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Sunday, June 3, 2012

St. Francis/Sokoki Missisquoi Abenaki Application For Vermont State Recognition Pages 239 - 244:

 Page 239

[REDACTED] Unmarked Burial Protocol
Taylor Archaeological Investigation,Town of Swanton, Franklin County, Vermont
David Skinas
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
May 9, 2006

The landowners applied for a building permit from the Town of Swanton to replace the existing trailer with a house. The area of potential effect is located about 60 feet south of the 2004 radar study plot (Figure 1). Elevation changes in the ground surface suggested that extensive fill had been placed around the trailer during initial construction in 1981 (Photo 1). The new house would overlap the footprint of the trailer by approximately 6-12 feet to the north and south, and extend another 26 feet to the west into the driveway (Photo 2). A concrete foundation will be ...

Figure 1. Auger Core Distribution at the [REDACTED] Project.

 Page 240
... built three feet below surface. On May 9, 2006 I extracted five three-inch diameter auger cores to determine the presence and extent of fill within the area of potential effect (Figure 1). Approximately three feet of fill was observed over a truncated B horizon in all of the auger samples that ranged in depth from 3 feet 3 inches below surface at its deepest point in Core 2 and 2 feet 10 inches at its shallowest depth in Core 4. This fill is the same material identified in the 2004 study plot that was probably placed during the establishment of the trailer in 1981.A shovel was used to expose the edge of the septic tank and fill was observed out to this point of the backyard located 28 feet south-southwest of the trailer. The surface drops a foot or more to the south of the septic tank (Photo 1). Based on the current building design there will be no disturbance to the intact subsoil. The project area is also located 380 feet from the closest natural drainage in an area that is not considered to have a high potential to contain unmarked precontact or historic period Abenaki graves. The landowner has agreed to halt excavation slightly above or at the top of the truncated B horizon and not intrude into it. He will also notify me when construction will begin so I can have the opportunity to observe the excavation. If these conditions are met then it is highly unlikely that any unmarked Abenaki burials will be inadvertently disturbed during construction.

Photo 1. Shows the backyard of resident and change in elevation at shovel-septic area. Stake between steps and fuel tank marks SE corner of foundation, facing west.

 Page 241

Photo 2. Front yard of residence facing west. The stake in center foreground marks the NE corner of foundation.

 Page 242

The Alburg Gravel Pit Project: an Abenaki Cemetery and Village site.
David Skinas
March 2007

In late summer of 2000 an unmarked burial was discovered during the excavation of gravel in Alburg, Grand Isle County, Vermont. The state police were notified and the state archaeologist determined that the remains were archaeological in nature and not the result of a recent homicide. The site was listed as [REDACTED] in the Vermont Archaeological Inventory. The UVM archaeologist established that the remains were Native American and the Abenaki Tribal Council was notified to deal with the burial according to their tradition. At the time the governor's office believed this body was an isolated burial and not part of a larger cemetery.

A second burial eroded out of the gravel pit wall in March or April 2001 about 30 meters from the first burial. The administration still maintained that these two burials did not constitute a cemetery. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) in partnership with the Vt. Division for Historical Preservation and Abenaki tribal representatives conducted a non-intrusive ground penetrating radar study to locate additional graves in June of 2001. The radar results were inconclusive because of the many rocks contained within the gravelly soil and the calcareous composition of the soils did not produce reliable radar signals. Although the radar study was not helpful in locating additional graves it was believed that many other unmarked burials existed in the gravel deposit. The recovery of a pottery sherd during the study suggested that this site was also used for habitation. An agreement between the partners on how to best deal with the site could not be reached and communication broke down. No further investigations were conducted at the site between June 2001 and September 2006 but gravel extraction continued around the burials. 

On September 5, 2006 John Hall, the Commissioner of Housing and Community Affairs, set up a meeting with the landowner and myself to try and resolve the impasse. As a member of the Missisquoi Task Force on Native American Affairs I [David Skinas] also represented the Abenakis at this meeting. The landowner wanted to get to the last deposit of good gravel on his property located in the area where the burials were found.

An on-site agreement was reached by the three of us whereby: 1) I would monitor controlled excavation of the overburden to determine if additional burials existed on the knoll. Controlled excavation is defined as using of a straight edge bucket to peel back the soil in a think layer 3-6 inches thick. 2) If only two more human burials were identified during the monitoring operation they would be exhumed and re-interred nearby. If more than two additional burials were found...

 Page 243

... in the ground during monitoring then the site would be designated as a cemetery by the state and all ground disturbance would be abandoned. 3) The state would then seek funding to compensate the landowner for the value of the gravel that he could no longer access for commercial uses.

The monitoring operation began on September 14, 2006. Within two days of the monitoring operations two intact Abenaki graves exposed and designated burials 3 and 4 (burials 1 and 2 came out in 2000 an 2001). These two bodies were lying in a flexed position. A fire pit contained burned bone of deer and beaver was located about a meter from burial 3. Two ornately decorated broken pots were also recovered from the fire pit that dated to 1400-1600 AD. It appears that the body was buried in a wigwam which was a typical mortuary practice for this time period. The third intact grave (burial 5) was identified soon after that confirmed the site as an Abenaki cemetery and not just a location of random burials. The three intact graves and two bodies that had fallen out of the pit walls in 2000 and 2001 were found within a 100 foot diameter area. All excavation was halted in this area and moved 200 feet to the south to try and find the cemetery boundaries so an access road could be cut to the southern gravel pit without disturbing more burials. The remains of post molds from the frame of a wigwam, long house or other structure was uncovered at the southern end of the site. A fire pit and smaller diameter post molds were found within the structure that probably represent drying racks, bed frame or other domestic furnishings. The fourth intact burial (#6) was found in a flexed position about 15 meters south of the wigwam where the access road was being cut. All excavation was halted at this point because the cemetery appeared to extend further south along the remainder of the property where the good gravel was located. A third fire pit with burned bone and pottery sherds was also discovered eroding out of the pit wall about 10 meters from the last burial.

The two bodies uncovered in 2000 and 2001 had been reburied by gravel pit workers in 2003 (we estimate) in a trench along the property boundary. We excavated that trench and recovered those remains so that they would be re-interred according to Abenaki custom. The UVM forensic anthropologist who examined the intact graves also analyzed these burials and found that there were three bodies and not just the two as initially thought. Together with the four intact graves found during the excavation in 2006 a total of seven burials have been found at the site. Abenaki oral history speaks of a refuge village that was established in the interior of Alburg that the tribe retreated to during periods of pressure from the colonists such as after Roger's Raid and the American Revolution. There is a strong possibility that this site is what is left of that refuge village. 

The [REDACTED] remains extremely important archaeological deposits and at least seven human burials, and undoubtedly many more, from the Late Woodland Period dating around 1400-1600 AD. Archaeological sites have intact cultural features such as fire pits and house remnants have the potential to provide extraordinary information about settlement patterns and subsistence preferences. The presence of an intact Abenaki cemetery from this time period is of exceptional significance making this site clearly eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

In November money from the state burial fund was used to begin restoring the cemetery to over the graves and archaeological features and to stabilize the vertical pit walls that would otherwise ...

Page 244

... erode during the winter. Wet and cold weather halted the restoration effort in December but will commence again in the spring. The site has been largely stabilized and will be protected from the harsh winter weather. The last piece of the project is to obtain funds to compensate the landowner for the loss of commercial gravel. NRCS conducted a topographic survey and used their geologist to map the depth and extent of the various grades of gravel. The Landowner and I then sat down and applied fair market prices for the in-ground value of the material. The total compensation needed is $-----. The Vermont Housing and Conservation board is willing to put in $----- which is the limit of their annual conservation fund, but need to find a match for the remaining $-----.

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