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The Identity of the Saint Francis Indians [archive]

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The Identity of the Saint Francis Indians
from Gordon Day's 1981 study on Odanak

Overview

In 1981 Gordon Day completed a study of the Odanak reserve located near Pierreville, Quebec. The publication contains a great deal of historical, genealogical and cultural information including the history and settlement of Odanak, the role of our people in the various conflicts in the northeast, the primary family names of Odanak and the movement of people to and from Missisquoi and observations and analysis by anthropologists, historians, our own people and others. The publication is especially useful for understanding Abenaki identity and genealogical history and especially important for understanding the cultural integration that has taken place among our people over the past 400 years. In particular, Day's writing makes us understand more fully the heritage that we all share with our Native brothers and sisters in New England, and forces us to recognize the similarities we share as Alnobaiwi or humans. This page also contains 178 Abenaki surnames from Odanak and other places.

Some Important Facts in our History

Day claims that the Sokokis were the first settlers of the Saint Francis river area (after the Iroquois left). He references the fact that only Sokoki names (the people from our area) were found in the baptismal registers at Sorel before 1687 and in the registers of Saint Francis before 1690. Thereby assuming that the area was populated with Sokokis early on. He also found that many Sokokis were living in the Montreal (Ville-Marie) area around 1662. Further, that the migration to this area was unrelated to Iroquois attacks, because in 1660, at the height of Iroquois warfare with the French, the Sokokis were bypassed by them in order to attack the Abenakis living on the Kennebec River.

Odanak was populated by Eastern and Western Abenakis, and became a melting pot of many Native cultures over time, this was in addition to those people who 'married out' with non-Natives (which increased beginning at the end of the 19th century).

In 1676 a portion of the population of the Schaghticoke village in New York, which eventually migrated up north to Missisquoi and Odanak and became part of our culture, was comprised of refugees from Metacom's War (King Philip) from eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut. These would include Wampanoags, Narragansets, Mohegans, Pequots, and many others. Many other refugees were accepted into the Ossipees, Penacooks, Pigwackets and Cowasucks. In September 1676, about two hundred of these refugees were "rounded up" from among the Penacooks by Major Waldern at Dover, New Hampshire. In July 1700, local residents of Woodstock, Connecticut and New Oxford, reported that all 40 families of Nipmucs living in those towns had deserted their houses and gone to live with the Penacooks. By this time, Chambly had become a major Abenaki-French trading post, especially for Mahicans, Sokokis and Penacooks.

The Schaghticoke village on the Hudson River in New York had become a major refugee village by the late 1600s. Day estimates that it received about one thousand refugees, mostly from the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, from 1675-1676. In addition to the tribes already discussed above, these refugees also included Norwottucks, Agawams, Woronocs, and Potumucks. By 1754, this village had completely moved north, and the people were adopted into the villages at Missisquoi and Odanak.

In 1723, Grey Lock raided Northfield, Rutland, Deerfiled, Northampton, Westfiled and Hatfield. In 1724, he recruited some people from the Schagticoke village and continued to raid the Connecticut River settlements. In 1726, the Eastern Indians signed peace treaties at Massachusetts in 1727 another at Portland, Maine at which no delegation from Missisquoi could be found.

Regarding the Missisquoi village, Ira Allen, while falsely concluding that the village had been abandoned in 1730, claimed that the field of these villages ran for at least four miles along the Missisquoi River. Many historians claimed in 1738 that there were about 20 houses in Missisquoi, indicating about 300 or more persons--the same size as Odanak in 1704. Joseph Powers, an early settler of Vermont, observed while passing through Missisquoi in September 1759 "a flourishing settlement, with a French church and a large body of Indians."

Fort Saint Frederic at the bottom of Lake Champlain was a major stopping-over point for Abenakis heading into New England for raids. Many Abenaki took their children here for baptism. Chambly was also a major settlement and place for Abenaki baptisms into the 1880s.

In 1701, the Meskwakie or Fox Indians from the Great Lakes area tried to introduce Odanak to the long pipe or calumet ritual. The Pwongan as we call it, was characterized by a long wooden stem 2-3 feet long and a stone bowl of either green, red or black stone. They were told by Father Bigot that it was a form of idolatry and rejected it. In 1719, the Fox invited the people of Odanak into their country, and in 1721, the calumet was accepted (and is still used in our ceremonies today). It is also thought that there was a sizable migration to Fox country by some people from Odanak and inter-marriage. The porcupine hair roach, now commonly worn at powwows, also became part of our regalia at this time.

The facts of Rogers' Raid on Odanak in October 1759 did not exactly coincide with the version that has been popularized in history. In contrast to Rogers' claims that he killed over 200 and left 20 women and children as prisoners, French observers wrote in internal memos to their chain of command (a source where they are unlikely to fabricate the truth), that only 30 Abenakis were killed, and that 20 of them were women and children. Oral history tells us that a Stockbridge Mahican used as one of Rogers' scouts slipped into the village beforehand and warned them of the impending raid.

By 1759, a large group of the people from Odanak moved to the Saint Regis mission at Akwesasne, where they lived until at least 1770. Many others from Missisquoi and Odanak also resided with the Iroquois at Oswegatchie, New York as well for a period in the 1700s. In 1770, Sir William Johnson, the British Indian agent, asked them to leave, but several stayed behind and have remained to this day among the Mohawks. Into the early 1820s, Abenaki names were distinguished from Mohawk in the Saint Regis register and there was continuous movement between Odanak, Saint Regis and Missisquoi.

In 1769, the Abenakis from Missisquoi that stayed at Saint Regis were led by Grey Lock (Jean Baptist Pourneut) who said the their homeland at Missisquoi was being "...Cut into peices by the English, except a small peice.--We shall do as Soon as we have time to See whether the English have left us any, if they have we will move there & you shall never more hear of any dispute or trouble abt. Us." During this time Moses Hazan had requested a land grant of 2000 acres on the Missisquoi River that included the land Grey Lock had referred to. Four years prior to this, in 1765, the Missisquoi people had leased some of their land to James Robertson of Saint Jean, Quebec.

In 1770, John Hilliker moved to Swanton, Vermont and leased 100 acres of Abenaki land located two miles below the falls on the south side of the river.

Many of the early settlers got along very well with the Abenakis at Missisquoi according to an account by one settler. In Highgate Springs, "Indians frequented the settlement and sometimes pitched their wigwams near the settlers' cabins, and the children of the Indian and the white man have often played and frolicked together during the Indians' short sojourn" (Skeels, 1871).

Additional Reading

 Abenaki People
 Abenaki Language
 Abenaki Words
 Abenaki Mythology
 Vermont Native American Indians



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