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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

St. Francis/Sokoki Missisquoi Abenaki Application For Vermont State Recognition Pages 257- 262:

 Page 257

Draft Statement of Significance of the Boucher Cemetery Site
for inclusion in the National Register if Historic Places

Prepared by
Peter Thomas, Archaeologist
US Department of Homeland Security

NPS Form 10-000-n
Approval No.1024-0016

United States Department of the Interior
National Park Service

National Register of Historic Places
Continuation Sheet

Section number_8 Statement of Significance_Page 1 or 4  Boucher Cemetery Site, Franklin County, VT

Boucher Cemetery Site, Franklin County, VT

The Boucher Cemetery Site is regionally significant for the exceptional insights it provides into aspects of Native America cultural live in the distant past, particularly those related to burial practices and pan-regional social and economic exchange networks. This site is the most professionally studied Early Woodland Period burial ground in Vermont and, with but few exceptions, in all of New England and eastern Canada. In an archaeological context, it is a key site with respect to understanding the Middlesex Mortuary Complex in northeastern North America - a complex closely related to the Adena, Delmarva and Meadowood Provinces. A suite of AMS radiocarbon dates (uncorrected) ranging from 858 B.C. to A.D. 100 indicates that the Boucher site was used intermittently throughout the entire Early Woodland Period, or for nearly 1,000 years. Mortuary goods found within the site are typically exotic and the use of long-distance exchange to acquire such items must have involved extensive networks of social interaction, which, in addition to the movement of goods, likely resulted in the flow of ideas on a regional level. The preservation of textiles, cordage, and leather items provides an extremely rare opportunity to study the techniques used to create every-day items and the craftsmanship of their makers.

The Boucher Cemetery Site is also important because it is emblematic of two competing paradigms in our modern world. One is typically employed by academicians who derive explanations of the past through historic and scientific methodologies; the other finds oneness with the past through commonly held knowledge and beliefs shared by ALLEGED Native American community members. There is a profound spiritual link felt by members of this community with those ancient Native Americans buried nearby. Initial disturbance of the Boucher Cemetery site in 1973 and the long interval of study before reburial of both the human remains and associated artifacts in 1990 greatly affected the spiritual and physical well-being of ALLEGED Abenaki residents and severely strained relations between professional archaeologists and members of the ALLEGED Abenaki community. After more than three decades, both groups have reached a substantial level of ...
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... accommodation and understanding. Today, both professional archaeologists and ALLEGED Abenakis are working together to protect and preserve the Boucher Cemetery site and other known, or as yet undiscovered, burial sites located nearby. Boucher is only one of an undetermined number of mortuary sites that extend intermittently to the east and in a broken chain along the same landform downstream for another 3/4 mile. Boucher encompasses only a very limited part of a larger sacred landscape within which deceased Native Americans have been buried for at least the part 3,000 years.


The Boucher Cemetery Site (VT-Fr-26) is one of four apparently coeval, Early Woodland period, mortuary sites known from the lowlands of Vermont, east of Lake Champlain. The other sites are referred to as the Swanton or Hempyard (VT-Fr-1), East Creek (VT-Ad-26) and Bennett (VT-Ad-298) sites. The first and last are known from old collections of artifacts recovered in disturbed contexts. While human remains and an extensive collection of associated burial goods were "professionally" recovered from the East Creek site in the late 1930's, no excavation notes have survived, if they were ever taken. Of the four, the Boucher Cemetery site is by far the most thoroughly recorded and studied.

The Boucher site was accidentally discovered and partially destroyed during the excavation of a house foundation in April, 1973. Archaeological salvage operations were undertaken by the University of Vermont under the direction of Louise Basa. After the plowzone was removed to expose the upper portions of intact features, a volunteer field crew excavated an area of 340 m" between April and September. Many of the intact burials were removed en masse for subsequent excavation at UVM, the last of which was carried out in 1988. At least 84 confirmed burial pits were encountered and over 100 individuals may have been buried at the site.

Based on what he perceived to be Adena-related mortuary sites in New York State and elsewhere, Ritchie (1937-1951) defined a "Middlesex focus". He concluded that this complex, later referred to as the "Middlesex phase," either reflected the infusion of elements of Adena culture, which was centered in the upper Ohio River valley, or involved an actual migration of Adena people into the northeast (Ritchie and Dragoo 1960). Early Woodland cemeteries from throughout the far Northeast have been commonly referred to as Middesex sites since that time. The distribution of Middlesex related mortuary sites is, for the most part, restricted to the far Northeast, essentially from east-central and eastern New York, New England, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces of eastern Canada.

Early radiocarbon dates from the Boucher site, in addition to early dates from Augustine Mound (New Brunswick) and Rosenkrans (New Jersey), now strongly suggest that the Middlesex burial complex was well established before Adena-related artifacts entered existing trade networks in considerable quantities after about 500 B.C. This does not mean that Adena-related stone artifacts and Midwestern raw materials were not important elements of late Early Woodland trade; both are well represented at Boucher and other Middlesex sites. Rather, an extensive regional trade in copper, shell and some stone artifacts, typical of those found in Middlesex burials, dates back to the late Archaic period. This has led Heckenberger, Petersen and Basa (1990) to conclude that the impetus for the Middlesex mortuary complex can be sought more locally than the Ohio valley or Great Lakes region, probably in the well-established Late Archaic ceremonial complexes of the far Northeast. This inference is further substantiated by a sourcing study of nine copper beads from the Boucher site using instrumental neutron activation analysis. Of the nine samples, seven ave a high probability of being derived from sources of copper in Nova Scotia, particularly Cumberland County or Cap D'Or. Two were evidently made from copper originating in Isle Royale located near the northwest shore of Lake Superior (Levine 2006). Radiocarbon dates from the Boucher and elsewhere also indicate that Middlesex cemeteries were still in use into the first millennium A.D., after the apparent collapse of Adena to the west.
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Given the wide region within which Native American peoples interacted at this time, it is not surprising that, in addition to ties with the Adena "culture" of the Midwest, the Middlesex complex has strong affinities to several other mortuary complexes known from northeastern North America. The Delmarva Adena complex located in the Delmarva Peninsula and Chesapeake Bay area of the Middle Atlantic region is characterized by traits remarkably similar to those of the Middlesex complex. In fact, assemblages from the two complexes are almost indistinguishable. A similar relationship exists with the mortuary components of the Meadowood phase generally found in central and western New York and southern Ontario. Another similar complex, but with the addition of burial mounds as a significantly visible element, is found scattered from New Brunswick (Augustine Mound) and Nova Scotia (Skora Mound) westward to the Long Sault Mounds on the St. Lawrence River near the outlet of Lake Ontario. In short, although some regional clusters may yet be differentiated that identify more closely related peoples, the extensive trade characteristic of the Early Woodland period throughout the broad Northeast, as well as what was likely some degree of shared ideology, tends to mask the variability in mortuary practices used by interconnected peoples. The Boucher site has played a pivotal role in challenging earlier ideas about the source and time depth of elaborate burial practices in Vermont and elsewhere.

Practices of interment at the Boucher Cemetery Site were noticeably varied. Some individuals were cremated prior to burial. The remains of others were evidently stored in some manner, thus allowing the flesh to decompose before burial in bundles of dis-articulated bones. Others were interred directly in the ground shortly after the time of death. A minimum total of 43 inhumations, of which two were bundle burials, and 17 cremations were encountered. Of the 17 cremations, three contained the remains of two individuals each. All remains were placed in graves that ranged in depth from 3 to 6 feet. Such a variety of practices is repeated at other cemeteries of the time throughout the region.

Based on a detailed analysis of the characteristics of the graves and the quantity and/or types of goods included, no discernible pattern was found that suggested that the mode of burial was dependent upon age, gender or status of the individual. This has led to speculation that such sites as Boucher were sacred locations of extended families or other kin groups that were used over hundreds of years, and that the presence of cremations and secondary bundle burials stems from the fact that some members of this kin group died at considerable distances from their formal burial site. Thus, their remains were treated in a different method until a more ritualized interment could occur (Hackenberger, etc al 1990); Heckenberger, Peterson and Basa (1990).

A variety of mortuary artifacts, including numerous shell and copper beads, blocked-end tubular pipes for smoking tobacco, projectile points, bifaces, gorgets, celts, a boatstone, and Vinette 1 ceramic vessels, were among the accompanying artifacts. These goods attest to the highly ritualized treatment of the deceased, both here and at less documented cemeteries of the time throughout the larger region, as such goods were undoubtedly acquired at considerable cost to the living.

The quantity and variety of such artifacts also attest to the wide-ranging exchange networks that operated during the Early Woodland period. For example, a total of 119 flaked stone tools were recovered at the Boucher site. A number are made from local Hathaway formation chert or Champlain Valley quartzite, but roughly 52% consist of exotic items manufactured from raw materials drawn from distant sources, including New York State cherts, such as Normanskill, Eastern and Western Onondaga cherts, as well as Flint Ridge and Wyandot chert from Harrison County, Indiana. Fine-grained Mistassini quartzite and argillite, probably derive from northern and southern Quebec, as well as Kineo rhyolite, sourced from northern Maine, are also present.

Other types of artifacts were imported from equally distant sources. Of 19 blocked-end tubular smoking pipes, at least 15 are made of "Ohio fireclay"; the remainder are made from unidentified materials. One "boatstone" or gorget was manufactured from a banded slate derived from the upper Great Lakes region. By far the largest number of artifacts recovered consists of 6,732 copper artifacts, predominately beads, and substantial quantities of shell beads. As noted ...
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previously, sourcing studies of nine copper beads concluded that there is a high probability that seven of the beads are derived from copper sources in Nova Scotia, particularly Cumberlad County or Cap D' Or, and that two are made from copper originating on Isle Royale located near the northwest shore of Lake Superior (Levine 2006). The shell beads derive from four species of marine shell: the Common Rice Olive (Olivella floralia), the Common Atlantic Marginella (Marginella apicina), the knobbed Whelk (Busycon carica), and the Northern Quahog (Mercenaria mercenaria). The whelk and quahog could have been obtained frm peoples living along the coast of southern New England. The Olivella and Marginella shells were traded from at least as far south as Virginia and the Carolinas. In short, Boucher site provides clear evidence that the world of the Native Americans living in the Champlain Lowlands during the Early Woodland period extended far their visible horizons. The trade/exchange networks that were operating at this at this time not only brought exotic items to them to them for inclusion as burial items, but had tentacles extending into much of North America east of the Mississippi River.

Copper salts from the beads acted as a fungicides and led to the preservation of textiles, cordage and leather items that are extremely rare in the archaeological record and attest to the exceptional craftsmanship of community members. Fiber cordage, derived from milkweed and basswood, is identified in single-, two-, three- and four-ply fragments. Fragments of 23 individual woven objects were identify and exhibit at least four different types of twining. While most textiles were constructed of cordage made from plant fibers, at least two incorporated animals hair as the active weft element. Textiles were used to create clothing, shrouds, smaller bags, one of which was decorated with a geometric motif. At least two hide garments and three hide bags were included with the deceased. The extant assemblage from the Boucher Cemetery site constitutes one of the largest collections of perishable artifacts of this antiquity known from anywhere in eastern North America. The people living here clearly possessed a sophisticated perishable fiber industry. The regularity and delicacy of many of the structural elements and patterns evident in the textiles provide testimony to the high level of proficiency of the weavers (Heckenberger, Petersen and Basa 1990).

In sum, the archaeological recovery of human and mortuary remains from the Boucher Cemetery site in 1973, their analysis in the years following, and the subsequent publication of the results have provided Euro-Americans in Vermont and elsewhere with an unprecedented view into the lives of Native Americans living in northeastern North American some 2-3,000 years ago. There can be little doubt that this site greatly expands our knowledge of the past and challenges us all to give serious consideration to how complex and dynamic the cultures of Native American peoples were at a time for which we have no written records.

The history of the discovery, recovery, analysis and eventual reburial of the Boucher Cemetery remains clearly reflects the existence of two competing paradigms in our modern world. One is typically employed by academicians who derive explanations of the past through historic and scientific methodologies; the other finds oneness with the past through commonly held knowledge and beliefs shared by ALLEGED Native American community members. Profound disjuncts can occur. For example, just because the archaeological data can show no direct cultural links between the individuals buried at the Boucher Cemetery and the Native American community of Abenakis living in the Highgate-Swanton area today, due in large part to deficiencies in both methodology and the lack of primary data, it does not negative the fact that there is a profound spiritual link felt by members of this ALLEGED community with those ancient Native Americans buried nearby. Initial disturbance of the Boucher Cemetery site in 1973 and the train of subsequent differing opinions over the treatment and potential re-internment of both the skeletal remains and associated burials goods strained relations between professional archaeologists in Vermont and the ALLEGED Abenaki community for nearly three decades. It has taken considerable effort by both parties to reach a substantial level of accommodation and understanding (Blum, Petersen and Wiseman 2006). This pattern of conflict and the gradual accommodation of divergent belief systems with respect to "a burial site of archaeological import" and what is essentially a "sacred or traditional cultural property" reflects a broad trend in the history of modern archaeology that has and is still occurring across the entire Nation.
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At present, both professional archaeologists and ALLEGED "Abenakis" are working together to protect and preserve both the Boucher Cemetery site and other known, or as yet undiscovered, burial sites located nearby. Boucher is but one of an unknown number of mortuary sites that extend intermittently to the east and in a broken chain along the same landform downstream for another 3/4 mile. At least 31 burials and associated mortuary goods have been recovered from only two small areas along this stretch of the Missisquoi River. Remaining areas are simply unexplored. Unexplored burial beyond the boundaries of the Boucher Cemetery site date from the Early Woodland early Middle Woodland, Late Woodland and early Historic Periods. It is perhaps revealing that an early 18th -cetury Jesuit mission was also established on this hallowed ground and the one of the recovered burials found nearby was accompanied by a crucifix. Boucher is but a part of a larger sacred landscape within which deceased Native Americans have been buried for at least the past 3,000 years and whose protection will help to insure the spiritual and physical well-being of the present-day ALLEGED Abenaki community.

Missisquoi Jar Casting Proposal

David Skinas, USDA/NRCS
Chief April St. St. Francis-Merrill, Abenaki Nation at Missisquoi
November 2, 2010 

In July of 2009 in intact ceramic vessel, the Missisquoi Jar, dating to circa AD 300 was recovered from from the Boucher Cemetery site during an archaeological investigation that was conducted to with the Town of Swanton's Native American Site's District zoning law along [REDACTED]. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in partnership with the Abenaki Nation at Missisquoi St. Francis.Sokoki band and the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation lead this effort that recovered this extraordinary artifact. It is extremely rare to recover large ceramic sherds from precontact Native American sites in the Northeast which makes this find of an intact vessel all the more significant. The jar is considered sacred by the Missisquoi community because it is associated with the Boucher Cemetery site where over 80 human graves were unearthed in 1973 and later reinterred to the site in 1996. The Missisquoi Jar was lying on its side with two stones that positioned the pot to a specific orientation. The vessel either contains a cremation burial or was intentionally placed on top of a body that was buried but the bones have long since dissolved in the acidic soil of the site. There was no archaeological evidence gathered during the investigation to suggest that this artifact was associated with an encampment or habitation. Ceramic vessels typically found in habitation sites were placed upright so that the contents could be easily accessed by the inhabitants. That was not the case with the Missisquoi Jar.
The Missisquoi Jar is being stored temporarily at tribal headquarters in Swanton and must be reinterred on the site across the road from where it was unearthed before the ground freezes. Once this sacred item has been reburied we will no longer have the opportunity to examine or admire it again. Because the vessel is sacred it cannot be displayed or even have photographs of it distributed or published. We believe that because this jar is associated with a burial in one of Vermont's most important cemetery sites that funds from the Vermont Special Sites Fund should be used to make a cast of the pot. The casting would be undertaken in two phases. The first ...
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... step is to take a mold of the pot at tribal headquarters before it is reburied. The cost of that effort is estimated at $2,994 (see below). The second step is to actually recreate the vessel at the lab over the course of the winter. This phase of casting cannot be accurately estimated until the mold has been completed, but it should also cost about $3,000 to make a single cast. The big advantage is that once the mold has been taken more than one copy of the jar can be made in the future, and those copies could be used for displays at the Missisquoi Museum in Swanton, the Chimney Point Historic Site Museum and/or the Vermont Historical Society. To not take advantage of this opportunity before the vessel is reinterred would be a mistake that cannot be undone.

(This grant was approved by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and funded by the Special Sites Burial Fund. A mold of the vessel was successfully completed in December 2010)

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