Shaking up the tribe

The Abenaki

( – promoted by navajo)

I’ve always acknowledged my Abenaki heritage and for a long time, I’ve wanted to take part in the tribal council and the political process it involves. However, the council in my opinion, is a puppet council.

There is no tribal democracy here. Instead, the chief came to power by nepotism and not a fair vote. Her father was chief and she became chief while he was on his last legs.

My email below is an attempt to shake things up and get the gears of change started.

Note: I originally posted this diary at Daily Kos as well.

Here’s my email in full. There are no actual names of people mentioned as to protect their identities:


Feel free to pass this on to fellow Abenakis who are disenchanted with the current stateof the St.Francis(sic) band of the Abenakis. I urge you to forward it, especially if you know people who are frustrated and wanting to make change.

   If I could, I would consider starting or joining a new branch of the Missisquoi Abenaki Nation. My arguments for doing so will probably seem crass and uncalled for to some people. If this is the case, I feel for people who may take offense and their inability to see what is in front of them.

   I feel that younger Abenakis such as myself, need to speak out more about the state of the tribe and assert some sort of authority that elders may be unwilling to assert. We are also Americans and even though our country has not always been fair to us, we are still blessed with the ability to change and evolve.

   I feel that the current tribe is un-Democratic. We do not have a say in what our “chief” does. For example, I’m still very disappointed that she moved the pow-wow back by a week.I’ve always looked forward to attending pow-wows and I’m not happy that I missed the one this year. However, looking back on the current state of the tribe, I’m actually glad that I missed it. After all, it’s all about her.

   Our “chief” is a believer in the cult of personality. She loves to take credit for things that she had nothing to do with. She “elects” sycophants and historians to serve on the tribal council, as opposed to real Abenakis. She complains about the injustices lobbied against her, while ignoring the injustices that have plagued our tribe as a whole.

   Tell me, has there ever been a mention of Abenakis without a mention of her in the media? Has the media ever bothered to interview real Abenakis and gather their thoughts on the progress (or lack thereof) of our tribe? Why should her opinion have more weight than the opinion of anyone else in our tribe?

   I think I’ve given enough attention to our “chief”. She craves attention because all of the years we have fought for our tribal identity, she has taken the credit for it. No more.

   It’s time to turn my attention to our tribe and what we can accomplish if we can get involved.

   We are already in the 21st Century and even though our tribe has statewide recognition,we are still lacking in areas that we should have covered long ago.  I personally feel that more should be done to assure that fellow Abenakis have access to education, decent social services and have a sense of pride about their tribe. I know that there are people

   working very hard for these things and I fully support what they are doing, despite the state our tribe is in.

   No more hiding in the shadows. No more fear of our “chief”. In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

   Our tribe has been marred by years of infighting and corruption. I’m sure that I am not alone among my Abenaki peers when I say that I want to embrace my identity. I’m sure that I am not alone in my frustration towards the way our tribe is run.

   I have been blessed with the ambition and desire to better myself. I want to use my desire to make things better for others. This is why I share my opinion, as strong as it may be. Our tribe is in danger of disappearing. When I use the word  “disappear”, I am talking about allowing the selfish desires of one woman to reign over the desires of our tribe as a whole.

   Are we going to make change? Are we going to right the wrongs?

   As history has consistently shown, we live in a country of innovative people who have used their courage and knowledge to make things better for others. We have the ability to do it.

I have been encouraged to apply to the Vermont Commission on Indian Affairs. I am in the process of doing so.

I also have Barack Obama to thank for my inspiration to speak out. There are not enough young Abenaki voices clamoring for change. I aim to rock the boat and create a wave of change.


  1. what you describe is something that has been going on since the IRA was established. In almost every small tribe a family or several families controls tribal government. Most of the time they have been in office for a couple of generations and they know how to stay in power. Sometime there are two or three families with shifting alleigences that are in and out of power but it’s always the same few. Sound familiar? I’ve spent several decades working with and often fighting the IRA system that controls our land and governments. I can confidently say that each and every tribe under the system has at one time or the other revolted against it. That’s why you read so often about ‘take overs’ and blockades in ndn country. The successful tribes that avoid the tribal infighting are those few that still have a traditional government but those are very few nowdays in ndn country.
    You now have two choices, you can either decide to work within the system as it’s now constituted or you can attempt to change the governing documents to make them more democratic. Either way means long and hard work at community organizing over probably several years. By working within the system I don’t mean giving in, I mean organizing reformminded tribal members and voting a reform government into power. It often seems impossible unless you youself come from a big family (of course I mean the big extended ndn families when I say family). But it can be done if you’re skillful in you pursuasion and the people accept you as a leader. Nothing happens quickly so plan on it being a lifes endeavor, your opponents will. The other way is to attempt to petition to change the Constitution and that will take more community organizing and legal dealings.
    In the end the answer is to become a respected member of your nation, become known as a person who helps and speaks good of people. Implement good ideas for the people in need in your tribe and become known to be trust worthy in your words with deeds. When you become immersed in tribal life people will listen to you as one of their own and you’ll see some good in your opponents or at least their recent ancestors who probably worked in tribal government too. One word of caution… ndns resent it when people come and seek leadership positions without paying their dues by working in the trenches and getting to know what’s what and who’s who. But in the end that’s the rewarding part too, being a part of the whole.

  2. I realize that this is going to take years of community organization and it’s no small feat.

    And you are right about the family control. Where I come from, there are two families that have controlled our tribe for the past 30 years. I am fortunate to have connections with one of the families that has been out of power for over 25 years. They have desire to re-claim the tribe and try to unite the tribe for once.

    The Abenakis gained statewide recognition in 2006. We’re still fighting for federal recognition.

    By the way, I have put my application for the Vermont Commission on Indian Affairs in the mail. I was encouraged to do so because it might be a good starting point. I’ve often dreamed about taking a greater role in my tribe and embracing my heritage more often. I feel that it is time for me to speak up.

    It also helps that I’m heavily influenced by Barack Obama, who is a community organizer himself.

    And your last point? I understand about “working in the trenches”. I just feel like it’s time to get involved more and see where it goes from there.  

  3. I first knew Wilma ManKiller as a community organizer out in California when I helped her start a school. When she went home to her tribe she had a corrupt Chairman and the tribe badly in need of reform. But she didn’t start by trying to oust the Chair and bring immediate reform, she set about by working on a program that brought water to areas of the rez that had never had running water. She did other things like helping start a clinic, took part in traditional doings and made a good name for herself among the elders. Her work was rewarded by leadership freely given by her people and she became the first woman Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She was a good example of community organizing and one of the few reformers who did it without the bad infighting our people are so good at.
    Of course there’s my old AIM way but it’s no longer recommended.
    I don’t know what the qualifications are for Vermont but most state commissions are people who have worked a lot in the arena and know the tribes intimately. My sister (Barbara Warner) has been the state director in Oklahoma for many years but there it’s very political and one must be a player in the Indian community statewide.

  4. The Problem with the Alleged Abenaki of Vermont and New Hampshire

    First and foremost I would like to say that there are indeed legitimate Abenaki and other Native descendants within these two states. The problem that exists within these two states are in regards to these self proclaiming and self promoting groups that are today led by April St. Francis-Merrill, Mr. Luke Willard, Howard Franklin Knight Jr., and Nancy Lee Millette.
    They have said in their previous media articles regarding requirements for state recognition, that they will not provide any genealogical evidence to support their claims, their assertions, or their proclamations. Seemingly the Vermont and New Hampshire Governments and perspective Legislative members are supposed to simply take these alleged Abenaki groups representative’s words in good faith that they are speaking the truth.
    The problem is their lack of bone fide evidence of a genealogical nature, which would show the State of Vermont’s public and government that they indeed descend from Vermont Abenaki families. It would be simple if these groups were historically verifiably in existence from the 1800’s to the contemporary time period, but they are not. The so called Missisquoi and Koasek groups, and their sub-band called the El-Nu, along with the Nulhegan group will point repeatedly to historical maps and historically documented Abenaki people, yet not one of these groups or their representatives have shown their genealogical connectedness to these historical Abenaki communities. If they are legitimate Abenaki from and of Vermont, whose ancestors descend from Abenaki people who resided in Vermont, then why are they “hiding” their genealogical histories from the public and the Legislature of Vermont? Howard Knight Jr. repeatedly “retires” as acting “Chief” and Ms. Millette has been asked to leave two Native communities in New York State before moving to Vermont to start up as a “Co-Chief” of the Koasek. Investigations into their backgrounds have revealed that they are not telling the whole truth when expounding on the virtues of their achievements in the past.
    Clearly, the evidence provided to the BIA by April St. Francis-Merrill was not sufficient to identify any person or family from her group as being of Abenaki descent. Genealogy ought to be the foundation of any Abenaki Recognition from the State of Vermont or New Hampshire to ANY self proclaimed group of Abenakis. Money, influence, power, and control are what these alleged Abenaki groups are after, and they are doing it on the bones of the legitimate Abenaki ancestors that lay in the Vermont and New Hampshire ground!
    I will give you a clear example of what is going on in Vermont and New Hampshire by using one of these alleged Abenaki leader’s. As Town Promoter of Littleton, New Hamsphire,  Nancy Cruger promoted and organized  powwow’s in Littleton, in Twin Mountain, and also in Lancaster, N.H. She actively interacted with my cousin, Newton Washburn, who had a photograph of himself and Homer St Francis, the late alleged Chief of the Missisquoi Abenaki. They resembled each other. At the 1994 Littleton summer powwow Nancy Cruger showed a photograph of her relative grandfather Reginald Hunt to Homer St. Francis. “Feeding Ego” is what we would call it. Homer’s Tribal Judge, the late Michael Delaney, gave Nancy a membership card to their group based on this resemblance in the picture. So began the “stories” of Nancy’s Great-Grandmother having been allegedly born on the Littleton’s Ammonoosuc riverbank. Somehow Flora Eunice Ingerson became Flora Una Anna Ingerson and she was allegedly a medicine woman that was born somewhere close to Newton Washburn’s place in the Bethlehem Hollow. Nancy created, promoted and organized a group called the White Bison Council and later still, there was the First Nations Tribal Council.
    In February 1997, in the Coos County based Democrat Newspaper, Nancy Cruger stated that she made a deathbed promise to her Great-Grandmother Flora that she would “find her people”. Yet, no one in the family’s ancestry is showing to be of Abenaki descent.  Inquiries have revealed that no one has said a word of confirmation within Jefferson, N.H., Littleton, N.H., nor Monroe, N.H. where Flora lived, as to her Abenaki ancestry or involvement. Seemingly it has been and is only Nancy herself creating and promoting these “stories” that have been publicized about her Great-Grandmother, Flora Eunice Ingerson. The Eugenics Records of Vermont, found in 1995, is the next verbal excuse for the lack of their evidence of a genealogical nature to showing the State that they are legitimately Abenaki People from and of Vermont and/or New Hampshire.
    Yet, it was not just the Eugenics Program of Vermont that was out there “looking at families”.  There was the Children’s Aid Society before the Eugenics and in alliance with the Eugenics of Vermont, that were operatively going after particular families. It was not because the families were Abenakis.  The Eugenics targeted people because of disease, mental and or physical disabilities, severe financial problems and the like.  The Vermont and New Hampshire groups reference this period and say that the Eugenics’ targeted Abenaki families, presumably their own.  If that were the reality of the times during the Eugenics period, then why didn’t the people who were part of the Eugenics go after the Obamsawin’s of Thompson’s Point, or Aunt Sarah Somers descendants in Lunenburg, Vermont? They were Abenaki and clearly were also from French Canada, and were Catholic’s.
    April St. Francis-Merrill will proclaim that her group is the ONLY legitimate group in Vermont. Yet, no where in the evidence she herself, John Moody, or  Frederick Wiseman submitted is there any clear and convincing evidentiary documentation that would lead anyone to the conclusion that she, or any of her group is of legitimate Abenaki ancestry from within or around the area of Swanton, Vermont. And yet this group still demands State Recognition as being legitimately Abenaki from the historical Missisquoi community.
    It is the same for Nancy Millette (formerly Cruger and Lyons)’s group calling themselves the descendants of the historical Koasek Abenaki. IF one looks seriously at their foundation and the contemporary group’s representatives and membership’s genealogies, one will see the distortions. Nancy Millette has been asked repeatedly for the genealogical evidence to show the connectedness to these historical Koasek communities she is claiming.  She will not share the information and has said “only Indians ought to recognize Indians” (Burlington Free Press newspaper dated Feb. 16, 2008). That would fine IF these groups were descendants from within a historically identifiable cohesive and continuous Abenaki community. But they aren’t. They would rather have the people in Vermont and New Hampshire believe that since they are in the media often enough that their “stories” must be true.  They have their expert Archaeological supporters beside them, to make them look legitimate, as this sort of support looks authentic and helps to get grants.  Yet, the stories just don’t add up and neither does the genealogy of these groups. They are not who they appear to be.
    Nancy Millette became aware of the archaeological situation in Jefferson, New Hampshire and her “stories” began to change and evolve. Pretty soon, her Great Grandmother, Flora, was born “in an 8,000 year old Abenaki Village located in Jefferson, N.H. where the Archaeologists are digging” (Coos County Democrat newspaper dated June 26, 2002 and July 12, 2002 in The Northern Beacon newspaper). No evidence of an Abenaki Village, of Woodland or Contact Period has been found. I’ve talked with Richard Boisvert (Deputy State of N.H. Archaeologist) and Elizabeth Tucker (Staff Reporter for The Coos County Democrat newspaper). I’ve talked to elders who lived in that area of these Archaeological sites located in Jefferson, N.H. There is no evidence or materials whatsoever that has been found in Jefferson, N.H. to confirm there was a Abenaki village or encampment in 1874 or in that century of which Flora nee: Ingerson – Hunt could have been born or raised in! It’s an absolute fabrication of  Nancy Millette’s own self-created and self-promoted fantasies”. Ever read the book by Philip Deloria entitled “Playing Indian”? It explains a lot of what is going on in Vermont and New Hampshire today by these groups claiming to be Abenaki. I strongly suggest the people of Vermont not think so suddenly that these people claiming to being Abenaki from and of Vermont or New Hampshire, are real, because without the genealogical evidence being shared and some legitimacy and truth in the process, the Vermont public may very well be being deceived by these groups claiming to be Abenaki. A lot of this “business” of these newly popped up groups originates with Howard Franklin Knight Jr. and his followers, from years back. They created slick websites, showing the Vermont public what they wanted shown, but nowhere does one get to see the genealogical connectedness to the historical Abenaki records they keep talking about.
    If they cannot and/or will not show the evidence of their words, assertions, claims, and proclamations, then Vermont better beware of their obvious deceptions, and lies being perpetuated by these groups and their representatives. April St. Francis-Merrill has not shown one shred of evidence that she or her family’s ancestry was of Missisquoi Abenaki ancestry. See the B.I.A. report at Her submitted evidence is at the State Historical Society Library as public information.  The Eugenics Record materials are also public information. Not one argument that group made as to their claims of being from the historical Missisquoi Abenaki community, was legitimately verified by them or the B.I.A.’s hired genealogical researcher. It behooves the State of Vermont to demand that each and every group put the clear and convincing evidence forward, onto the table for the Legislature to review. In any legitimately known Native American community no one can get official Native Recognition without first having to show the genealogical evidence. Why do these groups think they can manipulate the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, and the Vermont Legislature to get instant State Recognition without so much as a shred of legitimate evidence having to be provided?! Legislature and the Governors of Vermont and New Hampshire, had better demand convincing genealogical evidence before Abenaki Recognition is haphazardly handed out. Each member of these alleged Vermont Abenaki groups need to show their genealogical evidence for each and every one of their representatives and members. They ought to be prosecuted for possessing and distributing Eagle and Hawk feathers when they haven’t any authority to do so, and they ought to be charged with fraud and embezzlement for claiming to represent the legitimate Abenaki, and receiving grant funding, if they cannot show the clear and convincing evidence that they are Abenaki from Vermont. It begins and ends with one simple act. Show the genealogical evidence, so that the Abenaki People can once again know each other, and so that the State of Vermont can recognize us legitimately. At present, these groups are just “playing Indian” and indeed they may be “genealogical frauds” as Frederick Wiseman stated ( Also go to this webpage address:

    Douglas Lloyd Buchholz
    P.O. Box 83
    Lancaster, New Hampshire 03584

  5. My family joined this tribe when Homer was still alive which was much differently then it is today. I do agree that the current Chief thinks all about her. From what I see today and from what I know, there is still only one tribe from from Vermont. And I wonder why is that? My lineage is from the Connecticut River not the Missisquoi River.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.