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Monday, December 6, 2010

State of VT's Response to Petition for Federal Acknowledgment of the St. Francis/Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Vermont: Pages 93 to 100:

inhabitants, that they were in the habit of drifting back in bands of eight or ten families to favorite camping grounds to spend part of the year up to as late as camping grounds 1835 or 1840. (Swanton Courier 12/4/1913a).

An article on page 15 of the paper gave a detailed description of Indian relics found Swanton Village, but again made no mention of any present-day Indian inhabitants. The town was obviously proud of its Indian history. The fact that "Swanton is rich in Indian history and is the mecca for relic hunters" was listed alongside the fact that it boasted four railroads and an electric streetcar line, a live Board of Trade, and several thriving businesses (Swanton Courier 12/4/1913b). These were all included on a list of Swanton's notable features in a column meant to boost support for the town. (Swanton Courier 12/4/1913c). These articles do not provide evidence to satisfy Criterion (a), rather they support a negative finding on that issue (BIA Ohlone/Costanoan Muwekma Tribe 2001:5; BIA Nipmuc Nation (#69A) 2001:85).
The petitioner does not cite any newspaper articles that give contemporary twentieth century descriptions of Indians in Vermont during this time period. In fact, the petitioner admits that its ancestors were not identified as Indians in the local press until the 1970's (Petition: 154).

Swanton Birth Records
The only evidence of external identification cited in the petition for 1900 to 1929 is a few birth records in Swanton that petitioner claims indicate the individuals are Indian or Indian-White (Petition: 147). Examination of the actual records does not confirm this. Most of the records actually indicate no race or "White" for the children. These are analyzed in detail in the section Criterion (e): Petitioner's Evidence of Indian Births is Contradicted by
Original Records. Copies of the birth records are included in the Exhibits (Swanton, Vermont, Town Clerk 1904-1920). Furthermore, petitioner states the indications of Indian race in these listings (to the extent there are any) are attributable to an Indian midwife (Petition: 147). This presents two problems as evidence of identification as an Indian entity.
The first is that these birth records are not identifications of an Indian entity; they are identifications of individuals. As such they represent only scattered identification of separate persons during a very small window of time—a time that is otherwise devoid of external identifications. This is insufficient evidence for Criterion (a) (BIA Chinook Indian Tribe 2002:46205). Secondly, if the midwife was Indian, as the petition asserts, then these records are not identification by outsiders.

1930 to 1947

External Observations Silent on Existence of Any Contemporary Abenaki Tribe
In 1934, Gladys Tantaquidgeon presented her survey of New England Indians to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior. She identified nine tribes in the New England states of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Her report does not mention a single group in Vermont (Tantaquidgeon 1934).
The 1930's was also the time period during which Elin Anderson conducted her research on ethnic groups in Burlington (Anderson 1937). Anderson's primary tool was a set of questions that were posed orally to individuals in Burlington. During the interviews, the surveyors asked for the respondents' perceptions of fourteen other ethnic groups: French Canadians, Irish, Americans/Yankees, English Canadians, Italians, Jews, Germans, Syrians, French, Scottish, Greeks, English, Scandinavians, Chinese, and Negroes (Eugenics Survey of
Vermont [1932-1936]). There was no surveying of attitudes toward Abenaki Indians or Native Americans of any kind. This shows they were not identified by outsiders as an entity in the Burlington area in the 1930's.
The 1930 federal censuses identified 36 Indians in the State of Vermont, the largest number since the census had begun. However, only three Indian individuals were identified in Franklin County, and none in Grand Isle County (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1932:1131, Table 17). As with previous census reports, no central grouping of Indians emerged from the census. The historic area of Missisquoi and its surroundings was not viewed as an Indian village or congregating place for Indian inhabitants. In 1940, the number of Indians identified by the census in the state dropped to 16 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1943:90, Table 6).
Two documents reveal the absence of any Indian identity in the 1940's. One is the chronology of Vermont prepared by the Vermont Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration in 1941. It included the following entry for 1856: "Last native Indians in state leave Bellows Falls 54. for Canada. November" (Richmond 2/ 10/1941; see also Works Progress Administration 1937:83-84).
The other is a series of articles entitled "Growing Up in Vermont" published in the Swanton Courier in 1941 and 1942. These articles mentioned some of the petitioner's ancestors by name but included no designation of them as Abenaki or even as Indian. The series was written by Walter Scott at age 74 and described Swanton and its inhabitants when he was a child growing up there (Swanton Courier 1941-1942). He mentioned the following individuals from petitioner's genealogy:
54. Bellows Falls is a village in the town of Rockingham in the southeastern portion of the state along the Connecticut River.
Ancestor Named in Article

his (Walter Scott) next door neighbors, Dannie and Mattie Colomb
Date of Article: August 14, 1941

William Morits, a beggar
Date of Article: October 23, 1941

Duck Brow, who worked in the meat market
Date of Article: October 30, 1941

Salina Freemore, aunt of William Greenough, posed as model for a marble statue;
Date of Article: November 13, 1941

Scott did not identify a single one of these individuals as Indian. However, he did describe Louis Button as "part Indian," though there does not appear to be a Button family in the petitioner's genealogical charts (Compare Swanton Courier 1/22/1942 with petitioner's Family Descendancy Charts). The existence of news articles naming petitioner's ancestors, but not identifying them as Indian do not satisfy Criterion (a) (BIA Webster/Dudley Band of Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuc Indians (#69B) 2001:82, Ohlone/Costanoan Muwekma Tribe 2001:2). To the contrary, this evidence confirms these people were not viewed as Indian by the rest of the community.

1948 to 1973

Researchers Failed to Discover Any Contemporary Vermont Abenaki Tribe
As with the previous time periods, there are no external identifications of Abenaki in Vermont during the twenty-five year period from 1948 to 1973. Three anthropological surveys were published during this period and none identifies a tribe of Abenaki Indians in during Vermont.
The first was William Haden Gilbert, Jr.'s "Surviving Indian Groups of the Eastern United States" in the Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution (1948). This report was
prepared for the "purpose of indicating the extent to which Indian blood still remains noticeable in our eastern States population" (Gilbert 1948:407). It was based on an analysis of the 1930 federal census, which could only be favorable to Vermont Indians since that census listed more Indians than any previous one (Gilbert 1948:407; see also Table 1 above).
Gilbert addressed each of the eastern states individually and wrote: "No surviving social groups of Indians are recorded for Vermont, although the census records a few scattered individuals" (Gilbert 1948:409). While Gilbert noted that the census numbers are often understated, he did not reject them wholesale. He used the figures in conjunction with numerous anthropological and historical works cited in his bibliography (Gilbert 1948:436-38). He was aware of unofficial estimates of Indian populations as well (Gilbert 1948:407). Using all these sources, Gilbert still concluded there were no Indian tribes in Vermont.
In assessing evidence under Criterion (a), the BIA has rejected scenarios that depict only scattered individual Indians such as that shown here. The evidence necessary to satisfy Criterion (a) would identify an Indian entity viewed by outside observers as a coherent Indian group (BIA Ohlone/Costanoan Muwekma Tribe 2001:12).
Four years after Gilbert's report the Smithsonian's Bureau of American Ethnology
published John Swanton's The Indian Tribes of North America (1952). This tome was a comprehensive compilation of information on all the known Indian groups in North America. In it Swanton recognized the historic Abenaki group in Vermont, stating that "[a]n Abnaki band known as the Missiassik was at one time settled on Missisquoi River in Franklin County" (Swanton 1952: 18). He said that the main body of Abenakis was located in Maine, with the Mississiak  representing a "late intrusion" into Vermont (Swanton 1952:13). He observed that all of them "finally withdrew to Canada where they were settled at Becancour
and Sillery, and later at St. Francis, along with other refugee tribes from the south" (Swanton 1952:14-15). This description depicted an historic tribe that had long since ceased to exist in Vermont by the 1950's. Such evidence suggests a negative finding on Criterion (a). (BIA Ohlone/Costanoan Muwekma Tribe 2001:5).
In the following decade, another team of anthropologists from the Smithsonian sought to fill in gaps in the knowledge of Indian groups by focusing on the eastern states just as Gladys Tantaquidgeon and William Gilbert had before them. This team was comprised of William Sturtevant and Samuel Stanley. In a 1968 article in the Indian Historian, they described the challenge of tracking down non-urban Indians in the eastern states due to the fact that they never had a special relationship with the federal government like the tribes west of the Mississippi (Sturtevant & Stanley 1968).
Sturtevant and Stanley were well aware of the difficulties they faced in undertaking this study. They pointed out that:

It is much more difficult in these states than elsewhere to define the term "Indian" and to identify Indians....At one extreme are communities which fit all the usual criteria of Indianness: self-identification, distinct cultural characteristics including the survival of an Indian language among at least a "conservative" nucleus of the group, obvious Indian biological ancestry (at least among a significant proportion of the population), existence as a among separate well-bounded rural community, and a tradition of derivation from a historic tribe which is accepted by all observers—by lay members of both Indian and non-Indian communities, and by scholars. At the other extreme are a few groups who are rural social isolates suffering from discrimination by the majority of their neighbors, but not accepted as being Indians by these neighbors and of whom it is not known by scholars whether they themselves claim Indian ancestry, nor whether they exhibit indentifiable [sic] Indian biological characteristics.
Between these extremes are many groups with intermediate characteristics. (Sturtevant & Stanley 1968:15-16).

The authors then proceed to present a table summarizing available data on "Eastern Indian or possibly Indian communities" (Sturtevant & Stanley 1968:17).
The table may very well overstate some claims to Indian identity and understate others. However, their purpose was to identify places and people who might be Indian and encourage field research to assist in the identification that the Indians deserve (Sturtevant & Stanley 1968:17).
Given this attempt at thoroughness and the authors' intent to identify missing groups, it is noteworthy that they write that "Vermont and New Hampshire are in this region but have no known Indian communities" (Sturtevant & Stanley 1968:15). Their failure to locate any Indian groups in Vermont cannot be explained by lack of attention to small groups. Their chart showed a group of 25 Abenakis in New York State (Sturtevant & Stanley 1968:18). If there were really hundreds Abenakis in Franklin County, as the petitioner has claimed, they should have appeared here.
When anthropologists and ethnologists actively seek Indians in Vermont and fail to uncover any tribal entities, the scales tip against fulfillment of Criterion (a). (BIA Webster/Dudley Band of Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuc Indians (#69B) 2001:84, BIA Webster/Dudley Band of MaChris Lower Alabama Creek Indian Tribe 1987:14).
In addition to anthropologists on the national scene looking for Indians, there were local researchers addressing the task. The person who did the most to uncover information about Abenaki history in Vermont during the 1950's was John Huden. Huden held a doctorate from Yale University and was an educator who served as president of Castleton Teachers' College and Professor in Education at the University of Vermont. In the 1950's he conducted research on Indians in Vermont (Vermont Historical Society 11/1959). Huden's article "Indians in Vermont—Present and Past," revealed his knowledge of the presence of Indians in the Vermont of his day. He wrote:
Very few Indians make their homes in Vermont today, Anno Domini 1955. Down Charlotte way, at Thompson's Point, some twenty-odd Abnakis lived up to about 1939; now only William and Marion Obum-swam, an aging brother-sister team, linger there in the little cottage their father built when he migrated from Canada back in Teddy Tedd Roosevelt's administration....They are migrated probably the last Indian-speaking Indians in the Champlain valley.
A hasty survey of Lake Champlain and Connecticut River townships has revealed no Indian residents other than the Charlotte basketweavers. (Haden 1955).

Huden frequently asked people at public meetings and social gatherings, "How many here have any Indian blood?" From these "spot checks and other evidence obtained in follow-up interviews" he learned of people in Vermont with "strains of Abnaki [sic], Montauk, Mohegan, Pequot, Wampanoag, Penacook, Narragansett or other tribal sanguinary fluid" (Haden 1955:25). However, he did not discover any active Indian communities through these conversations. While he wrote about individuals with varying amounts of Indian ancestry and knowledge of their background; he observed no tribal entities. This undercuts any positive finding on Criterion (a). (BIA Ohloiie/Costanoan Muweknia Tribe 2001:12).
Huden's interest in Indians and his role as a board member of the Vermont Historical Society led to Stephen Laurent's address to the Society in 1955. Stephen Laurent was introduced as the "hereditary chief of the Abenakis" of Odanak/St. Francis, as he was the son of Chief Joseph Laurent (Laurent 1955). Laurent was born in 1909 at Odanak, and came to live year-round in northern New Hampshire in 1940 (Boston Globe 6/2/2001). In Laurent's Vermont address, he made no mention of any Indian communities existing at that time.
Huden's further studies of Abenaki place names and history led him to conclude that "our Indians fled to Canada," from Vermont around 1760 (Huden 1956a:23-24). He

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