Letter to the Editor: The confabulating reinvented Abenakis of VT and NH

Dear Editor,

In my opinion, Incorporations do not equal “authentic” Native Tribal Nation’s. Yet, already  established Tribal Nation’s can and do in fact incorporate, at least in part. Here in Vermont and New Hampshire, there have been various groups since approximately 1976 who have “incorporated” and who use the names of “Abenaki Self Help Association, Inc.”, “Pisowakamigw Wobanakiak, Inc. “Abenakis Helping Abenakis (A.H.A.), Inc.” and “Cowasuck North America, Inc.” to name just a few “on the books” of the many, at the Secretary of State’s Office in Montpelier, Vermont.   When one President of his/her incorporation and/or their solicited members or followers disagreed with the “Chief” a.k.a. the Inc, President, they simply created yet more Incorporations that they then called “Tribes” and or “Abenaki-Missisquoi-Kaosek-Cowasuck-El-Nu and Nulhegan” Bands.

Recently, in 2008 (after S.117 was signed by Gov. Jim Douglas in May of 2006) the four “Abenaki” incorporations formed an alliance that they entitled “The VT Indigenous  Alliance” and subsequently took the position that Abenakis connected to Odanak,  living in New England, and especially Vermont, were merely “expatriates” and had no business “interfering” with their incorporations agenda of gaining State of VT “Abenaki” Recognition from the Legislature and Governor.

Two people sat on the May 2006 Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, Timothy de la Bruere and Jeanne A. (nee: Deforge) Brink. Both of whom genealogically, historically and socially connect definitively to the historical 1600’s Abenaki Community of Odanak, Quebec, Canada.

That Abenaki community was created from Abenakis, the historical Missisquoi and Coos Abenaki people’s in part, fleeing Vermont’s encroachment of English settlements. The land was rapidly changing, and subsistence abilities of the Abenaki People’s in turn were changing just as rapidly.

So it is that we all witnessed the turbulent social change of the 1960’s and Native People’s across the land “stood up” and their voices were loud and clear.  Out of that awakening here in the State of Vermont, sat Homer Walter St. Francis Sr., Wayne Hoague, Rudolph Kent Ouimette, Richard “Black Horse” Phillips, and Arthur W. Seymour. What these Vermonter’s witnessed was the Pequot’s ability to gain Federal Recognition, with just a handful of people (Read the book Without Reservation, by Jeff Benedict).

Of course, these folks in 1972 Vermont saw how the Passamaquoddy tribe and Penobscot Nation, both in nearby Maine, filed lawsuits. Vermont’s Swanton people, such as Homer St. Francis Sr. knew that the State of Maine and the Federal Government “recognized” in 1973 the Micmac and Maliseet Indian People’s, which would give tribal members, hunting and fishing licenses through their aboriginal rights to hunting and fishing. Not to forget lucrative educational scholarships.

When President Jimmy Carter signed the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act to the tune of a $27 million trust fund and another $51 million to buy 300,000 acres of land, well that just must have made the people sitting in Swanton, VT salivate at the mouth. Then when the Houlton Band of the Maliseets were Federally recognized,  the Houlton Band received $900,000 to buy 5,000 acres.

So, in 1975 or 1976 an incorporation was formed and it was calling itself the “Abenaki Self-Help Association” and it was operated by the group calling itself “The St. Francis/Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation.”

Homer St. Francis, Sr. hired John Scott Moody, an ethnologist from the southern part of VT, to prove the whole bunch of them, were Abenakis. To make a short story even shorter, thirty eight years later or thereabouts, in 2005, that groups’ Petition for Federal Acknowledgment was resoundly denied, for lack of any connection(s) genealogically, historically or socially to the Abenaki historical communities or to any known Native American Indian Community or persons whatsoever.

The ONLY persons that were identified definitively as Abenaki and or as Abenaki descendants, were the O’Bomsawin’s from Thompson’s Point, Vermont (who came back into Vermont) from Odanak! Out of 1,171 members of the petitioning group, only 8 convincingly were of Abenaki ancestry.

That was after 38+ years of Mr. Moody’s study of these people. His methodology and his assertions were without merit, according to the Office of Federal Acknowledgment.

Today, in January 2011, these incorporations who hope to be turned into “authentic” Abenaki Tribes within Vermont, with the Yea or Nea vote of Legislative Representatives, will simply state “that they just want to sell their wares and their artwork as “authentic” “Abenaki-Made.”

Indeed, that seems simple enough, on the surface of it all. There is only one problem with this endeavor of turning these incorporate pumpkins into fancy coaches to carry off this “Abenaki Tribe” scheme, with the nods of the naïve Legislature and the wave of the Governor’s pen.

What happened to the historically genealogically and socially connected Abenakis living in Vermont like those who relocated back INTO Vermont and New Hampshire in the 1800’s and 1900’s all these Abenakis who were and are descendants from Odanak, PQ?

When the comparative research is done between Abenakis connected to bonefideAbenaki/Native Communities vs. these Incorporate Entities claiming to be “Abenaki Tribes and or Bands” within VT/N.H. that “supposedly stayed behind” …well, the math does not add up. The puzzle does not come together in a clear and convincing way at all.  

These incorporated groups claiming today to be the “Vermont Abenakis” or from the “Historical Vermont Abenaki Tribes,” are not who they appear to be. It’s as simple as that.

Please go to the blog “The Reinvention of the Alleged and Reinvented Vermont and New Hampshire Abenaki” (google.com search) for further information on these  incorporations claiming today, to be Abenaki Tribes.

Again, Incorporations do not equal “authentic” Native Tribal Nation’s. These Inc.’s representatives sit on the newly restructured Commission on Native American Affairs, with their support of their Department of Historical Preservation Agency allies. The whole “business” is a sham of total bias, unfairness, and non-transparency.

Douglas Lloyd Buchholz
P.O. Box 83, Lancaster,
New Hampshire 03584-0083
(603) 788-2718
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