VCNAA Meeting Minutes
December 21, 2010
Luke Willard, Chairman
Melody Walker Brook, Vice Chair
Fred W. Wiseman
Giovanna Peebles, SHPO
Chief Donald Stevens
Chief Nancy Millette-Doucet
Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan
Professor Fred Wiseman
This meeting was brought to order by chairman Luke Willard at 12:24 pm in the Ellsworth Room, Johnson State College, Johnson, Vermont.
1. Approve minutes of November 30, 2010.
Fred Wiseman made a motion to accept the minutes. Shirly Hook seconded. All approved.
2. Scholar's Panel Update
Due to work restrictions, David Lacy, having completed his review of two applications must be removed from the active scholar's list.
3. Teacher's Resource Manual Presentation of Completed Manual
Chairman Willard introduced "Abenakis and Their Neighbors" Teachers and Interpreters Resource Guide by Professor Fred Wiseman and Melody Brook. At November's meeting in Newport, Luke challenged the commission to produce a Vermont Native American resource guide for educators after visiting schools and meeting with teachers who expressed a desire for such a guide. Professor Wiseman spoke on the manual. This detailed guide is now acailable on the VCNAA website. [ http://vcnaa.vermont.gov/commission ] Professor Wiseman also introduced a fourth grade lesson plan and is currently working on middle and high school curriculum that meet the Vermont standards. They are also working on a virtual Wabanaki museum. Nancy Millette-Doucet reminded the commission of the Koasek curriculum booklet as a useful tool to teachers in the region. Luke agreed it would be good to have a general curriculum but regional curricula could be beneficial and made a note to come back to this discussion at an upcoming commission meeting. Don Stevens noted that the Department of Education had promised to distribute any materials to teachers.
4. Overview of Rules for Hearings
Luke distributed a copy of the rules for the hearings and allowed everyone time to read through them before the hearings began. He also read them out loud. He mentioned the hearings are
bound by the statute and will be kept within the outlined framework. All formalities will be upheld.
Roger Sheehan asked for clarification on the format. Luke clarified that the applicant's spokesperson may give an opening statement follow by public testimony and rebuttal time if requested.
Professor Wiseman explained the possible confusion around governance in the twentieth century. A band is composed of closely related families and ascribed status determines membership. The leadership and governance fall with alpha male/female and grandparents as elder advisors.
The following is in reference to Dr. Weisman's statement addressing Elnu as a band and using Wikpedia as his source. In particular, Dr. O'Neil at the University of Palomar College, San Marcos, California has described a band as being acephalous. If this is so then how can any of these "Abenakis" corporations be bands seeing that they are all governed by a dominate small group of individual "chiefs" or "sagamos".
Secondly, it only took me less than two minutes to find credible academic resources on the internet that defined the term of "band: without having to settle for Wikpedia. "band - a small group of related people, who are primarily organized through family bonds. Foraging typifies the subsistence technology. A respected and older person may be looked to for leadership, but the person has no formalized authority."
Department of Anthropology
Oregon State University
"Definitions of Anthropological Terms"
Band; the level of political integration in which a society consists only of an association of families living together. Bands are loosely allied by marriage, descent, friendship, and common interest. The primary integrating mechanism is kinship ties. There is no economic class differentiation. All adults of the same gender are more or less equal as far as community decision making is concerned. However, some individuals in a band may stand out for their skills and knowledge. These often are the people who have the best memories, are the best hunters, most successful curers, most gifted speakers, etc. Such people become informal leaders. Most often they are given authority by community consensus arrived at through casual discussion without the need for a formal vote. Leaders generally have temporary political power at best, and they do not have any significant authority relative to other adults within their band. Subsequently, bands are essentially acephalous societies. The total number of people within these societies rarely exceeds a few dozen. Bands are found among foraging societies.
Acephalous societies; a society in which political power is diffused to the degree that there are no institutionalized political leadership roles such as chiefs and kings. Bands and tribes are acephalous. Most foragers and simple horticulturalists have highly egalitarian, acephalous societies.
The word "acephalous" is Greek for "without a head."
Source: Dr. Dennis O'Neil
Behavioral Sciences Department
San Marcos, California
Dept. of Anthropology
University of Alabama
Band, a small, loosely organized group of hunter-gatherer families, occupying a specifiable territory and tending toward self-sufficiency.
Source: Harris M (1997) Culture, People, Nature: An Introduction to General Anthropology, seventh edition. New York: Allyn and Bacon.
Governance is legitimate when band members recognize the alpha male/female and grandparents as people in charge. Frank Speck used the band level to reconstruct Penobscot society. Large-scale socio-cutlural integration is not necessary to be legitimate.
Roger "Longtoe" Anthony Sheehan explained the determination in a Canadian court case similar to the Vermont situation amongst the Montagnais and Cree. They were a hunter/gatherer society and were never integrated into large groups but the courts agreed they were a tribe. If Vermont bands were not spread out throughout the state with members in others and they had a reservation, family names would be on the registers, just like in Canada. In Vermont, most Indians received the determination "white" on their birth certificates because they were not assigned to reservations.
1:30 - Public Hearing: Koasek of the Koas Application
Chief Nancy Millette - Doucet thanked everyone, gave a brief introduction, and recognized the process as horrifying but good has come out of it. Luke opened the door to public testimony.
Professor Fred Wiseman read Dave Skinas' report on the Koasek application and confirmed that it met requirements. He also included sources not found in the application. He also discussed the importance of the breakthroughs in academic material within this petition, especially regarding fish-fertilized mounds (sucker fish) backed up by Father Rasles' dictionary.
Nancy Millette Doucet spoke on her current trip to the Bradford Middle School and many of the children that identified a native heritage also used fish in their gardens. Giovanna Peebles spoke about possible collaborations with indigenous people of Vermont and historic preservation in regard to sustainability. They can play a role in climate change. Good gardners might use that type of sustainability. Luke Willard mentioned the native voice will be heard in this regard.
Nancy asked what was the response from the commission. Luke explained that the application is still being reviewed by a work group of commissioners and a decision will be made after the scholar's panel has issued their findings.
Nancy wanted to articulate that the connection with Elnu as explained in the report from Dave Skinas was not necessarily recent in the strict sense but began in the early 1990's with Rose Hartwell and family/friends that worked on village demonstrations.
Melody Walker-Brook asked if Nancy Millette-Doucet could expand on what the band has done in terms of language revitalization. Nancy explained their efforts regarding Father Aubery/Laurent dictionary and the connection with Dartmouth College to put out a 50 CD set for use by Abenaki bands. Anyone from the larger community can purchase them through Dartmouth. She received a grant for these and created a website for tribal members to access lessons. The website was expensive to maintain. Giovanna Peebles asked why the website cost so much to maintain. Nancy Doucet explained it was the amount of space used and the complexity of the site. Giovanna was surprised that Dartmouth didn't help financially with the language efforts. Professor Wiseman explained the history of the tapes. Nancy described the language summit at Missisquoi attended by people from Odanak, Elnu, and Koasek. She has recorded stories from the elders in her community for posterity.
One can see ONLY Elie Joubert, adopted son of Cecile Wawanolet and his female driver in this video. Was Elie Joubert and his "driver" coming to Swanton, Franklin County, Vermont FROM New York State, instead of FROM Odanak, Quebec, Canada? If the latter is the possible reality of the situation, then was truthfully Abenakis from and of Odanak, Quebec, Canada actually truthfully INVOLVED, in this endeavor? It would appear that Abenakis at Odanak, Quebec, Canada were NOT involved whatsoever, according to this Youtube.com video. One can see that the parties involved were Elie Joubert, April Merrill, Sherry Gould and her husband Wiliam (Bill) Gould, Roger "Longtoe" Sheehan, Nancy Millette-Doucet and Frederick Matthew Wiseman Ph.D among others.
Donald Warren Stevens Jr. stated that recognition will bring some measure of legitimacy that will allow bands to talk to companies and other resources to begin a process of revitalizing the language.
Nancy Millette-Doucet thanked the commission for our time.
Luke Andrew Willard concluded the hearing at 2:30 pm.
2:45 - Public Hearing: Elnu Application
Luke opened the hearing. Melody (nee: Walker) Brook excused herself from her duties and Shirly Hook assumed the recording of minutes. Chief Roger Sheehan began with an opening statement and welcomed questions.
Roger Sheehan spoke about the Woodland Confederacy. He spoke about the difference between reeactment and living the history of his people. He stated that by living the history, it helps to revitalize customs and traditions.
Professor Wiseman read a statement from Eloise Beil on the Elnu application. She will send a complete response as soon as possible. Her comments were positive. Professor Wiseman read the review of scholar, David Lacy, who finds that Elnu have met the criteria set out by S.222, although the application was sometimes difficult to navigate. Professor Wiseman commented on his own review of Elnu's application and testified that Elnu has met all the criteria of S.222 ... that Professor Frederick Matthew Wiseman Ph.D himself, helped create, manipulate and alter with the help of Hinda Miller/ Vincent Illuzzi to help his conconcoted and confabulating " Vermont Indigenous Alliance" (which was founded in 2008 comprised of these 4 "Abenaki" Corporate's) that the "Professor" himself is coordinator of! How biased and non-transparent of him.
David Vanslette asked Roger what Elnu's goals for the future are. Roger answered that it is all about the revitalization of traditions and culture. The sharing of music, arts/crafts, and language take a front seat to corporate existence.
Roger thanked all present for the opportunity to speak and answer questions about his people.
Luke concluded the hearing at 3:45 pm.
4:00 - Public Hearing: Nulhegan Application
Vice Chair, Melody Brook assumed the duties of facilitator as Luke Willard excused himself from his duties for the duration of the hearing. Melody resumed the recording of minutes.
WHY is it, that one gets the impression that there is a "dance" going on, stepping in - stepping out, but that these people are orchestrating events and their "responses" via mutual back-and-forth commnication's via telephone, email, and other "hidden" chatter, making sure that their statements and actions inside and out of these VCNAA meetings, are in step with each other's groups? Remember, these people are members of and associated (affiliated) with each other as of 2008 in their "Vermont Indigenous Alliance" founded in 2008. These people have spent a vast amount of time and effort to IMPLY that their groups are legitimate, with their cherry-picked allegedly independent 3-Member-Review Panel scholar's.
I have a very difficult time thinking the Recognition Process has not become corrupt, biased, and an obvious contradication unto itself at this point, in my thinking. It would appear that these "Abenaki" corporate's are merely granting themselves their own State Legislative Recognition, through this VCNAA which is comprised of self-serving members of these "Abenaki" Corporate entities from beginning to end!
Chief Don Stevens thanked everyone. He mentioned that they were there fighting for recogntion so that their kids might simply be allowed to enjoy their heritage without having to fight for the same thing in the future. He added that Natives are the only people in the world who are required to prove their 'pedigree' and provide 'papers' for someone else to validate them.
Luke spoke of how painful it has been over the years watching elders, who have hoped and fought for recognition for so many years, pass away without the honor of being recognized for who they are.
Don mentioned that through this process all sorts of important information has come out - new ideas and new validation of their distinctive identity. "This isn't about money. We take care of our own. We always have and we always will."
Professor Fred Wiseman read the scholar's responses from Dave Lacy, Dave Skinas, and Kevin Dann. Each scholar agreed that Nulhegan's application and genealogical material met all criteria of S.222. Don reiterated that the tribe has now been validated by all three scholars and has complied fully with S.222. Anything short of recognition would be an affront to the scholars and the commission.
Shirly Hook inquired when a recommendation would need to be presented for the upcoming legislative session. Don thanked the commission for it's time and urged the commission to move forward with Nulhegan's application since they have complied with the process.
Melody concluded the hearing at 5:00 pm.
An early January meeting was discussed and it was decided to meet on January 4th, at 5:00 pm in Montpelier.
The commission adjourned at 5:15 pm.
Respectfully submitted by,
Melody Walker Brook, Vice Chairman
We would like to thank the U.S. Department of Agriculture for generously providing financial assistance for the development of this website under a Rural Business Enterprise grant. We also thank the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, Inc. and the Women's Small Business Program, our grant partners.
We want to acknowledge in particular the work of Scott Gorman who, in addition to assisting with site design, took on the emmense task of programming this website. Scott is currently an anthropology major at Yale University and a member of Vermont's Abenaki community ("St. Francis/Sokoki" group via the Hakey lineage).
We want to thank Don Stevens who continues to maintain the website. Don is current on the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs and a member of this tribe.
A special thanks goes out to MAX-IT who donates space for our website which allows our connectivity to the world wide web.
To access MAX-IT's website, click on http://www.maxit.biz/
Special thanks to Joe Bruchac, Fred Wiseman, John and Donna Moody, Chief April St. Francis-Merrill, Paul Greeno, Jeff Benay and Jesse Larocque for helping assemble ideas and content materials for the site.
Special special thanks to Amy Yavitz who volunteered to help with typing and editing of site contents.
This website was funded through a Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Doesn't David Skinas, employed by the Dept. of Agriculture, sit on the Abenaki Self Help Association, Inc. Board of Directors? What was his "influence" (if any) in gaining these grants for April Merrill's group?
Clearly and obviously, Mr. "Chief" Donald Warren Stevens Jr. WAS (and probably still is) a member of the "St. Francis/Sokoki" group led by April St. Francis-Merrill. He supports April Merrill, advocated for her. I think he also allegedly manipulated and sabotaged the previous appointed VCNAA commission on Native American Affairs when he sat with Jeanne Brink, Timothy de la Bruere, Brad Barrett and Judy Dow ... as did Chairperson's Mark William Mitchell, and Charles Lawrence "Megeso" Delaney Jr. who were all affiliated with the Homer St. Francis "St. Francis-Sokoki" group now led by Homer's daughter April Merrill.
Donald Stevens - Webmaster
Donald is currently the Director of Information Techonology for a Firearms Company and a member of Vermont's Abenak community.
He can be reached for questions or comments at:
This website was funded through a Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
[Since, on February 11, 2011 Vince Illuzzi and Timothy Ashe would NOT allow outside-of-Vermont person(s) to "testify" or speak officially at the Committee Hearing in Room 27 of the Legislature, including those who attended the Committee Hearing, such as Denise Watso, Jacques Watso, and several other representatives from and of the historical and contemporary Abenaki Community of Odanak situated in the Province of Quebec, Canada ... I will (again) submit this February 04, 2010 newspaper Editorial that was published yet again as my "testimony" in writing to the Senate Committee. Retrospectively-speaking, Vincent Illuzzi inviting (and then uninviting) Richard "Skip" Bernier and other Abenaki People to speak at the Hearing, is just plain disgusting and insulting to them and others, in my thinking. Especially when they were invited and at the night before, Richard "Skip" Bernier was told by Illuzzi's representative "that ONLY Skip Bernier, would be allowed to testify at the following morning's Hearing in Room 27.
The Watso's and other Abenaki families, etc COME FROM VERMONT and retain their Abenaki genealogical, historical, and social connections! Their Abenaki ancestors were buried in this land, and their descendants still are here in Vermont (for example, the late Molly Keating and her living daughter Lynn Murphy to name just a few).
I was not allowed to speak to the Committee Hearing either, as a human being, regarding the violation(s) of S.222 being perpetuated and ignored by the state, by this concocted Vermont Commission on Native American affairs, etc. In the S.222 "Abenaki" Recognition Bill it reads, "No member of the 3-Member-Review Panel may be AFFILIATED WITH the Applicant(s)." Contrary to this portion of S.222 created by Hinda Miller and her other political associate Mr. Vince Illuzzi and which was signed by the former Governor of Vermont, Jim Douglas, these scholar's were not "independent" as Don Stevens proclaims. Far from it, these scholars have had a vested interested in protecting their long "working relationships and scholarly works retrospectively-speaking" with these "Abenaki" Corporate's which comprise this confabulating "VT Abenaki Indigenous Alliance" which is made up of Koasek, El-NU, St. Francis/Sokoki, and Nulhegan "Abenaki" Corporate entities and their memberships whom associate with each other. So much for fairness, transparency, and so on in this whole "Recognition Process"]
Qualified to be called Abenaki
To the Editor:
To: Senate Economic Development Committee clerk, Tim Ashe (email@example.com),
I do not suspect you will listen to any of these words I may share with you and your committee, but I will attempt to convey this information so that hopefully all persons will understand what I am saying.
I have been associated with these "groups" of persons claiming to be Abenaki. I have been interacting with these "groups" for almost 20 years. I have conducted extensive field research, genealogical research, and interviews with numerous persons throughout Vermont and New England within and around these "groups." I have yet to find, secure and verify any evidence whatsoever that these "groups" are legitimately descendants from the Abenaki people, nor that their ancestry comes from (in whole or in part) the Abenakis. So, just who are these "groups" knocking on your legislative door? Genealogically- speaking they are people who ancestrally have Huron, Mic-Mac, Acadian and or Algonquin Native Ancestors from the early to mid-1700's time frame or earlier. They do not descend from any historical Abenaki communities that existed within (or surrounding) the state of Vermont, regardless of what they proclaim, and protest. Genealogically, this conclusion is quite blatantly clear and convincing.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs, as a Federal Agency, took what little documentary evidence that was given to them by the Swanton, Vt. "group" led by April St. Francis-Merrill who claims she is a descendant of Grey Lock, and the B.I.A. concluded based on that scant documentary evidence, that this group up in Swanton were not Abenakis, nor from a Historical Abenaki Community/Tribe, let alone had anyone within that alleged and re-invented "group" verified and or even tried to legitimately validate documentarily that their ancestors were Abenaki. Genealogically- speaking, it is definitively proved that April St. Francis-Merrill' s ancestors do not descend from Grey Lock, who was not Abenaki, but rather a refugee from the southern area. Chief Gray Lock was born about 1660 in a Waronoke Village, which is now the town of Westfield, Mass. The Waronokes were a part of the Pocomtuck Confederacy of Central Massachusetts.
The Legislature is about to make the biggest mistake if it "officially recognizes any specific groups" or persons within the state of Vermont as being Abenaki, without the appropriate unmanipulated and unbiased Commission on Native American Affairs, first having sought out the specific clear and convincing evidence that the "group" or persons in question, are of Abenaki descent. Each chairman of this VCNAA has been "from" or retrospectively connected to the St. Francis/Sokoki group led by April
St. Francis-Merrill. All three chairmen have had a demonstrated bias of using the commission to gain instant direct and without condition(s) Vermont "State Recognition" for April Merrill's "group." I also mention the "other" incorporated "groups" led by Nancy Milletee-Doucet, Luke Willard, Ralph Swett, Paul Pouliot, Roger Longtoe Sheheen, and Brian Chenevert, etc.
Mark Mitchell, Donald Stevens and now Charles Lawrence Delaney Jr. are obviously biased in that they have advocated and continue to advocate, for allowing the so-called "Historical Tribes" (which are merely Vermont-sanctioned "incorporation's" created since 1976) to gain official state recognition by name. Where were these so-called alleged and re-invented "Abenakis" BEFORE the 1970s?Perhaps Sen. Vincent Illuzzi in his Clan of the Hawk western headdress could care less. As the chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee, he is dealing with these alleged and re-invented "Abenakis" who have no genealogical connection to the Abenaki Ancestors. These "groups" will lay claim and protest that they represent those very ancestors, as they grovel, crawl, and slither up the Legislative steps of both Vermont and New Hampshire with their lies, deceptions, and deceitfulness. The fact is that if one studies and evaluates these "groups" foundations, their "members" genealogical foundations, the lies and deceit becomes very apparent and obvious.
Legitimately documented Abenakis do care very much about their "identity." I suspect quite strongly that the Odanak Abenakis, the Wolinak Abenakis (and all surrounding Native Communities such as Old Town, Pleasant Point, Kahnewake, Akwesasne and many other legitimate historical native communities) will find such possible Vermont state recognition of these incorporated and unsubstantiated "Abenaki" groups to be quite insulting and rude, as these groups rewrite Abenaki history.
Is it to be that in Vermont (and in New Hampshire) all one has to do is "incorporate" with the Secretary of State, claim one is a "Tribe", "Band" or group of persons who raise their hands and claim to be Abenakis, and yet do not have to show and provide a shred of clear and convincing genealogical evidence that they are indeed legitimately of Abenaki descent?
My blog, the "Reinvention of the Abenaki" which is online, shows and provides the clear and convincing evidence that these groups are manipulating, lying to and deceiving the state of Vermont (and) New Hampshire trying to grab hold of the purse strings of the state and federal agencies ever more tightly, so that they can be paid to be Abenakis. It's called "identity theft" and "deceit." They want to be paid to spew their concocted re-invented "Abenaki" culture, their concocted "Abenaki" history in their lies, deceitfulness, and deceptions at the expense of the legitimate Abenaki ancestors and descendants. They want to be paid to speak their alleged Abenaki ancestral language. And yet 99.9% percent of these people have no clear and convincing genealogical evidence that their ancestors were Abenakis from and/or of Vermont/ New Hampshire, let alone Native people. I find that odd. Shouldn't the Legislature and the Senate Economic Development Committee be made aware of this reality? Or is it just about the "tourism" and money? The answer is that the state of Vermont, the Legislature, and Senator Illuzzi's committee could care less about learning and becoming aware of the honest truth regarding the Abenaki people. Perhaps the Legislature and the committee are blind, deaf and dumb to readily and without question, open the door to state recognition for these "groups" without so much as requesting and demanding that there be a genealogical foundation to this process of recognition? It comes to mind, that thieves and liars know no shame in what they do or say.
It has burdened my spirit, my heart and my mind for some years now, this "business" of these people, these groups. The Abenaki ancestors are being insulted by what is happening with every one of those people who, with their hands out, begging for those state and federal grants, begging to be specifically and officially "recognized" by the Vermont Legislature. These "groups" and their so-called "chiefs" all think they will come away rich if they gain instant, shake and bake Abenaki recognition from Vermont or New Hampshire.
Do you think for one second that the Native people's of this country will not pay attention to what is happening in Vermont with this mess that has been going and not address this "business," if these groups in Vermont gain recognition without proof? Do you think for one minute that they will not also knock on your legislative door? Perhaps the legitimately documented Abenaki ancestors descendants will rip that "door" from its hinges, to finally address this mockery going on in Vermont and New Hampshire.
I do hope and pray you are listening to what I am sharing with this committee, because if you do not, it may very well cost you all very dearly. I suspect my words herein will very likely fall to the ground, amongst the deaf, ignorant, arrogant and blind.
This process is not about "Lateral Violence" as Mr. Donald Stevens, a Phillips descendant and former VCNAA chairman has stated, in what I am speaking of here, but rather it is about the seeking out the documentary foundation of truth. It will prevail regardless of what happens with these groups of this "business" going on in Montpelier. Again it begins with showing and providing genealogical evidence that connects clearly and convincingly to the ancestral Abenaki people, and it ends there as well. It ought to be a foundation to anyone and any group gaining recognition from Vermont or New Hampshire. It ought to be a process all of these alleged and re-invented groups claiming to be Abenaki goes through, equally-transparently-and honestly. No one ought to gain state recognition instantaneously by the stroke of a pen simply to assuage the generational guilt and because of some contemporary sympathies. Abenaki people were never "hiding in plain sight," nor were Abenakis targeted by the Eugenics' Program of Vermont. Research and truth proves this out.
Now, I have watched as Mark Mitchell came and went, I have watched as Stevens came and went, and now I am seeing that Charles Lawrence Delaney Jr. heads this Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs.
All of these men were and are tied to the group in Swanton. They are biased and circumventing the intent of the VCNAA's purpose, because by having these persons who are from these groups heading the commission it would be like "the fox guarding the hen house." Empowering the commission on Native American Affairs to grant or officially give state recognition to persons or groups as being Abenaki or not Abenaki, etc. would be a huge mistake. Favoritism, bias, manipulation, and deceit would be the game plot of the day. I do want to make it very clear, that Judy Dow, Timothy de la Bruere, Brad Barratt and Jeanne Brink have not been the source of conflict within the commission, but rather it has been each and every chairman who has been unrepresentative of the commission as a whole, and who has attempted to manipulate the commission to be controlled by April Merrill and other groups who demand instant official state recognition.
Douglas Lloyd Buchholz