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Exploring & Sharing the Wabanaki History of Interior New England
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Ne-Do-Ba's Response to the Blog
The Reinvention of the Vermont Abenaki  OFF-SITE LINK 

Last Updated Aug-2009

Ne-Do-Ba Comment - - - We have learned of a blog creating quite a stir in the northeast. The blog is titled The Reinvention of the Vermont Abenaki ( OFF-SITE LINK  ) written by Douglas Lloyd Buchholz. Among other things, this blog questions the self identity as Abenaki by a number of public figures. We may not always agree with Douglas' methods, but we feel he is asking appropriate questions and those questions need to be addressed in a public forum. Here is our two cents worth.

Our Response to Douglas Buchholz

The States of New Hampshire, Vermont, and portions of Western Maine have denied the existence of Native inhabitants for about two centuries and this certainly needs to be corrected. We are right in demanding our place in history and forcing these regions to acknowledge our mixed blood ancestry. It is therefore the responsibility of those of us (the mixed blood descendants currently choosing to acknowledge our Native heritage) to correct this situation through any legitimate means possible. In this way we honor the memory of our ancient grandmothers. But in doing so, we have to be honest with ourselves and with our governments. We are not honoring our heritage when we make up stories or distort history to fit our view of what we think the history should be.

For years Ne-Do-Ba has been quietly sitting in the back listening to and watching events unfold in this region. As an organization, we have always insisted who you are is your business and not ours - we are interested only in the ancestors and in recovering the lost history of the mixed blood Wabanaki People of Interior Northeast. We do not maintain information on people born after 1890 in our genealogical database and we can not (and would not) confirm or deny the claim of "Abenaki" by anyone living today.

However, in recent years Ne-Do-Ba has received a number of requests (and demands) to "fix" this or that statement on our web site because it does not support some current issue or agree with what the person wants the history to be. In each case we politely respond that we would be pleased to update any statement on our web site as soon as we are provided a historically valid source that supports the claim. To date, we have not received a single response of any kind from any of these folks - suggesting they have no evidence to back up their statements. Yet, we find these ideas are being spread by other means and a growing number of folks now believe these things to be true. Trying to change history to conform to an individual's idea of what should have happened is just plain wrong and the public needs to be aware of these practices.

Our research to date suggests the Abenaki bands still in place in the Interior Northeast at the time of the Revolutionary War slowly disintegrated or merged with the Wabanaki groups that continued to maintain a land base in Maine, Quebec, and New Brunswick. By disintegrate, we mean members of the bands made individual choices about how to survive rather than group choices. Some chose to maintain their culture, some chose to accept a different culture, and a few managed to adapted one to the other - but regardless of the outcome it was THEIR CHOICE and we can not change the outcome.

Often we hear the cry "government sponsored eugenics drove our ancestors into hiding" so we can't prove who we are. Sorry but this argument is lame and shows a lack of knowledge of history. The Eugenics programs did not exist until the early 20th Century and the genealogy of the targeted families is well documented in the Eugenics files.

Why can't so many of us document our Native ancestry in the 19th Century? Because our ancestors CHOSE to take a different path. Their choices created who we are today and gave us many advantages as well as disadvantages. In the end, in order to honor them we must respect their choices, even if we don't agree with the choice. If our ancestors lived as Native People in the 19th Century (before eugenics), we will find supporting evidence of it in public records. Historical research by Ne-Do-Ba has repeatedly proven this to be true - it is not always easy, but the evidence is there if you are persistent.

Some feel maintaining a Native identity was not an option, but the fact we still have recognized Wabanaki groups (such as Odanak, Penobscot, Maliseet, etc.) that were able to maintain land and identity demonstrates it was an option and survival was possible when that option was chosen. There are also a number of "off reservation" families in the northeast that maintained a Native identity for a number of generations throughout the 19th Century.

Our research is always on-going and every day we make new discoveries that force us to re-evaluate previous beliefs and former conclusions. If anyone can provide documentation of any kind to support the idea any band or community remained intact off-reservation in Western Maine, New Hampshire, or Vermont after 1860, we would certainly welcome hearing from you. Anecdotal information from personal family stories has value and we welcome it, but will not accept it as proof of a fact, only as supporting evidence.

Unfortunately, "Because grandmother said" is not proof of anything. We are not suggesting our grandmothers were lying to us, but we do believe they were often confused about what their elders told them, especially when they heard about their ancestry as children. The older we get the less we remember of childhood details. In the research we do, we are constantly discovering family stories just do not play out well when we look at the historical facts! There is very likely some basic and distant truth in the stories, but the details are frequently inaccurate. We have to accept responsibility for our family stories by verifying their accuracy before we spread them around in public.

As an individual, I believe by claiming publicly we are Abenaki, Mi'kmaq, Irish, German or whatever, we create a responsibility to that ancestry. Before demanding history and governments have wronged us, we must be active in discovering the real and complete story (not just our family's version). We must be willing to accept whatever we discover and willing to put it out there for others to see. If a person is not prepared to do this they should not be making public statements and certainly should not be receiving government assistance as a member of a minority population.

I can not document my Native ancestry. Because of that and out of respect for those families who chose throughout history to remain openly Native, I stopped referring to myself as "Abenaki" many years ago and now simple state that I believe I am an "Abenaki descendant". I do not ask for anything from anyone based on my self-designation and I have never accepted money based on my claim to Abenaki ancestry. All money coming to me from research or programming goes directly to Ne-Do-Ba to further our mission.

My own grandfather told my aunt (when she was a teen) that she didn't look like her very Irish appearing siblings because of our Native ancestry. But when I asked, my aunt could not be certain how he phrased it and neither my mom nor any of her other siblings knew anything about it. Did my grandfather say "her great-grandmother" or "his great-grandmother" or was it simply "a great-grandmother" was Indian? As the best case, let's say it was my mother's great-grandmother. Which of her 4 great-grandmothers was it? I can trace all 4 at least one additional generation, so the woman could not have been more than 1/8 Indian. This would make my grandfather no more than 1/32, and I could not be more than 1/128. Even if I could prove this - why should I be entitled to equal standing with someone whose family has maintained an open Native identity for generations and suffered daily bigotry and discrimination because of it. We simply have no right to expect or demand this - certainly not to the point of resurrecting historical "bands" and demanding equal rights with other indigenous peoples.

We should join together in groups, do what we can to promote Wabanaki culture, and help others like ourselves do the same. Setting up nonprofit organizations as social, genealogical, and/or historical societies with a focus on our Native heritage can be very beneficial. These groups can provide valuable services and there are several that do just that. But when these groups declare they are bands, tribes, or Nations speaking for the Abenaki People, demand states acknowledge them and provide them with special rights, or when individuals make public statements about historical people, places, and events they can not substantiate - that is, I believe, CROSSING THE LINE. When we see this type of activity it is our duty to question the motives behind it.

Please - do not think all "Abenaki" people or all "Abenaki" organizations are acting in fraudulent or inappropriate ways. As with anything, there are some good ones and some not so good ones. Please take the time to look into the claims of people or organizations you are interested in. Ask questions, find the source of the information, and make sure the information is reliable before you accept it as true or pass it on to others. To do anything else is to dishonor yourself and your Wabanaki ancestry.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Ne-Do-Ba is involved with the past. This is the first and most likely the only time Ne-Do-Ba or myself will ever make a public statement concerning a modern day issue. It is only being done now because some folks are seriously fouling the waters with unsubstantiated claims and making our mission of rediscovering the lost history of this region even more difficult than it already is.

Thank You for your time
Nancy Lecompte
Research & Education Director for Ne-Do-Ba

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