America is in Danger!

Ironically, as Vermont leaders sought to preserve their old Yankee stock, new histories of the state indicated that Native Americans never really lived here, but only traveled through the state to hunt and fish and did not establish any permanent settlements. The Abenaki made no overt protests of this interpretation, as they were powerless to do so. Abenaki communities in Swanton and Highgate continued as they had for generations, living among the white man, keeping their traditions, visiting with kin in Odanak, Canada, and trying to avoid the stateís attention and programs such as the Eugenics Survey.

Sometimes the Abenaki were in plain sight. Such was the case of the Obomsawin family, Missisquoi Abenaki whose members have always lived or worked in Vermont. Joseph Abomsawin had signed a document in 1765 leasing some of his lands in Missisquoi. His descendant Simon Obomsawin was born in Odanak in 1850, where he learned to make baskets, snowshoes, and birch-bark canoes. Simon began the familyís tradition of selling their handicrafts to tourists visiting Cedar Beach on Lake Champlain south of Burlington. Other Abenaki also sold their baskets throughout the Lake Champlain region, the Connecticut River Valley, and in the White Mountains. Some acted as guides for visiting fishermen and hunters.

In 1890 Simon Obomsawin became the caretaker at Thompsonís Point, another enclave of summer homeowners near Cedar Beach. When he died in 1932 his two children, Marion and William, took over as caretakers, lived in a small cottage, and continued to make and sell baskets. Everyone knew the Obomsawins were Abenaki though sometimes they had to dress like western U.S. tribes to make themselves appear more Indian-like to sell their goods to tourists.

The family of Simon Obomsawin at Thompson's point in Charlotte

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