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Le Devoir: Tensions over Abenaki Identity

    Original article in French.

    “They came to Odanak to learn the language, culture, songs, and dances. It was in the 1990s that we started asking: Who are you? What family are you from? Vermont and Odanak are about an hour’s drive apart. Our family names have been here since before colonization, and have survived the residential school system and discrimination. And you, an hour’s drive away, can’t identify with a single Abenaki family? Somehow, we’re linked by blood, by community continuity,” says Jacques T. Watso, who sits on the Abenaki Council.

    “Now they’ve cut all ties with us. It’s as if they’re erasing us to replace us,” he deplores. “They’re distorting our language, reinventing our stories and tales. They’ve got anthropologists and historians in their gang, and they’ve started rewriting history – our history – to justify their narrative.”

    Researcher Darryl Leroux reconstructed each family’s genealogical history over eight to twelve generations, right up to their arrival in New England, New York or New France, using the database of the Université de Montréal’s Historical and Demography Research Program and ANM’s own family history charts.

    The study concludes that some 98% of the members of these American groups are not of Abenaki descent, nor of any other Indigenous nation, but French-Canadian.

    Only two of the twenty families with which the ANM [Abenaki Nation of Missiquoi] identifies have distant Abenaki ancestry: the O’Bomsawin family and the Nepton family. The eight O’Bomsawin descendants and the 16 Nepton descendants make up only 2.2% of the total ANM membership.

    Read more at Le Devoir.

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