Documents from this early period identify the petitioner's claimed ancestors as "white" or from that period indicate that any people inside or outside of the
"French," and no other records f period indicate inside outside objected to this categorization, or contested that the members of the group should be classified as anything other than "white." For example, all 26 of the petitioner's ancestors whose World War I draft registration records the State submitted identified themselves on those forms as "white" or "Caucasian," even when the documents offered the alternative category of "Indian" (see "[WWI Draft]" documents). Nothing in the record shows that military authorities tried to place these people in another category during a time when black and Indian units were segregated from white military units. No other records submitted by the petitioner provide any examples of the group's claimed ancestors self-identifying as "Indian" or as "Abenaki."
None of the interviews or excerpts of interviews described any instances of a person being denied employment because of anti-Indian prejudice. The petitioner has not provided any evidence of children experiencing discrimination in school attributable to their claimed ancestry. There are no examples of members being refused service by local medical practitioners, or being prevented from voting, buying alcohol, or serving on juries.
The available documentation contained no examples of other families disowning children for or forbidding them from marrying the petitioner's claimed ancestors. Although marriages did occur between individuals from the petitioner's claimed ancestral families, there is no indication that such marriages were preferable to one with an outsider.
The petitioner maintains that the derogatory terms "gypsies," "pirates," and "river rats" were used to denigrate its claimed ancestral families. (68.) However, there is no information in the petition that links these terms with the petitioner's claimed ancestors, or that provide any evidence of anyone using these terms to identify or describe the petitioner's claimed ancestors. Instead, the [sic] the terms are cited only in conjunction with the Vermont Eugenics Survey (VES), which used "Gypsy" and "Pirate" as pseudonyms to describe two composite "families" of 191 undesirables "(Perkins 1927.00.00, 8). While a few members of the petitioner's claimed ancestral families were identified by name in the State documents that were eventually used to create the VES composites, they were not identified as Indians (some of the petitioner's claimed ancestors were identified as "French," one man was identified as "Irish"). One of the families ancestral to some members of the petitioner (Phillips Family) was described as having some members with Indian
68. In 2005, the petitioner also asserted that the term "French-Canadian" as insulting (Wiseman 2004.03.00, 15), but did not demonstrate that the use of this term was pejorative.
outside of the composites created by the VES. There is no information in the petition about which members' families are supposed to have descended from the riverboat-dwelling "Pirates" or "river rats." Further, the VES identified many other families with no connection to the petitioner's claimed ancestors, and the petitioner has not demonstrated that the references applied solely to these people and not to the other families identified by the Survey. To be useful in the overall analysis of demonstrating the existence of a distinct community, the petitioner should provide examples that demonstrate others exclusively used these derogatory terms when referring to the petitioner's claimed ancestors.
The petitioner maintains that a member served as a midwife to members of the community sometime between 1920 and 1970, but does not give her actual years of service. In the interview portion included in the submission, she described her fear of being arrested if the local doctor found her delivering babies without trained medical supervision (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 111). However, there is nothing in the submission indicating that she was singled out as an "Indian" midwife, rather than as a woman practicing midwifery at a time when delivering babies was becoming monopolized by trained physicians. The petitioner has not included any information describing how other midwives at that time were treated, to demonstrate that this woman was subject to punishments different from other midwives. Additionally, the petitioner has not demonstrated that this woman practiced midwifery exclusively or predominantly among the petitioner's claimed ancestral families.
The petition contains an interview which contains, among other information, some information regarding specific stores frequented by the petitioner's ancestors, and identifies "Levicks" as a shop where "Back Bay" families shopped for groceries (Wells, Bob and Alma 1982.03.18, 10). "Prouty's" "Keefe's, and "St. Marie's" were also mentioned (SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, 94). However, the interview does not demonstrate that any discrimination was responsible for the "Back Bay" families patronizing one store rather than another. Instead, this store was less expensive than the others in town, and so was patronized by the poorer members of "Back Bay" (Wells, Bob and Alma 1982.03.18, 10). There is nothing in the petition indicating that the more affluent grocery stores refused service to the petitioner's claimed ancestors.
Some of the petitioner's documents mentioned that some people had vague memories of there being a fence around "Back Bay" before World War I (Wells, Bob and Alma 1982.03.18, 14), but no archaeological or photographic evidence has been presented to demonstrate that this fence existed. Even so, one of the petitioner's informants stated that he never saw or heard of such fence, but if one had been there, it would have been to prevent illegal train riders from jumping off the train and running into the neighborhood unimpeded (Wells, Bob and Alma 1982.03.18, 14). There is also no available evidence showing that the "Back Bay" area (or any other place
The petitioner asserts that the "Back Bay" area through the mid 20th century, was always considered by the citizens of SWANTON [sic], both white and Indian, as the place where the Indians lived" (SSA 1995.12.11 [Second Addendum], 7). The son of a Swanton storekeeper is quoted in the petition and does identify some of the petitioner's claimed ancestors as Indians (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum 13], 97). Another storekeeper's son from St. Albans is also quoted as knowing that the claimed ancestors of the petitioner were Indian (although he does not identify them as "Abenaki"). However, the assertion that "many people" in the community knew and acknowledged a separate Abenaki community in the area is not supported by the documentation submitted, and again contradicts the petitioner's claim that the group was "underground" for most of the 20th century.
The full text of these interviews, and any others conducted with knowledgeable outside members of the Swanton community, should be included in the petition to provide more insight into how the local population related to the petitioner's claimed ancestors.
The Vermont Eugenics Survey
After 1995, the petitioner's submissions contain many references to the VES. This project began in the middle 1920's and was overseen by University of Vermont Professor Henry Perkins. Field workers conducted interviews and collected information on individuals and families who were considered to be "socially inferior" (particularly those deemed "criminals" or "sexual deviants"). Researchers also investigated prison files and records from State and local charity institutions to identify families considered predisposed "criminality,"
families who were considered genetically predisposed to "degeneracy," and "immoral behavior." Some of this information may have been used later by the State Welfare Department to identify and track some individuals, who were surgically sterilized. (69.) The petitioner maintains that the VES, which did identify some (but by no means all) of the petitioner's claimed ancestors, (70.) is directly responsible for the group's reluctance to identify
69. Just how many of the people identified by the VES were actually surgically sterilized is unknown. A 1961 report claimed that 210 people had been sterilized since the passage of the State's voluntary sterilization law in 1931 (Boston Sunday Globe 1995.09.03, 41). However, there is no information to determine what percentage of these people had been identified by the VES and what percentage had been identified after they had been admitted to State institutions or had otherwise come to the attention of authorities.
70. The petitioner submitted a list in which they identified five families followed by the VES as ancestral to their members, but did not cite the source or sources from which this list was compiled (Families Identified n.d. List). This list identified a total of 60 families, with a grand total of 5,516 individual members. These numbers contrast with documents generated by the Survey itself, which claimed to have identified 62 families with a total of 4,642 individuals (Perkins 1927.00.00, 7). This is a difference of two families, but 874 more individuals. Of the 60 families listed in the petitioner's documents, the petitioner identified five families as ancestral to their current members, with a total of 1,187 members (approximately 21.3% of the people the SSA identified). This would seem to indicate 5 highly extended families, averaging 237 members each. However, the petitioner maintains that the group consisted of far more than five families during this period. For the petitioner's hypothesis of a persecuted group to be persuasive, more than five of its ancestral families should have been identified by the VES.
Proposed Finding - Summary Under the Criteria
Information and publicity about the VES after 1995 has resulted in the emergence of several unsubstantiated accounts among members of the SSA, including stories of makeshift field hospitals being erected in the area to facilitate sterilizations, and 15 people (in some accounts, 15 families) disappearing from the Monument Road area of Swanton in one night (Squires 1996, 127-9; Boston Sunday Globe 1995.09.03, 41). In the case of the missing individuals, none of the documentation includes the names of any people who supposedly disappeared. It is unlikely that the disappearance of 15 people would go unnoticed or unmentioned in a community the size of Swanton; it is even more unlikely that 15 families would disappear without anyone remembering their names or publicly commenting on their absence. The petitioner also has not provided the names of any claimed ancestors who lived on Monument Road during the 1930's.
The SSA has not presented any evidence that anyone among the petitioner's claimed ancestors knew about the VES or that the residents of Swanton were aware of or affected by the actions. While it is understandable that people might be reluctant to talk if they had been sterilized involuntarily, there is only one example of a contemporary group member telling the story of how she believed her aunts were allegedly sterilized:
Actually, in my family two of my aunts were sterilized. They were picked up, and brought to the State Hospital, in the state of Vermont, drugged up, sterilized without their knowledge... One of my aunts were [sic] picked up because she had been drinking. My other aunt, I don't really quite know the story ... she never really talked about it as much as my other aunt did. (Chronicle Video Interview 3.19.01)
The interview does not indicate when this sterilization was supposed to have taken place. Existing records from the VES submitted by the petitioner and the State do confirm that one particular woman related to the interview subject was followed by the survey, and that this woman had five children (two of whom were recorded as being illegitimate). For unspecified reasons, records note that the State had given custody of her children to their grandfather. In 1929, this woman was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to one year in jail on an adultery charge (Pedigree, NSF, 1930 npn).
The same record indicates that one of her brothers and one of her sisters were also incarcerated or institutionalized (the petition contains no additional information from the VES regarding the woman's sister, who may be the other aunt referred to in the interview). All of these events occurring in one family may have drawn the attention of authorities looking to identify "low quality families." There is, however, no documentary evidence demonstrating that this woman was targeted for any other reason, such as Abenaki or Indian ancestry.
There is also no available documentary evidence indicating that the sterilization described by the member of the SSA was actually performed, or that, if it was, it was as a result of the individual having been identified by the VES. The Survey identified over 4,500 people, but there is no available evidence that all or most of the people who were identified were then sterilized, or that only people who had been identified by the VES were sterilized. The operations that did take place occurred years after the initial reports, and were performed by the State Welfare Department.
The petitioner's claim that this project directly targeted its claimed ancestors and their families because of their "Abenaki" ancestry has not been demonstrated in the materials presented. If the petitioner wishes to demonstrate that the group's ancestors were targeted specifically because of their Native American ancestry, the group should search the files of the VES for letters and other documents demonstrating this bias.
The information provided by the petitioner to demonstrate community during the early years of the 20th century is not sufficient to satisfy the requirements of criterion 83.7(b) from 1900 to 1940. The petitioner should submit field notes, full text interviews, and other documents which it cites in its narrative and Response, as well as copies of original documents such as birth, death, and marriage certificates to provide evidence that might be useful in substantiating its claims. The petitioner must also demonstrate that its ancestors (and not the Abenakis who visited Vermont seasonally) were the people being referred to as "Abenaki" by scholars and members of the Swanton community. The group should also document and provide evidence of specific examples of discrimination against its members because of their Indian identity, which resulted in group members hiding their identity. Finally, if the group wishes to demonstrate that its ancestors were targeted by the VES because of their Native-American ancestry, then it must include far more analysis of the project's documentation. The analysis should demonstrate and provide evidence that the petitioner's ancestors were targeted as a group, were sufficiently distinct from the many other families studied, or were described in terms which differentiated them from other people who were subjects of the survey.
The evidence presented by the petitioner to demonstrate community between 1940 and 1970 includes, but is not limited to, four oral histories. The evidence presented by the State of Vermont also includes, but is not limited to, various newspaper and scholarly articles and selected birth, death, and marriage records.
The deficiencies noted in the previous section regarding the lack of original records in the petition are also present for this period. The petitioner has not submitted copies of birth, death, marriage, church, or other records which might support the petitioner's arguments. The petitioner is strongly encouraged to rectify these deficiencies before the issuance of the Final Determination.
The Swanton Area, 1940-1970
After the American entry into World War II, a number of the petitioner's claimed ancestors are said to have either joined the military or worked in plants supporting the war effort. After the war ended, the men who had served in the military returned to Swanton. According to the petitioner, a number of them began frequenting the local Veterans of Foreign Wars club (referred to as "the V"), which it characterized as later becoming an "Indian bar." The group's male members are described as congregating regularly at this club, while the women socialized during the Wednesday night bingo games (SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, 138). The petitioner should include more information about the composition of "the V" in the years after the war, particularly the ratio of SSA members' and/or their claimed ancestors to non-SSA members. The group should name the SSA members and/or their claimed ancestors who frequented the club, describe if they held any official leadership positions in the organization, and cite any oral histories and other sources describing how and when it became to be regarded as an "Indian bar." The petitioner also maintains that several members identified themselves as "Indians" on military records from the 1950's to the 1970's (SSA 1986.05.23 [Addendum B], 125), but none were submitted. The petitioner is encouraged to submit copies of these military records.
The petitioner maintains that the establishment of a wildlife refuge in 1941 on the land around the mouth of the Missisquoi River adversely affected the lives of the group's members who had previously hunted and fished there without licenses or restriction (SSA 1982. 10.00 Petition, 101). To document these contentions, the petitioner should include more information about the role of hunting and fishing in the supposed ancestral community, and explain how it differs from the many other rural Vermonters who also hunted and fished to supplement their incomes and provide their families with food. The petitioner should also include more information about their claimed ancestors' interaction with local game wardens and discuss how their relationship with them differed from other individuals who might have also disobeyed local hunting and fishing regulations.
After the war, the petitioner also maintains the enlargement of the village of Swanton resulted in the loss of the "hemp yards," an area northeast of the village which had been a meeting place and common area for many years. The petitioner claims
The petitioner has not included any evidence to identify the people enjoying this alleged common area, and has presented only one recollection describing the presence of a sweat lodge on the property (Wells, Bob and Alma 1982.03.18, 18). If, as the petitioner claims, people were still planting corn in common fields as recently as the World War II, then there would likely be some newspaper articles or public records detailing this practice. To demonstrate this claim, the petitioner should include documentation of the communal use of this piece of property, such as interviews, well-captioned photographs, newspaper articles, oral histories, and other information showing such use.
The petitioner has submitted four oral histories which contain information about the Swanton/Highgate/St. Albans area during this period. These interviews identified a few people as informal leaders and discussed some of the activities people engaged in, such as hunting, fishing, and berry picking. However, the petition did not contain descriptions of other activities, such as notable birthday or anniversary celebrations attended by a wide range of group members. There are no descriptions or photographs (captioned or otherwise) of weddings, baptisms, First Communions, school graduations, or similar events. There are no descriptions of the group honoring its members who were serving in the military, or ceremonies honoring servicemen or women who may have died overseas. There are also no descriptions of any organizations (such as a Ladies Aid Society) composed of or controlled by a number of members, and the petition contained no descriptions of member organizations performing activities such as sponsoring clothing drives, hosting Christmas parties for member children, or providing financial assistance for elderly members. Such information might demonstrate "significant social relationships connecting individual members," as defined under criterion 83.7(b)(1)(ii), as well as demonstrating "significant rates of informal interaction which exist broadly among the members of a group," as defined under criterion 83.7(b)(1)(iii). The petitioner should submit such materials to demonstrate that the members of the petitioning group were riot simply residents of the same geographical area, but actually knew each other and participated in activities as a social community.
Catalog of Artifacts, 1940-1970
The petitioner has included descriptions of several items made or acquired by group members during this period. The petitioner has submitted a "catalog" of these items to demonstrate that Abenaki Indians were present in Vermont, and that these Indians were the claimed ancestors of the SSA. However, the petitioner has provided insufficient evidence that these items were produced or used by its claimed ancestors, or that anyone other than the petitioner has identified them as "Abenaki."
One of the major difficulties with using artifacts from the mid-20th century to demonstrate any particular cultural identity is that such objects can change hands over time and lose their affiliation with the group which produced them. Objects can also be copied by people who may
The catalog describes a 1943 split ash basket as "...the only known dated Abenaki basket after the Eugenics Period and before the 1980's...it is interestingly similar to Abenaki revival baskets. . ." (Wiseman 2005.00.00, npn). The problem with this description is that the weaver of the basket is unknown. Although the catalog states that the basket was purchased from a local antiques dealer, there is no other provenance provided. Without this information, it is impossible to know if the manufacturer was an Abenaki (and if that Abenaki was Western or Eastern, from Canada or from somewhere else).
The catalog describes a fish spear, given to the researcher's (Frederick Matthew Wiseman born March 15, 1948 in Johnson, Maryland) father (Frederick Kermit Wiseman born June 27, 1914, he married to Evelyn Martha nee: Platt; he died August 24, 1985 in St. Albans, Franklin County, Vermont) at some unspecified time (probably after the Second World War). According to the description, the spear was used by a group member from the time he was young until the outbreak of the Second World War. However, the petitioner has not demonstrated that only members of the Swanton-area group used such implements. Even if the spear can be described as "Wabanaki," there is considerable information in the petition to demonstrate that many "Wabanaki" people from Canada and Maine summered and fished in the area, and could well have sold or given such an implement to a local resident. Objects can also be copied, if a person recognizes and desires to recreate an interesting or efficient design. This problem is similar to that of other objects presented in the catalog, including a "loon cup" and toy canoe made between 1950 and 1960. There are no earlier examples of these items to indicate that they were of a style or design used by a substantial portion of a group of the petitioner's claimed ancestors on an ongoing basis.
The catalog includes a description of a beaded headband, portrayed as a 1950's replica of a piece from the proto-contact period (this particular "beaded headband" is also in the the book on page 153, that he authored entitled "Voice of the Dawn , An Autohistory of the Abenaki" copyright 2001; and additionally again in his "Decolonizing the Abenaki...." which was compiled by Fred M. Wiseman himself in early 2010). The catalog states the headband indicates a decision of Northwestern VT Abenakis to make items identifying the weaver as Abenaki. All Native people in the Northeast dressed in "Pan-Indian" regalia in the 1950's and 1960's. Indicates Abenaki participation in regional cultural processes. (Wiseman 2005.00.00, npn)
Beadwork, like basketry, has never been exclusive to people of Indian descent. For example, it is a popular activity taught at children's summer camps. There is no information of who made the referenced piece, so it is unclear whether "the beader" was Abenaki. No photograph of the piece is included, making it impossible to determine how the headband was supposed to identify the wearer or maker as "Abenaki," as opposed to another group. Finally, and most importantly, the assertion that this object ".. . indicates Abenaki participation in regional cultural processes"
The catalog describes a cradleboard made and used by a family during the 1960's. Although the catalog characterizes this object as an "important ethnic identifier" because the board was not used just for display, the petitioner has not demonstrated that this was an ethnic identifier. The name of the person who previously owned the object is given, but there is no evidence that he was the person who made it. Further, the catalog does not indicate whether this person is a member of the SSA (the name does not appear on the most recent membership list). If the petitioner could demonstrate that cradle boarding was used consistently by a number of its members' families, then the argument would be considerably stronger; as it stands, it is equally possible that a single person reproduced the object based on photographs in books or from museum displays on his or her own, and not as part of a group activity.
The petitioner should include much more information regarding the social context of the creation and usage of these objects if it wishes to demonstrate that they are indicative of the material culture of a Swanton-based American Indian entity. The group should submit evidence such as captioned photographs of these items (or items similar to those on display) in use by people identified as community members. Contemporaneous articles or publications describing their use should also be submitted.
The material submitted by the petitioner is insufficient to satisfy criterion 83.7(b) from 1940 to 1970. The information in the petition does not include any reliable evidence that the ancestors of the petitioner comprised a distinct community, or that they were regarded as distinct from other residents of Swanton. To satisfy this criterion, the petitioner submit evidence, such as captioned photographs, full-text interviews, and additional documentation from organizations such as the VFW to substantiate its claims. Further, the group must provide more evidence that a distinct community of its members actually existed in Franklin County.
There is no question that, after 1975, the group now known as the "St. Francis-Sokoki Band of Abenaki" became active socially (for information about the formal organization of the group, see criterion 83.7(c)). The group organized a number of activities, including establishing relationships with the Abenaki at Odanak and other New England Indian tribes and organizations. A number of political activities, such as "fish-ins" protesting State licensing requirements, were also held during the late 1970's and early 1980's. In the 1990's, the group