The Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi is a community of extended families who has inhabited the Missisquoi River and the Betobagw (Lake Champlain) Valley for thousands of years. We have maintained this land, our relations with each other, and with the many other-than-human beings who live here, through every generation. Our creation stories tell us we emerged from this place and our leadership families have oral traditions that go back many generations, including the time before English and French settlers arrived.
We are one of many communities in Wabanaki, the land of the dawn. We also have kinship ties to Kanienkehaka people, on the other side of Betobagw, the lake between Wabanaki and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Missisquoi is not only a place of emergence and continuance, but a place of refuge. Many Native families traveled here from communities to the south, seeking refuge from colonial dispossession and war. Our community took them in and they became a part of us. The Missisquoi wetlands became a stronghold in the eighteenth century, when the Abenaki leader Greylock led a resistance movement to prevent English settlements from encroaching northward. Greylock had traveled with other families to Missisquoi from the Connecticut River Valley, and this resistance movement represented the way families from many places came together here.
Missisquoi has always been maintained as a central gathering place, for families who have always lived here and those that became a part of the community. The land has sustained us all and we have worked hard to sustain the land. Abenaki men were among the first guides in the Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge and worked to ensure that Abenaki families continued to have access to the wetlands for fishing and hunting, when the federal government established the Refuge in the 1940s. Abenaki women leaders, like Martha Morits Lampman, worked to maintain their homes and extended families in places like the Maquam wetlands, ensuring that both Abenaki people and the animals and plants on which we rely would be protected. This land, known as “Grandma Lampman’s,” was permanently protected by the Abenaki community, and recognized by the state of Vermont, in the 1990s.
The heads of leadership families came together in the 1970s to formally organize a tribal council which would be recognized and understood by state and federal governments, and the protection of aboriginal rights was an important motivation. Our relations at the Abenaki reserves of Odanak and Wolinak, in Quebec, also recognized our nation, in 1976, and the chiefs of Missisquoi and Odanak worked in alliance to support each other. The Longhouse of the Kaniekehaka nation at Kahnawake, along with many other nations, also recognized us and our rights in our homeland. We are the nation who fought hard to preserve our aboriginal rights to fish and hunt in our homeland in the 1980s and 1990s, a time when we also asserted our self-determination and sovereignty through projects like the Abenaki Self-Help Association and Abenaki Acres. Today, we continue to put the needs of our extended families at the center, with projects like Maquam Bay of Missisquoi, the Abenaki Food Pantry, community gatherings, and wellness and cultural programs.