white relatives in the records cannot be used as justification for the existence of a continuous Indian community in Missisquoi.The sixth piece of evidence relied upon by the petitioner in its argument that
Abenakis continued to live in Missisquoi is Lewis Cass Aldrich's History of Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, in which he reported that bands of eight to ten families drifted back "to favorite camping grounds to spend part of the year, up to as late as 1835 or 1840" Petition:71, quoting Aldrich 1891:28). By its very wording, this statement describes temporary visiting, not continued residence. These could have been hunting parties making seasonal forays from a home base in Quebec.
To understand why these visits stopped in the 1830's, some context is appropriate. The petition itself provides some of this. The petitioner reports that the Abenakis shifted their hunting trips northward in the 1830's (Petition:69, n. 17). This may explain why the hunting parties were no longer noticed in Vermont after the mid-1830's. This is consistent with other evidence that the influx of settlers to northern Vermont and southern Quebec interfered with traditional Indian hunting practices. The 1830's were a time of French-Canadian movement within Quebec and into the United States. It was all part of the pressure built up by surplus population, searching for land and work for the younger sons of large families (Hunter 1939:35-36).
The record of an 1814 marriage at Caughnawagha to a "Sauvage abenaquis d'un village d'amerique" is the seventh item cited by the petitioner for proof that an Abenaki village village continued to exist at Missisquoi (Petition Addendum:307). But, the proof falls short; the reference does not name the village. It could have been a village around Lake Memphremagog, on Lake George, New York. in New Hampshire, or in Maine. There is
evidence of Abenakis living in all those areas around that time. The petitioner's assumption that the reference is to Missisquoi is speculative.The eighth piece of evidence cited by the petitioners is probably the strongest, but it too presents difficulties. The 1835 article in the Green Mountain Democrat is the only item cited by petitioner that identifies Indians as "Missisiques, who live a wandering life on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain" (Petition Addendum: 308-9, Green Mountain Democrat 4/3/1835). However, "the novelty of such a scene"—Indians in tents camping in Windsor, Vt., on the Connecticut River—is the reason it was reported in the newspaper (Green Mountain Democrat 4/3/1835). Even this citation includes some ambiguity, since the family is described as "wandering," rather than settled in a village of Indians at Missisquoi. Furthermore, the family subsists through the "manufacture of Indian articles" (Green Mountain Democrat 4/3/1835). Ulrich's assessment of this article led her to conclude that the family's success in selling "Indian articles" depended on their ability to "acknowledge their ability to and even flaunt, difference" (Ulrich 2001:347). This does not match the portrait of Indians put forth by petitioner--Indians hiding their identity in order to survive. This family did not blend in with the nineteenth century white residents; instead it retained a separate Culture. Thus, this one sighting cannot substantiate the presence of a large community of Abenakis, hiding their identity, living incognito, in Franklin County. This one family, traveling and selling Indian articles is insufficient to establish continuous habitation by a community of Abenaki Indians at Missisquoi throughout the nineteenth century.
The last piece of evidence offered by the petitioner in support of its argument is a letter from Father Amable Petithomme in 1835 (Petition Addendum:312-13). The petitioner describes the letter as follows:
In a letter to his superior in France dated 7/28/1835, Father Petithomme went on at some length about the habits of various clerics vis a vis the Catholics he served, and added for emphasis that "...I sleep in the poor cabins of the Indians" when traveling along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain. (Petition Addendum:312). 27.
The only problem with this is that the wording of the letter is totally unverifiable. No copy of it has been provided to the BIA with the petitioner's papers, and contacts with the Archives of Sacred Hearts Congregation in Rome have ascertained that the letter is missing from their files. 28.
Additionally, the lack of specificity in the portion of the letter quoted by the petitioner introduces a strong element of doubt. The quoted portion does not say where the "poor cabins of the Indians" are located. If their location was not given in the letter and has been filled in by conjecture on the part of petitioner, then the evidence is ambiguous and weaker than might first appear. The biography of Petithomme by R. P. Moulty quotes a part of that July 28, 1835, letter, and then goes on to talk of his travels up and down Lake Champlain and the surrounding area (Mouly 1960:44). The portion of Petithomme's letter quoted by Mouly states that this is "une vie difficile et qu'il loge habituellement dans des cabanes;" that is, a difficult life and that he usually finds lodging in huts (Mouly 1960:44). The reference does not indicate the location of this lodging, and does not say these are Indian huts. If this is the
27. The petition cites the source of the letter as follows: From the Archives of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, the Vatican, Rome, Italy.
28. See email from Father Leopold de Reyes, General SS. CC. Archivist, at the Sacred Hearts Congregation in Rome, to Interlibrary Loan Librarian Meg Page at the Vermont Department of Congregation Libraries, March 8, 2001 (de Reyes 3/8/2001). Colin Calloway referred to the letter in The Western Abenakis of Vermont, but appears not to have seen it himself either, since he notes its source with the following qualification: "cited in Petition Addendum. pt. B, 313)- (Calloway 1990h: 241 & 298. n.7).
same passage cited by petitioner, then it is merely supposition that the huts belonged to Indians on Lake Champlain. 29.From this critique, the weakness of the petitioner's evidence of continued Abenaki presence is apparent. The sightings of Indians in the state are rare, because they no longer lived here as a community in any real sense. Those that were here were purposely visible, making use of their differences for economic gains. Others who may have had some Indian ancestry, but chose to assimilate into the white culture, were no longer identified by outsiders as Indian because they no longer lived in an Indian community.
Comments on Recent Scholarship
With such feeble evidence of continued Abenaki presence in the Missisquoi region, it seems surprising that recent scholarly works have repeated the blanket statement that the Abenakis maintained their connections to the area throughout the nineteenth century.
However, closer examination of these works reveals that they all rely on the petition, or its primary author, John Moody, for support. He was hired by the Abenaki Tribal Council in February 1978 to Conduct research to find support for the petition, and worked with Abenaki assistants in 1978 and 1979 carrying out that research (Petition: 128, 153). Moody once described himself and his connection to petitioner thus:
I and student of Native American studies at Dartmouth and a Vermonter searching out my roots and ancestry. For the past two months I've been working on a narrative history of the Wabanaki peoples who lived and still live in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Quebec. My intent is to fill an expressed gap in the Native American history of this area....There are presently some people working on reconstituting Abenaki identity in Northern Vermont who are interested in my work. (Moody 4/24/1976).
29. See additional discussion of Father Petithomme below in the section Swanton Church is French Canadian, not Indian.
He developed strong ties to the petitioner, even giving the eulogy at the funeral of Chief Homer Homer St. Francis (Burlington Free Press 7/12/2001). Since Moody has been working for the petitioner and relies heavily on family assumptions and declarations of Indian heritage in his work in the recurrent absence of documentary proof of Indian ancestry, then his work is merely self-identification. Such self-identification, without proof through external sources, is insufficient under the federal criteria for tribal acknowledgement (59 Fed. Reg. 9-280, 9286, BIA MaChris Lower Alabama Creek Indian Tribe 1987:5. 32-35).Colin Calloway has made clear that many of his publications on the Abenakis were motivated by a desire to assist them in obtaining federal acknowledgment. In Green Mountain Diaspora: Indian Population Movements in Vermont, c. 1600-1800 In 1986, he wrote:
Dispersed in small groups, the Indians ceased to be visible as "tribes" in the eyes of Euro-Americans. The strategy of survival through anonymity worked too well. Generations of movement, withdrawal, and maintaining a low profile enabled Vermont's Abenakis to survive in calamitous times, but left their twentieth century descendants with considerable problems when they sought to convince a skeptical United States government of their true identity and continued historic presence. (Calloway 1986:222.)
This was Calloway's first article on the Western Abenakis. He reveals something of John Moody's influence when he gives credit to a fellowship award from the Vermont Historical Society that made the article possible, and then states, "The author is indebted to John Moody of Sharon, Vermont, for his help throughout the project and for his careful reading of the manuscript" (Calloway 986:197).
John Moody's influence is abundant in Calloway's article. While the article
discusses various Indian groups—Sokoki, Schaghticoke, and Cowasuck—almost the entire section on the Missisquoi comes from Moody. The idea that Missisquoi was a focal
community for Indians in the Lake Champlain Valley around 1770 is Moody's (Calloway 1986:219, n. 70). The notion that the white settlers "saw merely the tips of 'front persons' of a mobile Indian community" is Moody's (Calloway 1986:220, n. 74). And the entire story of "the continuing presence of Abenaki families around St. Albans, the Islands, Swanton, and Highgate," who "survived by going underground in marginal areas," is attributed to Moody (Calloway 1986:220).Around the same time that Calloway completed his first article on the Western
Abenakis, he wrote to Gordon Day, commenting:
John Moody is keeping me well supplied with information, encouragement and suggestions for present and future research and writing. (Calloway 2/20/1985).
Four years after the publication of the "Green Mountain Diaspora," Calloway published Western Abenakis of Vermont 1600-1800. He dedicated the book to his wife and to John Moody, revealing the extent of Moody's influence upon him:
John Moody took an early interest in the project, selflessly shared knowledge and notions with me, and constantly encouraged my endeavors even as he reminded me that there were larger issues than the book at stake here. Without these two friends [Marcia Calloway and John Moody], this book would not have been written, so it is fitting that they share the dedication (Calloway 1990b:xx-xxi).
Those "larger issues" are undoubtedly federal tribal recognition. The references in Western Abenakis to Moody's unpublished manuscript throughout chapters 10, 12, and 13 are prevalent (Calloway 1990b:288-91, n. 16, 19, 20, 23, 33, 34: 295-97, 11. 3, 12, 13, 18, 27, 31: and 297-98, n. 12, 14). Most of chapter 13 of this work is based directly on the petition for federal acknowledgment submitted by the St. Francis/Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Vermont. (Calloway 1990b:297-98, n. 2, 5, 7, 22,. 24 giving citations to Petition). Moody himself claimed a large role in assisting Calloway when he wrote to Gordon Day,
Colin Calloway's new book is nearing completion and my re-writing/ editing same with him has generated a number of useful ideas to pursue! (Moody 7/17/1988).
Of course all historians weave stories built in part on historic fact and in part on
hypotheses to fill in the gaps. However, one must not confuse the facts with the speculative interstices. For example, the fact that Henry Tufts lived in the eighteenth-century with the Indians around Bethel, Maine, and traveled with them to meet members of their tribe as far west as Lake Memphremagog, does not substantiate the claim that there was a thriving village at Missisquoi at the same time, as Calloway suggests. (Calloway 1990b:201-02). See Map above, p.6. Indeed, the fact that Tufts never once mentions the Missisquoi or anything about Lake Champlain, Could mean that there was no significant entity there at that time (Tufts 1807).
In another section of his book, Calloway sets forth the thesis of the Petition as if it were historical fact, yet he does not cite any historical evidence to support it:
In the view of most of the white community, the western Abenakis seemed to have "disappeared" from Vermont by 1800. But large numbers stayed, living in family bands and off the land as they had for centuries by hunting, fishing, and gathering. Usually poor, often intermarried and French-speaking, these people came to live a nomadic existence, and they cropped up in local records as "gypsies," wandering vagrants who appeared on the edges of white communities. (Calloway 1990b:234-35).
There is no verification that the people described as "gypsies" were Indians, let alone the Abenakis of Missisquoi. Repeatedly saying it does not make it so. The fact that a group of people today has, as Calloway says, "reconstituted" [Reinvention of the Vermont "Abenakis"!] itself into the Sokoki-St. Francis Band of the Abenaki Nation does not mean that the historic Missisquoi really stayed here in large numbers and survived as an Indian entity for 200 years without notice. (See Calloway 1990b:xvi).
William Haviland and Marjory Power first wrote their book The Original Vermonters in 1981 in which they traced native peoples in Vermont from Paleoindians to the present through archeological and historical means. This was before the Abenaki submitted their petition for federal acknowledgment. When Haviland and Power revised the book in 1994, they included material from new archeological finds, as well as information provided to them by the Abenaki petitioners and John Moody:
Similarly, the continuing historic and ethnohistoric research of such scholars as Colin Calloway and John Moody has enriched our understanding of the last 400 years, especially the critical period after A.D. 1800. Finally, Vermont's contemporary Native American community has been active over the past thirteen years and more is known about them now than was the case before...not a single chapter of the book remains the same as in the earlier edition. (Haviland & Power 1994:xx).
Specifically they wrote in the endnotes to chapter 6 "European Takeover of Vermont," and chapter 7 "Survival and Renewal," that their "summary of post-1800 Abenaki history is drawn from Moody (1979:6-80), and the Addendum to the Abenaki petition for federal recognition" (Haviland & Power 1994:301). They also relied upon personal communications with John Moody, again showing his pervasive behind-the-scenes influence (Haviland & Power 1994:296-97).
It appears that the petitioner has made a concerted effort to encourage scholars to publish works in support of the petition.
It even outlined a "recognition strategy" which includes "publications" as part of "the game" of obtaining recognition (Petitioner 2000). Historians of Native Americans, faced with forceful and determined arguments from Vermont Abenaki leaders must have been hard pressed to resist these new theories that allowed them to assume their guilt over previous generations of Americans' mistreatment of Indians. But the BIA must sift through the rhetoric and discern the facts. It should not be