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Early and modern historical references
Henry Tufts documents his life living among the Coosuck Abenaki. He lived among 2 family bands that ranged between Lake Memphremegog and Lake Umbagog with Old Philip, Mali Orcutt, Swasson, Susap and Tomhegan. (1)
An Abenak named “Foosah” claims to have killed 27 moose and large #’s of beaver and otter at Barton Pond in VT. (2)
Captain Susuap and a small band of Abenaki join settlers in Troy, VT and build their winter camp on the river. They sell baskets, birch bark cups & pails while there. Molly Orcutt was among them and doctored many of the settlers while living next to them. (3)
Pierre Sales de La Terrière while traveling by the Abenaki on Lake Memphremagog on his way from Three Rivers to Harvard Medical School, notes in his memoirs “This road is so frequented by the savages, that, from distance to distance there are huts made that each one repairs and maintains in turn: they serve all people……The head of the family came from salmon fishing and moose hunting…..provided us with enough flesh and well-smoked fish for the rest of our trip.” (4)
June 30, 1796
Coosuck Chief Philip sells over 3,000 square miles straddling the border to four men; Thomas Eames and 3 associates that called themselves the Eastern Company. The price was a simple promise to keep Philip and his two wives well fed and clothed for the rest of their lives and allow all other band members fishing and hunting rights on the land in perpetuity. This deed was signed by Phillip, Molly Mussell, and Mooselock Sullsop.
The 3,000 square miles included: from Umbagog and Mooselookmeguntic Lakes in the East (the headwaters of the Megalloway and Androscoggin Rivers; South to the junction of the Ammonoosuc with the Connecticut; West to the western shore of Lake Memphremagog up the Clyde and along the Nulhegan; and North to the junction of the Salmon and St Francis Rivers.
This land sale was actually illegal since the Federal Non-Intercourse Act of 1791 prohibited any agency other than the US government from buying Indian lands within the territory claimed by the United States (as about half of this parcel did.) Also in 1793 the Continental Congress wrote up a law forbidding private citizens to buy land from the Indians. The state of NH had a similar law on the books as early as 1719. (5)
A band of Abenaki is reported living at Owls Head Mountain on Lake Memphremagog in Potton, Qc (3)
An Abenaki burial ground is dug up during the excavation for Barton Academy (now Barton Graded School). No record of what happened to those artifacts appears to exist. (5)
June 25, 1978
The first record of a 20th century repatriation and reburial of Abenaki remains takes place in Center Harbor, NH. *From 1978 to the mid 1980’s there were in-depth discussions with Stephen Laurent, Homer St. Francis and Richard Phillips about the repatriation of Abenaki burials in NH. (6)
November 15, 1980
The first record of a repatriation and reburial of Abenaki remains takes place in VT after a set of Abenaki remains is discovered at the Putney Historical Society in Putney, VT. Blackie Lampman and Richard Phillips ask Beverly Bolding of Goffstown, NH to facilitate the repatriation. (7)
May 3rd, 2006
The Vermont Legislature recognized the Abenaki as a “Minority Population” within the State of Vermont under Statute 853. This entitled the Abenaki protections as a disadvantaged race of people. However, since there were no recognized Abenaki Indian Tribes in Vermont, there were “legally” no Abenaki people under the law. This was an attempt to recognize our people without recognizing tribes which of course we would not accept. (8)
March 16, 2008
The Vermont Indigenous Alliance is formed by Elnu Tribe, Koasek Tribe, Missiqoui Tribe and Nulhegan Tribe of Abenaki with the purpose of unifying the tribes and pursuing official state recognition from the state of Vermont. (9)
April 22, 2011
Nulhegan was officially recognized by the State of Vermont as an Abenaki Indian Tribe and accepted our territorial boundaries contained within our petitions. (10)
December 12, 2012
The Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe officially takes ownership of the first tribal forestland in 200 years with the purchase of a 65-acre parcel in Barton, VT. (11)
January 1, 2013
Wabanaagig TV from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in Canada produces the movie “The Vermont Abenaki – A struggle for recognition” which documents the struggle for Vermont State recognition and culminates with the celebration of recognition at the first annual Nulheganaki. (12)
August 19-22, 2015
The annual Wabanaki Confederacy Conference was held in Shelburne, VT. This was the first time the Confederacy was hosted by the Western Abenaki of Vermont in 200 hundred years. The Seven Nations of Canada Confederacy Nations also attended this important gathering. The Abenaki are the only Nation who is in both Confederacies. (13)
December 20, 2016
Chief Don Stevens and the Nulhegan Abenaki tribe reach a settlement agreement with the US Dept. of the Interior granting the Nulhegan Tribe, Elnu Tribe and Koasek Tribe the legal right to possess, carry, use, wear, give, loan or exchange among other Indians without compensation, all federally protected birds as well as their parts or feathers. November 8th, 2018 Chief Stevens was able to add the Missisiquoi Tribe to the settlement agreement. (14)
November 9, 2019
Through the efforts of Nulhegan Abenaki Chief Don Stevens the grand opening of the Abenaki Nation Cultural and Historical Exhibit occurs at the Burlington International Airport. (15)
Nulheganaki is a celebration held annually since State Recognition in 2011 at the end of August in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Nulheganaki is important in bringing together members of families, many from great distances for a weekend long celebration of Abenaki culture. (16)
Snow Snake Games
Snow snakes are an ancient game that the Abenaki have played for centuries. Brian Chenevert and Roger Longtoe Sheehan revived the snow snake games among the Abenaki in 2008 and they have been played annually ever since. (16)
According to its constitution, the Nulhegan tribal government is organized into three branches: the Chief and 2nd Chief (executive), the 13-member Tribal Council (legislative), and 4-member Elders Council (judicial). The Tribal Headquarters are at 1366 May Farm Road, Barton, VT 05822 (16)
2. Gazetteer of Lamoille and Orleans Counties, VT.; 1883-1884, Compiled and Published by Hamilton Child; May 1887
3. Samuel Sumner's 1860 History of Missisco Valley (Vermont)
4. Pierre De Sales Laterriere. Memoirs of Pierre De Sales Laterriere. 1873
5. Colin G. Calloway. The Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600-1800, University of Oklahoma Press1994
6. Crystal Lake Falls Historical Association (June 6, 2007). Barton Academy turns 100 years old. The Chronicle.
7. Vermont Archaeological Society. An Overview of Abenaki and Indigenous Peoples, Burial/Site Protection, Repatriation, and Customs of Respect, Looting, and Site Destruction in the Abenaki Homeland, and Relations between Archeology, Ethnohistory, and Traditional Knowledge. The Journal of Vermont Archaeology, Volume 12, 2011.
8. Vermont Statutes. Justia US Law. https://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/01/023/00853
9. Fred Wiseman. Against the Darkness: The American Abenaki Experience. Distributed by Title VII Indian Education Program. 2006
11. Vtdigger.org. Nulhegan Abenaki attain first tribal forestland in more than 200 years. December 17, 2012. https://vtdigger.org/2012/12/18/nulhegan-abenaki-attain-first-tribal-forestland-in-more-than-200-years/
12. Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Wabanaagig, Land of the Rising Sun. The Vermont Abenaki – A struggle for Recognition. January 1, 2013. https://www.cctv.org/watch-tv/programs/vermont-abenaki-struggle-recognition?fbclid=IwAR0tAnselSsPql96gSeqvSfv0AtzlhZ1BSwA_BW_jaM_lMO6TKsSLU1BL1s
13. Burlington Free Press. Abenaki host historic gathering in Shelburne. August 22, 2015. https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/2015/08/22/abenaki-wabanaki-shelburne-farms/32205229/
14. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. Morton Policy: Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act; Religious Use of Feathers - Settlement Agreement with Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe. December 21, 2016.
15. WCAX.com. Abenaki Tribe displays history at Burlington airport. October 15, 2019. https://www.wcax.com/content/news/Abenaki-tribe-displays-history-at-BTV-airport-563110421.html
16. Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe Website. https://abenakitribe.org/
Nulhegan citizens drumming on the steps of the State Capital on the day the tribe was recognized.
Check out this great video
Abenaki Ways of Knowing Water - as told by Chief Don Stevens
A detailed story - this is one of the many Abenaki stories that we hope to pass on to the next 7 Generations. Please share with your family. This story is told by Chief Don Stevens
Given to the EMS in Burlington, VT, this video addresses the racism experienced by Native American people. Please watch!
WABANAAGIG, Land of the Rising Sun goes beyond words to encapsulate the strong emotions of the Wabanaki, a people who have emerged from centuries of oppression, occupation of their lands, and obliteration of their languages. Through these episodic stories, the series celebrates the strength and resiliency of a proud people. In Episode 9, Abenaki of Vermont - A Struggle for Recognition' years of struggle finally ends with the state recognition of the Abenaki nations at Vermont. For Information on the complete series, visit: http://wabanaagigtv.com/episodes/
The Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe is serious about achieving economic self-sufficiency and stability for our people which means controlling our own destinies. With energy, determination, vision, and a commitment to the larger community, our sights are set upon utilizing our own resources and abilities to grow in the realm of economic development, more specifically, cottage industry and cultural tourism.
The revitalization, preservation, and protection of our cultural, historic, and physical values and resources is the foundation upon which we stand. Teaching our young ones the skills and customs of our ancestors keeps our heritage alive. We empower our children, not only to survive, but to thrive during economic hardships by utilizing the traditions and practices of our ancestors, such as organic agriculture and permaculture.
Nulhegan mound gardening has been passed down through generations and is alive and well. Often referred to as "Three Sisters" gardening - corn, squash, and beans are planted together and have complimented one another for centuries. Large amounts of healthy, organic food can be grown on even small parcels of land. Living sustainable lives and keeping our customs and traditions alive is the only way we know to ensure continuity.
We are the Nulhegan Tribe; the Memphremagog Band; the Northern Cowasuk Indians. We have lived here, in the St. Francis, Nulhegan, Memphremagog, Passumpsic, and Upper Connecticut Basins of Vermont, northern New Hampshire, and the Eastern Townships of Quebec, from time beyond memory. Our memories and oral history tell about when the old ones were faced with the decision to stay or travel west to the Great Lakes. Some made the journey and some stayed here in N'dakinna (our land). Our oral history tells of the wars and the hardships of survival and acceptance in the centuries after. Our presence here has not always been wanted, warranted, or even admitted. Memories and stories of eugenics and ethnic cleansing in the 19th and 20th centuries brought animosity and distrust that still manifests itself today.
Please scroll down to read articles and view videos.
Several members of the tribe went to The Echo Center to Drum on Negoseban, which is the name of their big drum. Listen to and watch the video to experience Abenaki drumming and singing a traditional song.
GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND EQUALITY IN STATE GOVERNMENT Montpelier, Vt. — Governor Phil Scott today signed Executive Order 04-18, to promote racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, equity and equality in state government. The Executive Order seeks to achieve the goals of a bill passed by the Legislature (S.281), which the Governor had to veto due to an unconstitutional provision in the bill, as passed.
Governor Scott’s message to the Legislature is included below and the Executive Order is attached.
“I support without reservation the goal of this bill to ensure State governance is conducted in an unbiased, open, inclusive and welcoming manner.
“Unfortunately, pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, I must return S.281, An act relating to mitigation of systemic racism, without my signature because of significant constitutional concerns given separation of powers violations described herein. Importantly, to ensure the intent of the legislation is fulfilled without delay, I have signed Executive Order 04-18. This Executive Order is modeled after S.281 but goes further in our effort to ensure racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, equity and equality – and avoids the unconstitutional provision included in the bill.
“I instructed the Agency of Administration to draft the order modeled after S.281 and to seek input from the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity and other stakeholders. Specifically, the order establishes the position of Chief Racial Equity and Diversity Officer, to be nominated and vetted by a five-member panel selected in consultation with the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Chair of the Human Rights Commission. The Chief Racial Equity and Diversity Officer will be housed in the Office of the Secretary of Administration. The duties and responsibilities of the Chief Racial Equity and Diversity Officer include those reflected in S.281.
“Additionally, Executive Order 04-18 goes beyond what was contemplated in S.281 and mandates training of appointed leaders in all agencies and departments on implicit bias and related issues that contribute to inequity or inequality as well as recruitment for increased racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in State jobs and on boards and commissions. It also directs the Officer to evaluate existing State Executive Orders, which are designed to address equity and diversity issues and recommend updates, modifications or sunset provisions to ensure these Executive Orders and the bodies created therein are effective and getting meaningful results.
“It is unfortunate that I must return S.281 when the Legislature and the Administration share the same goals on this critical issue. I appreciate the work of the Legislature in drafting this bill – much of which is adopted in my Executive Order – and the work of many to address the constitutionality concerns during the Legislative process. Unfortunately, during the last days of the session, language was added that would usurp the executive’s Constitutional authority to remove a cabinet member responsible for performing an executive function. The new executive branch official contemplated in this bill is both appointed by and accountable to the Governor. The removal power, incidental to the appointment power, is essential for a Governor to take care that the laws be faithfully executed in accordance with the Constitution. The exercise of executive authority by an inter-branch entity over a Governor violates the separation of powers dictated by the Constitution.
“While several specific alternatives to the unconstitutional provision were proposed – which included removal with notice to, and consultation with, the Panel; and a term of office and termination by the Governor for cause only – the Legislature passed the bill with the unconstitutional language on the last day of the session and over the clear objection of my Administration.
“It is important to note that, to date, the State of Vermont has demonstrated leadership in this area. For example, the Department of Public Safety’s Fair and Impartial Policing Initiative, the Agency of Transportation’s Office of Civil Rights, and the Agency of Education through partnerships with professional associations in anti-bias efforts. This is important progress, but as we have discussed there is still much more work to do. That’s why I felt it was important to issue Executive Order 04-18.
“With this Executive Order in place, there will be no delay in important work ahead of us, and the Legislature can take additional time to resolve the unconstitutional separation of powers violations detailed above. “I look forward to continuing our work on this important issue.”
Click "Download" for a copy of EO 04-18 - Racial Disparity Mitigation (pdf)
Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger and Chief Don Stevens from the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk – Abenaki Nation today announced that the City of Burlington and Vermont Abenaki Alliance (made up of the four Abenaki Tribes recognized by the State of Vermont) have agreed to explore several projects to promote awareness of Abenaki history and culture. This announcement is the result of conversations between the City and Chief Stevens that arose during the discussion of the Church Street “Everyone Loves a Parade” mural. In lieu of participating in the Mural Task Force to determine the future of the mural, Chief Stevens and the Abenaki Alliance have chosen to pursue other projects, which will include an annual summer event on Church Street and may include a display of cultural artifacts at the Burlington International Airport, among other potential projects. These projects will build on Burlington’s previous work with Abenaki communities to create the Chief Grey Lock statue in Battery Park and the City Council’s acknowledgment and support of recognition of the Abenaki Nation in September of 1995.
“Abenaki Tribes have a long history within the State of Vermont and with the City of Burlington,” said Chief Don Stevens. “As leaders within our Abenaki communities, the Chiefs have decided not to participate in the ‘Everyone Loves a Parade’ Mural Task Force, but to find other positive avenues to promote our culture within the City. We look forward to collaborating with the City on projects that will increase local and international awareness of Abenaki history and culture. Finally, if the mural is to be changed or altered, we do feel that the Native person depicted on the mural should accurately and historically represent Abenaki people from this region.”
“I appreciated Chief Don Stevens’ input as we have been working through the community challenges related to the ‘Everyone Loves a Parade’ mural,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “The City welcomes the opportunity to continue to work with the Abenaki Alliance to find ways of properly recognizing the role of the Abenaki in the history and future of this region.”
Please note that this communication and any response to it will be maintained as a public record and may be subject to disclosure under the Vermont Public Records Act.
"We say the drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth and it keeps everything equal, sound," says Lucy Cannon-Neel, who taught the class.
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