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The Identity Of The Saint Francis Indians

by Gordan M. Day

"The Identity Of The Saint Francis Indians" by Gordon M. Day, National Museums of Canada, Ottawa 1981, National Museum Of Man Mercury Series ISSN 0316-1854, Canadian Ethnology Service Paper No. 71 ISSN 0316-1862.

This extract contains only the transcriptions of those sections that are of interest to the case study.

AGENT. Also Agean. This name appears in the Durham grant of 1805 and in censuses up to 1852. French Jean and English John became Azô in Abenaki, a name which could easily be written by a French writer as Agent. In the Durham grant the name was arranged as Agent Michel Pierre. I believe this was the same man as the Michel Agent who appears in the 1812 roster and in the censuses from 1829 to 1852.

DEGONZAGUE. Abenakis at Odanak agree that this family was a branch of the Obomsawin family, presumably descended from a Degonzague Obomsawin about whom I have found no information. Hallowell got the same information (ca. 1930, Chart 1). He wrote, "I have been told that de Gonzague was originally a personal name associated with Obomsawin as a surname and that gradually the surname [Obomsawin] was dropped and de Gonzague substituted". The first Degonzague in the records is Louis De Gonzague who was war chief in the 1808 Petition to Governor Craig for Francis Annance (PAC, RG 10, vol. 625). We may surmise that the Louis Consack who was head chief in 1819, signing the petition to rebuild the church, was the same man, since the spellings of this document are rather uncouth (BRH 30 [1924]:83). He does not appear in the roster of 1812, but a P.M. Degonzague does. Pronounced in Abenaki dagöza.

MICHEL. See Mitchell.

MITCHELL. Mitchell is probably an anglicization of Michel. A number of Abenakis were christened Michel, and it is not apparent for which one it became a family name. For example, Michel Terrou8euml;erment signed the 1750 letter to Chartres; Michel Arakante witnessed the Bedel deed in 1798; and as late as 1853 one man was known simply as Michel Abenakis (Register of Mission of Saint-Francois de Sales). In 1765 Joseph Michel is named in the Robertson lease of Missisquoi lands, which inclines me towards the view that Michel was a Missisquoi family. The presence of an Abenaki Mitchell family among the Iroquois at Saint Regis and the apparent connection between Saint Regis and Missisquoi strengthens this view somewhat (Frisch 1970:69). There were Mitchells at both Saint Francis and Missisquoi in the 19th century (Censuses of 1873 and 1875; Register of the Mission of Saint-François de Sales; Moody 1979:53, 57-59).

OTONDOSONNE. Also Otedosonne. This name appears first with Joachim Ottantoson in the Durham lease of 1805, and it appears in all censuses between 1829 and 1875. The Frank Otondoson of the 1873 and 1875 censuses was remembered by my informants. He was without children and was then living in the United States. The Abenaki form is otódosán 'he passes by'. This name has a superficial resemblance to that of a Wampanoag chief at the time of King Philip's War -- Totoson or Tatoson, sachem of the territory on the south shore of Massachusetts west of Cape Cod (Speck 1928b:74, 76). The name has some resemblance also to Natick ohtohtosu 'is removed' (Trumbull 1903:104). Totoson could have fled to Schaghticoke and the name reached Odanak from there. Odanak tradition places the family at Saint-Hilaire on the Richelieu River before coming to Odanak.

WATSO. Also Watzeau. Louis Watso was a veteran of the War of 1812 although for some reason he was not included in the roster. Since he was 97 years old in 1875, he was born in or about 1778 (Vassal XII:4). His father was a Watso, given name unknown to me, and his mother was Marie-Eulalie Gill (Maurault 1866:364). In the census of 1829 after Louis Watso's name was written "Marie Olalé est otée", presumably removed from this part of the census list, because Marie Olalé Pabomnolette is listed among the widows. One surmises that, having been married about 1775 and raising a family, she was widowed, remarried her half-Abenaki cousin Pabomnolette, and was widowed again. In the 1832 census Louis Watso is again listed as having his mother living with him. wadzó is 'mountain'. Hallowell (ca. 1930:23) heard the name Petegwadjo and thought it might have been the full name of the Watso family. I doubt this on the grounds that Pedegwadzo was a Transformer in Western Abenaki mythology (Day 1976a:75-89). It seems to me, however, that the possibility exists that the family could be descended from Pial Pissenne, who was commonly known as Peter Mountain and Pierre Lamontagne (Harrington 1869:4). The Watso family has been represented at Odanak continually until the present day.


In 1781 the Indians at Saint-Francois reminded the Government of a promise to increase their lands as a reward for their services in the American Revolution (Maurault 1866:586 fn 2). In 1788-1789 they petitioned Governor Carleton to indemnify them for the loss of their lands on the Missisquoi River (PAC. Indian Records, Series 2, 4:242; Charland 1964:175-176). Although as we have seen, there were Indians living at Missisquoi until about 1800, they apparently perceived that their inability to remove Wagoner and Tichout signalized their loss of control over their lands.

After 1792 the Eastern Townships were surveyed and opened to settlement by Loyalists who had fled the United States. This was the principal hunting grounds of the Saint Francis Indians remaining in their old territory, and they petitioned Governor Prescott in 1797 for a grant of land (Charland 1964: 176). The influx of families from Missisquoi and from the upper Connecticut and Androscoggin was probably an added incentive for urging this petition, and finally in 1805, 8150 acres in the township of Durham, thirty or forty miles up the Rivière Saint-François, were granted to seventeen heads of families living at Odanak (PAC, Q 94:9; St. Amant 1932:63; Charland 1964:176).

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