petitioner's Connection to the Historical Tribe, 1600-1800
The available evidence does not demonstrate that the SSA ("St. Francis-Sokoki Abenakis group") or its claimed ancestors evolved as a group from the St. Francis Indians of Quebec, Canada (or another Indian group in Quebec), a Missisquoi Abenaki entity in northwestern Vermont, or any other Western Abenaki group or Indian entity from New England in existence before 1800.
The petitioner submitted a copy of Robertson's Lease of 1765 that contains the names of possible Missisquoi Abenaki (Robertson 1765.05.28) (11.) Gordon Day described the document as
10. Existing documents naming 19th century Odanak residents include the Durham lease of 1805, a War of 1812 Veteran's roster, censuses from 1829, 1830, 1832, 1841, 1844, 1845, 1850, 1851, 1852, 1873, and 1875, an agreement from 1842, a petition from 1874 and a payment list from 1893 (see Day 1981, 70-73). The petition record contains the 1832, 1873, and 1875 censuses, the 1842 agreement, the 1874 petition, and the 1893 payment list, all of which the State submitted. Gordon Day's 1981 Identity of the Saint Francis Indians also contains a comprehensive analysis of many of these sources (Day 1981, 66-107).
11. The only other pre-1800 document in the available record containing the names of possible Missisquoi Abenaki is a register of the chaplains at Fort Saint-Frederic on Lake Champlain in upstate New York (Roy 1946, 268-312).
The available evidence does not demonstrate the petitioner has a historical or social connection to any Western Abenaki entity in existence before 1800.
The Petitioner and its Claimed Ancestors, 1800 to the Present
The petitioner claims to have descended mainly from Missisquoi Abenaki who remained in northwestern Vermont after 1800 or returned to the area once they deemed it "safe." The petitioner claims its ancestors lived an inconspicuous "underground" lifestyle until the 1970's, although the details of this process are unclear, given the limited available evidence. A full discussion of the activities of the petitioner's claimed ancestors following 1800 can be found mainly in criterion 83.7(b). The group's 1982 petition described the claimed ancestors as living mainly around the towns of Swanton, St. Albans, and Highgate in Franklin County in northwestern Vermont near the Canadian border. In its 1986 petition, the group expanded its historical and geographical territory significantly. For 1790, the petitioner claimed 378 (possibly as many as 3,000) people in 61 families, 10 neighborhoods, in 8 towns in Franklin County. For
Gordon Day described the register (dated between 1735 and 1758) as containing "some 150 names of 'Abenakis,' sometimes indicated as from Missisquoi or Saint-Francois. The great majority were listed only by their French baptismal names, and very few can be identified" (Day 1981.00.00, 68). In fact, Day was able to identify only 17 surnames from the register as the names of families who later took up residence at Odanak, and only 5 names of known Missisquoi Abenaki families (Day 1981.00.00, 68). There is no available evidence that the petitioner's claimed ancestors descended from these few individuals. See criterion 83.7(e) for more detail on this register.
12. For versions of Robertson's lease see FAIR Image File ID SSA-PFD-VO03-DO051 or SSA-PDF-V003-D0048 under FAIR Short Citation: Robertson 1765.05.28.
13. Nor is there available evidence to show these individuals made any later claims to lands at Missisquoi.
The available evidence, however, demonstrates that no external observers from 1800 to 1975 identified or described the petitioner's claimed ancestors, or any group of Indians, as an Indian entity in northwestern Vermont (see criterion 83.7(a) and (b)). Nor did any external observers during that time describe the group's claimed ancestors as a community that had maintained a minimal social distinction from other populations in the area. The available evidence from 1800 to 1975 also does not show that the petitioner's claimed ancestors described themselves as an Indian entity or described themselves as a community that had maintained a minimal distinction from others. Indeed, the available evidence indicates the group's claimed ancestors moved as individual families to northwestern Vermont from a number of areas in Canada and the northeastern United States. This began around the early 19th century and continued until well into the 20th century. Little is known from the available evidence about their existence before they arrived in Vermont, but there is no indication they descended from an Indian group in Canada. This evidence is discussed in detail in criterion 83.7(b).
As the following discussion under the criteria demonstrates, the few Indians described by external observers in Vermont from 1800 to 1975 were usually isolated individuals or groups traveling seasonally to the area to hunt, fish, or to sell baskets and crafts. These Indians are usually unidentified by name or point of origin, and the petitioner has not established a connection to these people. One important exception in the available evidence is the small Simon Obomsawin family, well-known Western Abenakis long associated with the St. Francis reservation in Quebec, who lived at Thompson's Point on Lake Champlain in Charlotte, Vermont, from about 1900 to 1959 (Day 1948.07.00-1962.11.13, 1-2, 9, 13-14) (14.) Eight members of the petitioner claim descent from the father of this family, Simon Obomsawin, through his daughter Marie Elvine O'Bomsawin born March 05 1891 at Odanak, whom married Daniel Henry Royce on November 08, 1916 in Duxbury, Washington County, Vermont. The available evidence, however, does not demonstrate that these current members who claim to be the descendants of Simon Obomsawin had any significant social interaction or relationships with the petitioning group or its claimed ancestors before the 1970's.
The current petitioning group organized around 1975 when it created the Abenaki Self-Help Association, Inc. (ASHAI). Two years later, it established a governing body called the "Abenaki Tribal Council." In its 1980 letter of intent for Federal acknowledgment, the group used the name "St. Francis /Sokoki Band of Abenaki of Vermont"(however, the petitioner is not the same entity as the St. Francis Indians of Odanak in Quebec, Canada, and should not be confused with it). Over the last 29 years the petitioner has employed and been identified by various other names containing the word "Abenaki," which are described under criterion 83.7(a). From 1977 to 1980, the group's elected leader was Homer St. Francis. From 1980 to 1986, Leonard "Blackie" Miles Lampman led the group. Homer St. Francis was re-elected leader in a 1987 election, and held
14. Thompson's Point near the town of Charlotte extends from the eastern shore of Lake Champlain in Vermont opposite Split Rock on the western shore just south of Essex, New York (Day 1998, 232, 256-257). Thompson's Point is more than sixty miles southwest of Swanton, Vermont, the claimed geographical center of the petitioner.