Missisquoi History and Chronology
Missisquoi is an ancient village and a living tribal community
Bitawbagw (Lake Champlain), the lake between, was a center of trade and exchange, connecting Haudenosaunee and Abenaki people. Mazipskoik (Missisquoi), the place where there is flint, is located on the northeast shore of Bitawbagw, at Mazipskwebi (Missisquoi Bay), and extends easterly along Mazipskoisibo, the Missisquoi River. Missisquoi is one homeland within Wôbanaki, the Dawnland. Missisquoi belonged to a vast trade network that reached from Sobagw, the Atlantic ocean to Anishinabewaki, Anishinaabe territory in the Great Lakes. Missisquoi people were connected to and intermarried with other Abenaki/Wabanaki communities, as well as with Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) and Muhhecunnuck (Mohican) neighbors. These intermarriages did not end with the colonization, but only increased as families were impacted by disease, conflict, and displacement. The Missisquoi Abenaki community began taking in displaced people from other homelands long before any European settlers arrived and has continued to sustain this ancient place for thousands of years, up to the present day.
The Ancient Village that Continues
The ancient village of Missisquoi was centered on the lower Missisquoi River and the vast Missisquoi delta, including Kwenozasek, the Pike River, which flows into Missisquoi Bay from Bedford, Quebec. The village extended along the Missisquoi River on both sides, including the bow of the river, the area of the current Monument Road (Highgate), the protected wetlands of Maquam, and the fishing Falls at Takwahoganek (Swanton Center). Families utilized the entire river, hunting and fishing in the headwaters and uplands, including multiple streams that come down from around Wskwadena, Jay Peak.
Archaeological studies have confirmed the location of the ancient village, informed by oral history from Abenaki leadership families, including a large longhouse, some 100-feet long, which was documented in 2015, and once stood at the center of the village. This study also confirmed continual occupation in this place from 7500 bp (before present time) to the present day. Other archaeology sites confirm occupation of the ancient shore to 13,000 years bp, when the lake was a sea, a time held in longstanding Abenaki oral traditions about the formation of the Valley. Hunting, fishing, and gathering have been vital for subsistence and culture, from time immemorial to the present day, even after agriculture emerged in this fertile valley. The rich soils left by the receding sea created an ideal place for Abenaki women to plant corn, beans, squash and sunflowers, among other plants, which sustained families for multiple generations. Long after colonization, families continued to grow corn and other vegetables, distributing them among kin.
Colonization and Continuance
In the 1500s and early 1600s French, Basque, Italian & English explorers and fishing vessels traveled Sobagw, the Atlantic Ocean, and arrived in Wabanaki, Wampanoag and Narragansett homelands on the eastern coast. These visitors traded with Indigenous people and some of those trade goods traveled through the extensive network of Indigenous waterways and trails, reaching Bitawbagw. Both French and English travelers took Wabanaki and other Indigenous people captive on the coast, carrying them to Europe, where some were enslaved and others were taught English and French in order to inform their captors about the resources and navigation of their homelands. Some of those people taken captive died in Europe but others returned with European ships and escaped, returning to their homelands. News of these kidnappings and returns also traveled through Indigenous trade networks.
Epidemic diseases, including smallpox, which were also carried by European travelers, devastated Indigenous communities in the northeast, with losses leading to great ruptures, grief and conflicts, including competition over the fur trade among both European settlers and Indigenous nations. Survivors of the epidemics drew on traditional practices and new goods and ideas brought by European newcomers to recover and survive.
1600s: Europeans arrive at Bitawbagw
- European ships travel to the Wabanaki coast and Ktsitekw, the St. Lawrence River, fishing and surveying for resources. European trade goods move through Native trade networks to Bitawbagw.
- 1609 French explorer Samuel de Champlain travels to Bitawbagw. Native guides tell him about fertile fields of corn on the eastern shore. Champlain introduces firearms to Indigenous warfare, killing two Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) chiefs.
- 1615 French missionary travels by canoe with Native guides on Bitawbagw and the Missisquoi River, visiting Azeskoimenahan (Isle La Motte) and Missisquoi, where he finds a “flourishing” village at Takwahoganek falls.
- Beaver trade brings conflict to the entire region, including Bitawbagw. French settlers supply guns to Native traders; Native leaders engage in exchange and ceremony to heal grief of loss and resolve conflicts among communities.
- Jesuits build missions on Ktsitekw, the St. Lawrence River, and in Wabanaki communities closer to the coast (including the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers). Jesuits tell Native people that baptism will protect them from disease and insist that guns should only be sold to baptized Indians, leading to “conversions” to Catholicism.
- 1650s-1660s Sokokis on Kwenitekw (Connecticut River), south of Missisquoi, join with other related nations and French settlers against the Haudenosaunee, conflicts which create dispersals from southern communities.
- 1665 New York colony governor, given the title “Corlaer” by Haudenosaunee leaders, drowns on Bitawbagw en route to Canada, and his guides relay he did not respect the tradition of giving offerings to Odzhiozo
- 1666 French build Fort St. Anne on Azeskoimenahan (Isle La Motte) as defense against Kanienkehaka (Mohawks), and Jesuit missionaries also establish mission there, but both are abandoned within five years.
- 1675-8 First Anglo-Abenaki War, King Philip’s War
- In winter 1676, Abenaki men from Bitawbagw travel to Hoosic, in Mohican territory, to attend a large council with representatives of multiple Indigenous nations and promise to support raids on English towns in Kwenitekw Valley.
- Missisquoi receives familes from the south who seek sanctuary. Pennacooks (from the Merrimack River), Sokokis, and other people from Kwenitekw also seek refuge in French missions, including Sillery, on the St. Lawrence River, and in Schaghticoke, in Mohican territory, near Albany.
- 1688-1697: Second Anglo-Abenaki War/King Williams War. Abenakis form limited alliance with French vs. English on Lake Champlain & Connecticut River, but remain independent
- 1680s and 1690s Native families travel between Schaghticoke, Kwenitekw, and northern communities like Missisquoi, Winooski, and Koasek, and French mission villages, like Sillery and Odanak. Intermarriage is common among these communities.
1700s Greylock’s Castle and the Anglo-Abenaki Wars
- 1700s Anglo-Abenaki Wars, Missisquoi becomes a refuge for diplaced people, with families from other homelands strengthening a community that, like many Native communities, had faced tremendous loss due to disease and war.
- 1702-13, Queen Anne’s War, Third Anglo-Abenaki War. Missisquoi allied with other Abenaki/Wabanaki communities and the French against English expansion. Abenaki warriors carry English captives from Deerfield through Bitawbagw.
- 1723-1727, Greylock’s War, Dummer’s War, Fourth Anglo-Abenaki War, a resistance against English colonization of Abenaki homelands.
Greylock was among the families who migrated to Missisquoi from Kwenitekw and Schaghticoke, intermarrying and integrating into the Missisquoi community. Greylock leads “lightning fast” raids on settlements in the Connecticut River Valley and other locations in Massachusetts colony, always returning to the stronghold, known as “Greylock’s Castle,” in the Missisquoi delta wetlands. Missisquoi becomes a target for Massachusetts colony militia, but English colonial forces never find the stronghold. This effort successfully holds back colonial military from attacking northern Abenaki communities and pushes back colonization of Abenaki homelands. Greylock’s War is part of a larger movement across Wabanaki homelands, but Greylock and Missisquoi leaders do not sign the treaties which concluded “Dummer’s War.”
- 1739, messages travel among multiple Abenaki communities, Kanienkehaka leaders, and leaders at Schaghticoke, confirming an alliance and pledging to avoid burgeoning war between England and France (and their colonies), saying “We only destroy ourselves when we meddle in their wars.”
- 1743-4, Jesuit Etienne Lauverjat builds mission at Missisquoi
- 1744-48, King George’s War, Fifth Anglo-Abenaki War. Abenakis strive to reverse English settlements in the Connecticut River Valley. Benning Wentworth, governor of New Hampshire colony, sends Robert Rogers to blaze a trail through Koasek, on the upper Connecticut River. Abenaki warriors carry captives through Bitawbagw.
- 1748, French settler granted a seignory on the Missisquoi River. Sawmill built at Takwahoganek falls with Abenaki village centered around the falls, while other families continue to live along the river and in the delta. Abenaki families incorporate some French settlers into their communities, while French continue to recognize Missisquoi sovereignty.
- 1752-1764, governor Benning Wentworth attempts to expand New Hampshire colony through the “New Hampshire grants” in Abenaki homelands, including present-day northwestern Vermont, but none of the original English grantees enact the grants through occupation in Missisquoi
- 1754-63, French and Indian War, people of Missisquoi join other Abenakis and French allies against English settlers. Bitawbagw is central travel corridor and battleground, with French and English forts and forces on its shores. Missisquoi Abenakis associate with French fort at Isle aux Noix on Richilieu River, east of Missisquoi Bay.
- 1757, Sawmill at Takwahoganek burned by English, who are repelled by French and Abenakis at Missisquoi.
- 1759 Roger’s Raid at Odanak, on St. Francis River. Missisquoi Abenaki fishermen capture some of the retreating rangers at Missisquoi and bring them to the French fort at Isle aux Noix.
- 1765 Robertson’s Lease, trader James Robertson leases land from Abenaki nation of Missisquoi. The document shows twelve extended families whose lands are reserved from the lease, making it clear that the community planned to remain.
- 1760s Missisquoi Abenaki leaders assert that they have inhabited Missisquoi since time immemorial, and are recognized by Governor of Lower Canada as rightful owners of their homeland, as New Hampshire colony tries to extend its settlements, based on Wentworth grants.
- 1765 Daniel Claus meets with Missisquoi leaders and writes to Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Sir William Johnson, that Missisquoi Abenakis are becoming increasingly concerned about their lands
- 1775-1783, American Revolution, Abenaki men are recruited and serve with American forces, including a fort established at the Abenaki community of Koasek and Missisquoi men who served as scouts and guides.
- 1779: Map showing “Indian Castle” at Missisquoi
- After the war, Ira Allen and his brothers attempt to claim title to land at Missisquoi, buying up the old New Hampshire colony land grant lots, which had never been “improved.”
- Other local settlers and American military officers who served with Abenaki men assert the rights of the Indians of Missisquoi
- Hillikers, Dutch loyalists, lease land from Abenakis, and oral tradition says Hilliker married a Missisquoi woman
- Late 1784-5: Dutch Lampman brothers arrive at Missisquoi, one bringing a Mohican wife, and another marrying a Missisquoi woman, and their family is incorporated into Missisquoi community
- 1786 Captain Joseph Traversy advocates to the Continental Congress for the protection and restoration of Abenaki land at Missisquoi against depravations of Ira Allen. Major Clement Gosselin reports that the Abenakis “still hold” the “land on Missiscouy Creek.”
- Some Missisquoi Abenakis move to other places, including Odanak on the St. Francis River, but core families remain
- 1790-2 Ira Allen builds dam and mill at Falls, expands to Highgate through deal with tax collector. More mills built in 1790s, clearing forests in new towns of Swanton and Highgate, impacting hunting.
- 1791 Map shows Indian castle on Missisquoi River, other testimony shows continuance of extended families
1800s: Grandma Lampman’s and other Gathering Places
- 1800s: extended families remain in protected places, like Maquam and the Missisquoi delta, as settlers increase and build farms around the mills and fertile valley
- Morits extended family, tied to original Missisquoi leaders like Towgisheat and Swasson, remain on traditional lands on the Missisquoi River, delta and Maquam and play leadership role in Missisquoi following the American Revolution and increasing English settlement. Continued diplomacy and intermarriage with Dutch-descended settlers.
- Martha Morits Lampman and John Lampman’s home at Maquam is a central gathering place, later known as “Grandma Lampman’s”
- Adaptation includes planting apple trees as well as the continuation of fishing, hunting and gathering in ancestral places, including use of traditional methods like seins
- Families continue to travel the wetlands and waterways of Maquam, the Missisquoi delta, Missisquoi Bay, Missisquoi River and Pike River, through canoes and other small watercraft, made by Abenaki men
- Subsistence/trade economy sustains families, kinship networks, and relationship to land
- Adaptation: again a time that the community took in people from other places, including French-Canadian and Native families from Quebec who married into the families who remained here
- Neighborhoods like Back Bay emerge
- Families also continually travel back and forth from late 1700s through 1800s across a wide northern region, including upper Missisquoi River and headwaters, Lake Memphremagog, and across the fluid U.S.-Canadian border, including the Pike River and Richelieu River. Families traveling back and forth between Quebec and Vermont, into New Hampshire and across the lake to New York, through old trails, waterways, kinship networks.
- Both the ancient village and Maquam continue to be gathering places for traditional music, dance, ceremony as well as subsistence, including dances held at location of ancient longhouse
- This area is often protected from view and travel by those who do not know the network of waterways in Maquam and Missisquoi delta.
1900s: Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge, Maquam and the Sovereignty Movement
- 1900s: Families remain in core places, including Maquam and Missisquoi delta, Highgate woods, St. Albans Bay, Lake Champlain Islands, and Missisquoi River uplands, practicing subsistence culture and doing day and wage labor, trading, including selling harvested fish, berries and other edible plants, medicines as well as pelts and baskets. Some also do small scale subsistence farming.
- Missisquoi people continue to live in large extended families, who often travel together, and distribute food among their kin. Leaders distribute food to related families and resolve conflicts, maintaining relationships.
- Back Bay: food grown in gardens distributed throughout the neighborhood by community leaders, including Nazaire St. Francis, Sr. and Jr.
- 1920s, Prohibition leads to many Abenaki men participating in rum-running, using old trails, waterways and kinship networks. Border enforcement criminalizes cross-border travel.
- 1920s-1930s, Vermont Eugenics Survey targets some Abenaki families, as well as other mixed French-Indian families who traveled and sought subsistence on Lake Champlain, leading to state-sanctioned sterilizations, institutionalizations, and family separations, with impacts that continue far beyond the Survey.
- 1930s, Construction of Missisquoi Bay Bridge changes the currents of the mouth of the River and impacts spring fish runs. Increasing settlement impacts hunting and fishing. Monument built on the eastern grounds of the ancient village, recognizing the mission and the community who lived there.
- 1942, Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge established by the federal government, claiming a large amount of land on the extensive site of the ancient village, and the extended families who lived in the Misissquoi delta are removed. Restrictions on hunting and fishing in the Refuge impacts subsistence. Maquam becomes even more important to fishing, hunting, and gathering.
- 1940s-1950s, Abenaki men, including Blackie Lampman, serve as guides, caretakers, some even work as game wardens. In general, local game wardens recognize the right of Abenaki people to fish and hunt without interference, especially given their relationship to the land and waters of the Refuge and Maquam. Subsistence culture continues to be vital to the survival and everyday life of Missisquoi families.
- 1960s Tightening of Vermont Fish & Game regulations and enforcement, increase in tourism
- 1970s Recognition of the Abenaki relationship to the Refuge leads to federal funding. Abenaki Nation formally organizes through meetings of extended families at Missisquoi. Tribal Headquarters and formalized Tribal Council established.
- Tribal Council begins effort to increase support for education, social services, cultural programs through a tribal office/community center, responding to community needs
- Petition, signed by over 1,000 people, to Vermont Fish and Game to recognize Abenaki aboriginal hunting and fishing rights
- Vermont Governor Thomas Salmon (1973-1977) recognizes the Abenaki of Vermont, including hunting and fishing rights, and establishes Indian Commission following extensive research report. Governor Richard Snelling (1977-1985, 1991) a Republican businessman, rescinds recognition. His daughter, Diane Snelling, a member of the Vermont Senate, later successfully advocates for state recognition for Abenaki people.
- Odanak and Becancour Band Council in Quebec passes resolutions (1976, 1977) recognizing Abenaki Nation of Vermont and their hunting and fishing rights.
- Missisquoi Abenaki community members travel to Washington DC to participate in the Longest Walk to protest against proposed legislation which would have terminated treaties and treaty rights (“North American Equal Opportunity Act”)
- Missisquoi community holds the first fish-in on the Missisquoi River (1979), to assert aboriginal fishing rights, part of a larger community-led sovereignty movement
- 1970s-80s, Abenaki Self-Help Association established to support self-determination and self-sufficiency
- Economic development, including Indian Manpower Program, job developer position supported by Boston Indian Council and community/economic development grants funded by the federal Administration for Native Americans and Department of Labor. Development of organized labor and small community-based business.
- Food and nutrition programs developed, supported by Administration for Native Americans and Indian Task Force, including the food shelf/food pantry
- Abenaki Acres and other housing projects developed to provide low-income housing for Missisquoi Abenaki families
- Culture/arts programs and gatherings organized in community, including exchanges with other Native communities
- 1980s, Title VII Indian Education, Parent Advisory Committee, and Tribal Learning Center established. Pre-school/kindergarten established through office of Indian Education. Abenaki community collaborates with University of Vermont to establish a “Summer Happening Program” for Abenaki youth. Youth group and dance troupe created, led by community members.
- Second and third fish-ins, followed by increasing research to support aboriginal fishing and hunting rights.
- Wolchik decision (1989) recognizes aboriginal right of Abenakis to hunt and fish in traditional homelands, including Missisquoi
- 1990s, increasing discussion of land claim and aboriginal rights among the Abenaki community and in the State of Vermont. Outreach and communication, by tribal leaders and community members, and Cultural Competency trainings, led by Abenaki culture keepers, significantly impact social services, education and collaboration with community and conservation organizations in Franklin County and the state.
- Governor’s Commission on Native American Affairs re-established by Governor Madeleine Kunin
- Missisquoi River Keepers organized by Lenny Lampman and Homer St. Francis, Jr.
- Vermont Supreme Court seeks to overturn Wolchik decision by declaring, against long-held standards of U.S. Indian Law that Abenaki aboriginal rights had been “extinguished by the increasing weight of history” (1992). Numerous legal scholars critique the decision.
- Abenaki nation successfully pursues a land claim which halts development of “Grandma Lampman’s” in Maquam, the site of Martha Morit’s Lampman’s home and a vital site of culture and subsistence for the community. After a long legal battle, the land is protected, and the Lampman family is recognized as the permanent caretakers.
- Abenaki nation repatriates ancestral remains removed by archaeologists from Monument Road in Highgate, after long legal battle and negotiations with the University of Vermont, supported by NAGPRA
2000s State Recognition
- Abenakis and other Vermonters work together to push for recognition in the Vermont legislature
- 2006 State Recognition of Abenaki restored by Vermont Legislature
- 2012 State recognition of Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi as a tribe
- 2019 State replaces “Columbus Day” with Indigenous Peoples’ Day
- 2020 Hunting and fishing rights recognized by the state of Vermont, following testimony in Montpelier by community members
- Tribal office moves to a larger, central location in Swanton Village
- Tribal leadership and community members create spaces in community building to continue to host and revitalize annual seasonal community gatherings and cultural programs
- Building renovation includes creating spaces for food storage and large community meals, expansion of the Missisquoi food shelf/pantry
- Community-based cultural revitalization programs
- Missisquoi Womens Group organizes community gatherings and cultural programs
- Traditional Indigenous Garden Projects, including three-sisters community gardens
- Circles of Courage youth programs
- Renewed collaborations and public events highlight the continuing presence of the community in Missisquoi
- Collaboration with Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge to hold fishing derbies and community days
- Collaboration with the University of Vermont and SRS/DCF on co-taught course, “Social Work with Indigenous Communities: The Abenaki in Vermont,” and Cultural Competency Trainings
- Collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the Division for Historic Preservation, and the Northeast Archaeology Research Center, on the Swanton Route 78 Archaeology Project, including advising/consultation on location and care of historic sites, fieldwork, and cultural programs at Archaeology Open House Weekend
- Gatherings in Swanton village, including Abenaki Heritage Days and ceremony and installation of totem pole, carved by Abenaki Chief and artist Dick Menard, on Swanton Town Green to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day (2020)