-moz-user-select:none; -webkit-user-select:none; -khtml-user-select:none; -ms-user-select:none; user-select:none;

Thursday, December 9, 2010

State of VT's Response to Petition for Federal Acknowledgment of the St. Francis/Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Vermont: Pages 101 to 110:

mentioned that a few "trickled back," but was aware of no concentration of Indians in the state after that. He continued to search for information, putting out requests such as this one at the end of his article:

If you have any information of any kind, traditional, legendary, or whatever it may be, which might assist us and Dr. Huden in unraveling the confusion and lack of knowledge about the Indian story in Vermont, Dr. Haden will welcome it at this address...(Huden 1956a:25).

There was no indication in his later publications that he uncovered any tribe of Abenakis existing in Vermont in the 1950's. The two-part article that followed on Joseph Gill, "The White Chief of the St. Francis Abnakis—Some Aspects of Border Warfare, 1690-1790" contained acknowledgments of scholars, Abenaki speakers, and resources in Canada—not Vermont (Huden 1956c, 1956d:347). Huden's summary of his Abenaki research efforts, written in 1957, recounted many discoveries of material and sources, but again contained no mention of any contemporary Abenakis in Vermont—save the Obomsawins (Huden 1957). His list of "Indian Groups in Vermont," published in 1958, mentioned none after 1790 (Huden 1958).
John Huden"s writings on Abenakis were noticed by Gordon Day, the man who would later become the foremost authority on the Western Abenakis. It was newspaper stories about Huden's research and the address of Stephen Laurent to the Vermont Historical Society that led Day to meet William and Marian Obomsawins and Stephen Laurent in 1955 (Day 1948-1973). These people, and their relatives at Odanak/St. Francis, provided Day with material for study for the next three decades. The details of Day's journey to find Abenaki Indians are described in the meticulous journal that he kept from 1948 to 1973. This manuscript records dozens of visits to the homes of Abenakis in Quebec, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and Vermont. It tells who accompanied him, how many hours of audio
tape he recorded, and whom the informants suggested he contact next. In all the pages of the journal, there is not a single reference to any Abenakis around Swanton. He never identified the presence of a contemporary Abenaki tribe in Vermont in the quarter century he kept that journal. In fact, the only Abenakis in Vermont whom Day notes are William and Marian Obomsawin in Charlotte and their sister Elvine Royce in Montpelier (Day 1948-1973:9).

The fact that Day was unaware of any tribe of Abenaki in the state is solid evidence that there was none. If anyone was going to find Abenaki Indians in the 1950's and 1960's in Vermont, it would be Gordon Day. He was born and raised in Vermont, lived nearby in New Hampshire, and had dedicated himself "to saving Abenaki culture from oblivion."

(Foster & Cowan 1998:3, see Foster & Cowan's "Introduction" for a lengthy biographical essay about Gordon Day). Day seemed to strike up conversations with anyone who knew anything about Abenaki Indians, as this entry illustrates:

Nov. 6 [1961]
Left Contoocook by car and got stranded in N. Woodstock, N.H., all day and overnight with starter trouble. The garage man's son, Joe Huot, remembers Robert Nolet 55. who was killed by a car in the '40's here and knew his son Bob, who returned to work at Indian Head a summer or two ago. Also a daughter, Bernadette. (Day 1948-1973:65).

In light of this, it is most remarkable that we find the following entries:

July 7 [1960]
Drove thru "The Islands". 56. Could not identify just where Simon's Sandbar village was. Figured Missisquoi village was at falls at Swanton. Did not investigate Maquam for cranberry.

July 8 [1961 ]
Drove to Swanton, Vt. for week's vacation.

July 10
We visited the site of the monument established on the old village site in 1909 and to Highgate Springs.
55. Robert Nolet was a member of the Nolet family from Odanak (Day 1948-1973:17-20).
56. This refers to Lake Champlain Islands, which comprise Grand Isle County.

July 14
Viewed village site from other side of river, just opposite Wildlife Service building.

July 22
Visited Alburg Springs. (Day 1948-1973:36, 61).

In these entries there is not a whisper of evidence of present-day Indians in Franklin or Grand Isle counties (Day 1948-1973:58 mentioning stops at Alburgh, St. Jean, and Caughnawagha).

A review of Day's publications during these years also discloses no discovery of any Abenaki Indian group in Vermont during those years. In his 1965 article, "The Indian of Vermont," he disputed the assertion, made by some writers, that there was no Indian occupation of Vermont (Day 1965). He prompted the Vermont readers of his article to share his questioning of those writers by drawing on their local knowledge:

If these writers were correct, there would be little for us to say here, but I suspect that their statements do not sound quite right to you readers of Vermont history. For one thing, you are aware of archaeological remains testifying to early Indian occupation, and for another, you know that the historical record is quite clear about the presence of Indians at Missisquoi, on the upper Connecticut River, and at Lake Memphremagog just before the Revolution. (Day 1965:366).

Notably, he did not cite the existence of any contemporary Abenaki group in Vermont descended from the historic tribe as evidence. Had he known of such a group, it would have been well to include it in this essay.

Two facts from Day's experience speaks volumes about the non-existence of any Indian entity in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties from 1948 to 1973. The first is that Day spent years visiting, and conversing with Abenakis in Odanak and at Thompson's Point but was never told about a community of Abenakis in northwestern Vermont. The second is that he traveled to Swanton and Alburg, to locate the historic village and did not discover any contemporary Abenakis. These absences are even more powerful than the inability of
student researchers to find the MaChris (BIA MaChris Lower Alabama Creek Indian Tribe 1987:14). Given the number of years Day devoted to his study and his frequent presence in Vermont, it is even more telling than Frank Speck's lack of awareness of the Webster/Dudley Nipmucs (BIA Webster/ Dudley Band of Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuc Indians (#69B) 2001:84). In both the MaChris and Nipmuc cases the failure of these curious and diligent ethnographers to discover the tribe belied their very existence.
Day's next article about the Abenakis gives further insight into his understanding of the present-day location of the Missisquoi. His research led him to the following conclusion:

Saint Francis has been regarded as a melting pot, but the significant fact about it is that, despite its speckled history, it is now essentially composed of descendents of families from Lake Champlain. The Missisquoi band was the last sizeable band to settle at Saint Francis, and it came into a village considerably attenuated by wars and epidemics. As a result, about 85% of the family names in the band over the last 150 years had their origins in the Lake Champlain region. (Day 1971:1 19).

Two years later, in 1973, Day gave an address to the Northeast Anthropological Association meeting in Burlington, Vermont. He chose as his topic the "abandoned Abenaki Indian village of Missisquoi, partly out of deference to our Vermont hosts" (Day 1973). He did not describe Missisquoi as a place currently inhabited by Abenaki Indians. He traced its history, noting "the departure of the bulk of the village about 1775" (Day 1973:55).
However, he explained that the ethnographer of the 1970's could still learn about Missisquoi culture from the descendants of those eighteenth-century villagers. The key is to go to Odanak/St. Francis, he said. It is "through the memory and traditions of a large element of the [Odanak/]St. Francis band, we have knowledge of Missisquoi ethnography in detail" (Day 1973:56). It is at St. Francis in Quebec that "one can still hear the language which was spoken at Missisquoi. One can hear trickster and transformer stories, whose
setting is the Champlain Valley" (Day 1973:56). Day did not suggest that ethnographers consult any Abenaki group in northwestern Vermont; none of his research had ever indicated the existence of such a group. 57.
The BIA decision in the Southeastern Cherokee Confederacy case is instructive here. Federal acknowledgment was denied in that case in part due to the fact that the petitioner, the Southeastern Cherokee Confederacy of Georgia, was not the "historical and legal successor to the Cherokee Nation," as claimed; rather, the actual successor existed continuously in Oklahoma and North Carolina separate and apart from petitioner (BIA Southeastern Cherokee Confederacy 1985a:4). This bears on the question of continuity in identification of the tribe by external observers. The identification of an Indian entity is not continuous if the petitioners represent a new group that emerged late on the scene, when another group has a clear line of connection to the historic tribe.
Such may very well be the case with the Sokoki/St. Francis Abenaki petitioner here. Gordon Day and others have stated that the historic Missisquoi were absorbed into the Abenaki melting pot at Odanak/St. Francis (Day 1971:119; Calloway 1986:221).
Moreover, Day proved that the culture and language of Odanak/St. Francis is traceable back to these Lake Champlain immigrants (Day, 1973:55-56; 198 1a:231). His thorough research, probing and expansive than anyone else's on the Western Abenakis, concluded that at Odanak/St. Francis in the mid-twentieth century were the current successors of the Missisquois. Such statements, backed as they are by Day's two decades of ethnographic research, leave no room for a claim of historic continuity by the petitioners who only appeared to outsiders as an entity in the mid-1970's.
57. Day continued his research and writing into the 1980's. Those writings are discussed below.
A few other scholars also wrote about Indians in Vermont during the 1960's. One
was Thomas Daniels. Born and raised in Vermont, part Chippewa and Sioux, this Fish and Game Warden was a repository of a wealth of knowledge about prehistoric culture in Vermont (Daniels 1963:7-9, 59-61). In his treatise, he described what he learned from over forty years of excavating more than seventy-five Indian archaeological sites in Vermont. He did not once mention any interactions with Abenaki individuals or groups in Vermont. Yet, it appears he would have welcomed an opportunity to learn from such people, had they existed. He wrote of visiting the Penobscot Indians at Old Town and Perry, Maine, to learn from them how some of the tools he found were used (Daniels 1963:10). Writing specifically about the Missisquoi River valley, he affirmed that "the last Indians who lived here were the Abnakis, St. Francis and Micmacs" (Daniels 1963:14). He was not acquainted with any who lived there at the time of his explorations or writing.
Expressing his debt to both Daniels and Huden, Elbridge Colby documented his own research on Indian place names (Colby ca. 1964). Colby had been a Captain in the U.S. Army Professor of Journalism at the University of Vermont from 1933 to 1938, and later was head of the Journalism Department at George Washington University. 58. (Colby 2001, Vermont Historical Society 1968). Even while living in Washington, D.C., he spent his summers at Thompson's Point, in Charlotte, Vermont (Vermont Historical Society 1968).
58. Colby's sensitivity to discrimination of minority groups is demonstrated by the following incident. In 1925 he distinguished himself, and damaged his military  career, by denouncing the acquittal of the murderer of a black soldier who was shot upon refusing to step off a sidewalk to let a white man pass (Colby 2001).
Colby's 1960's manuscript 59. supplied the meaning of Indian place names that one call find on "a modern road map ...easily at hand at any gasoline filling station" (Colby ca. 1964:3). As he guided the reader on a tour of the state, he did not point out a single Indian group then living in Vermont, although he mentioned one individual Indian who "only although lived" in southern Vermont, almost on the Massachusetts line (Colby ca. 1964:29). In the section on the Missisquoi River he wrote:

At its mouth, through most of the 1700s, there stood a very important Indian through called "Missisiasuk" now disappeared. There the "people of the great grassy meadows" lived, but both the town and the people are gone. (Colby ca. 1964:19).

Yet again, we have a Vermont researcher with a great interest in Indian Culture expressing no knowledge of any Abenaki group in northwestern Vermont, or anywhere in Vermont, in the 1960's.
Furthermore, Colby's survey reminds us how important it is to confirm the tribal identity of Indians who one does encounter in the state. As the variety of Indian place names reveals, Vermont has historically been traveled and lived in by Indians from many places and tribes. He summarized the information found by Huden in his analysis of place names on historic maps, including names no longer in use in the 1960s. While there were over 100 place names from the Abenaki language, there were also 43 Mohawk, 14 Mahican, and 15 Natick place names (Colby ca. 1964:30).
Two Canadian authors wrote about the Abenakis during the 1960's. One was W.E. Greening who wrote an article about Odanak/St. Francis for the Canadian Geographical Journal. This journal is a publication of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society; it falls
59. Although the manuscript is undated, the author refers to Daniels' Vermont Indians (1963) and Huden's Indian Place Names in New England (1962) as "a pair of books, recently printed in this decade" (Colby ca. 1964:2).
somewhere between popular press and erudite scholarship. In his article, Greening recounted the history of the Abenaki nation of Canada, covering both its New England and Canadian phases. As he brought his story to the present, he remarked that "[t]he only other Abenaki settlements in North America today are one near, Old Town, Maine, and one at Becancour, [Quebec]" (Greening 1966). He mentioned no Abenaki group in Vermont.

The second Canadian author writing in the 1960's was a true scholar who contributed greatly to the understanding of Abenaki history and culture. This was Father Thomas M. Charland. His volume Histoire des Abenakis d'Odanak was published in 1964. One of his goals was to expand on the Histoire des Abenakis written a hundred years earlier by fellow French Canadian, the priest Joseph-Anselme Maurault (Charland 1964:7). Charland was well-aware of the connection between Odanak/St. Francois and Missisquoi. One of the things he wanted to include in his work, which Maurault had left out, was the eighteenth history of the "exodus of the Abenakis to the Missisquoi River where their establishment lasted more than 30 years" (Charland 1964:7 translated from the French). Among Charland's sources were conversations with Abenakis living at Odanak from the 1940's to 1960's. (Charland 1964:8). He told the history of the Abenakis up to the 1950's (Charland 1964:338, 340). Thought he commented on the dispersal of Abenakis from Odanak to other parts of Canada and the United States, he never mentioned the existence of any Abenaki tribal community in Vermont in the twentieth century (Charland 1964:341).

Other Material Attests to Absence of Abenaki Tribe From Vermont
There are two other sources that may be consulted during the 1948 to 1973 time period for views of Indians. The first are the three federal censuses. Like those that
preceded it, the 1950 census showed very few Indians in the state—only 30 (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1952:14, Table 14; 41, Table 47). The 1960 census showed a significant increase—but not in the Missisquoi region. The total Indian population that year was identified as 57. However, only 1 individual was identified in Franklin County, and none was found in Grand Isle County. The larger Indian populations were in the two southeastern Counties of Windham and Windsor with 15 and 17 each (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1961:13, Table 15; 38, Table 28).
In 1970, the census showed a major increase in the Indian population. The statewide total jumped from 57 to 229 in one decade (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1973:54, Table 34; 61, Table 38). These figures may reflect a new consciousness of Vermonters' Indian ancestors. It is striking, however, that the large increase in reporting did not reveal a concentration of Indians in Franklin or Grand Isle Counties. Once again, it was the southern counties joined by those in the central region of the state, which showed the sudden increase. Only 9 Indians were identified in Franklin County, and only 1 in Grand Isle (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1973:Table 34). This seems to belie the contention that there was a thriving ID Abenaki tribe living in Swanton throughout the twentieth century (See Table 1 above).
The other source of information on Abenakis in Vermont in the 1960's is a short
essay written by Mrs. Ellsworth Royce in 1969 entitled "The Last of the Abenakis in Vermont" (Royce 1969). Mrs. Royce was a white woman who married the son of Elvine Obomsawin Royce. Her husband's aunt and uncle were William and Marion Obomsawin of Thompson's Point, Charlotte, Vermont, who were Gordon Day and John Huden's friends and informants in their research (Royce 1969:1, Day 1948-1973:1-2, 1981a:231; Huden 1955:25). Her husband's grandfather was Simon Obomsawin, who moved to Vermont in the
first decade of the twentieth century (Haden 1955:25). Although she was not totally an outsider observer of the Abenakis, she did not appear to have adopted any Indian ways herself.
The significance of her essay is its description, or lack thereof, of the Indian significance community of which the Obomsawins were a part. The other Indians who were mentioned in the essay lived at Trois Rivieres, Quebec; Intervals, New Hampshire; and Albany, New York (Royce 1969:1). The latter seemed to visit frequently, as illustrated by this passage:

When I visited Thompson's Point with my husband and children there were always many Indians from Albany, New York[,] whose wives and children stayed there through the week and their husbands came weekends. (Royce 1969:2).

There was not a single mention of Abenakis farther north on Lake Champlain, in Franklin County, or even anywhere else in Vermont. In the 1960's it appeared that the Obomsawin family was an isolated family, not associated with any larger tribe of Abenaki in the state. Their only connections to other Indian families were outside the state, thus suggesting, there was no Abenaki tribe in Vermont with which they could associate. Similar evidence worked against satisfaction of Criterion (a) in the Dudley/Webster Nipmuc case (BIA Dudley/Webster Band of Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuc Indians (#69B) 2001:83). It weighs against Criterion (a) here as well.

1974 to 1981

External Observations
During the mid-1970's a group of individuals came together and created the Abenaki Tribal Council and the Abenaki Self-Help Association, Inc. As the petitioner itself admits, this was an attempt to "re-create" the community of Indians that had lived in Franklin County

Search This Blog