Author Topic: Abenaki VT Frauds  (Read 16673 times)

Offline wajo

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Abenaki VT Frauds
« on: April 09, 2010, 01:10:00 am »
The frauds making out like bandits, by creating non-profits and sitting on fat grants are, these people have no shame, they even made up tribes for themselves when they didin't get along with the other "chiefs", these are all factions of the first group or actual re-enactors, literally:
April St Francis, "chief" st. francis abenaki.
Luke Willard, "chief" nulhegan
Nancy Millitte-Crouger-Lyons-Docet, "chief" koasek, first the coasekm but they all got into a fight and she started her own corporation.
Roger Sheehan "longtoe" chief, Elnu tribe

Fred Wiseman- supposed historian helping them and john moody during the denied fed. recognition issue. he also claims to be Abenaki, but we know otherwise.


Offline karen mica

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2010, 03:34:43 pm »
So, their already getting Grants, without ever having to prove that they are indeed Abenakis!


Thursday, 24 June 2010 
Abenaki Indians gets $78,120 federal grant
By The Associated Press
Thursday, June 24, 2010

MONTPELIER — An Abenaki Indian group has won a $78,120 federal grant to support job training and placement services.

The money, from the U.S. Department of Labor, will go to the Abenaki Self-Help Association/NH Indian Council in Vermont.

It's part of $67 million in funds to 256 organizations under the Workforce Investment Act Indian and Native American Program.

The grant was announced Wednesday by U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who says the money is intended to help American Indians, Alaska natives and native Hawaiian communities....


There is also a NH group who has gotten an $83,000 Grant for Abenaki language revival

and to date none of these groups has ever been able to prove that they are Abenaki.

In fact they one of them has said that (if proof is ever required) they`ll worry about it then!

This is outrageous!

 

 

Offline Smart Mule

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2011, 06:21:12 pm »
Regarding April St Francis Rushlow Merrill, chief of the St Francis-Sokoki Band Inc., she's got some explaining to do.

St. Albans, Vermont - February 1, 2011

The leader of Vermont's largest Abenaki band is in trouble with the law.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Department cited April St. Francis-Merrill for exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Investigators say she stole several thousand dollars from an elderly man while handing his finances over the last several years. She allegedly used the money for personal expenses.

St. Francis-Merrill is the chief of the St. Francis-Sokoki Band.
http://www.wcax.com/Global/story.asp?S=13950728

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Sheriff’s office alleges exploitation of adult
SWANTON — April St. Frances-Merrill, chief of the St. Frances-Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation, has been charged with felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

According to a statement issued by the sheriff’s office today, the office received a complaint from Adult Protective Services last summer concerning the finances of an elderly man.

The complaint concerned suspicious activity in his bank account over a period of 4.5 years.

“During the course of the investigation… it was learned that April Merrill was taking care of this elderly male’s financial business,” the press release stated.

The press release did not say when Merrill would appear in court to answer the charges.

http://www.samessenger.com/node/1100

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April St. Francis Merrill, chief of the Missisquoi Abenaki tribe based in Swanton, is facing a charge of exploiting a vulnerable adult by manipulating his financial records, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday.

Merrill, 42, of Highgate is due for arraignment March 14 in Vermont Superior Court in St. Albans on the felony charge, Sheriff Robert Norris said.

Repeated attempts to reach Merrill at her home and tribal headquarters were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Norris said “several thousands of dollars” were involved during a 4½-year period related to bank and credit-card accounts while Merrill was taking care of the financial business of an elderly man.

Norris said his office received a complaint last summer from Adult Protective Services about “what appeared to be some suspicious activity in his personal bank account.”

Norris said the call came into the Sheriff’s Office because it patrols Highgate. He said during the past several months Detective Kevin Bushey conducted the investigation, which wrapped up Tuesday when he issued Merrill the citation.

Franklin County State’s Attorney Jim Hughes, who will be responsible for prosecuting the charge, said he had spoken briefly with the sheriff’s department about the case and plans to meet with Bushey to review the allegations. Hughes said he does not expect to receive the final court paperwork until about 10 days before Merrill’s arraignment.

Merrill is the daughter of Homer St. Francis, the longtime chief of the Missisquoi band who fought for federal and state recognition. He died in 2001.

Merrill, who inherited her title from her father, told the Burlington Free Press in September that tribal rolls include about 2,500 Vermont and New Hampshire residents with Abenaki roots.

Her father began to seek state recognition in 1974 after taking over as chief. It was granted in 1976 by Gov. Thomas Salmon but rescinded the following year by Gov. Richard Snelling. Gov. Madeleine Kunin rejected the request in 1985 because of the legal problems it would create. The Vermont Supreme Court rejected an Abenaki request in 1992 to claim land in northwestern Vermont.

The Legislature was asked last month to recognize two tribes, while two others including the Missisquoi group are not far behind.

“If it weren’t for my father, none of this would be happening,” Merrill said last month of the state recognition effort.

The Abenaki sought federal recognition initially in 1980, withdrew the application in 1985, and reapplied in 1992. The Bureau of Indian Affairs denied a petition in 2005.

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20110202/NEWS02/110202015/Prominent-Abenaki-leader-accused-of-exploiting-vulnerable-adult

I wonder if Zoi Lightfoot is going to represent her.  From what I understand, the number of charges she is facing continues to increase.

Offline Diana

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2011, 07:44:49 pm »
I'm not surprised, these questionable non-indigenous derelicts often have shady backgrounds.  ;D



Lim lemtsh,


Diana

Offline naparyaq

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2011, 08:49:14 pm »
Ha!  :D
More Suzy Chaffee noble savage crap! Unbelievable!

http://www.snow-riders.org/info_pages/abenakination2.html
Oct 22, 2006
Vermont Ski Hall of Fame Inducts Billy Kidd and Warren Witherell
Two Native Americans Honored as MVP's of Skiing.
"Warren Witherell (L- Apache) and Olympic skier Billy Kidd (R- Abenaki) at induction into the Vermont Ski Hall of Fame. Koasek Abenaki Chief Nancy Lyons (L) presented Billy with an eagle feather and Olympian Suzy Chaffee a hawk fan for doing wonders for Indian youth."



"Born to an Olympic family in Rutland, VT, her ski career started at two when she tried to step into her mothers skis. Her first coach, at age five, was Joe Jones, an Abenaki Indian. Skiing in the Green Mountains connected her with her inner voice that has guided her life."
There's no "Joe Jones" and her story changes by the day.

http://www.snow-riders.org/info_pages/abenakination5.html
Famous Abenaki
"Chief Nancy Lyons (in blue) of the Vt Koasak Abenaki at April meeting with Governor James Douglas (center) with L-R, Vt legal advisor Susanne Young, VT Olympic skier Suzy Chaffee, Mark Mitchell, Vt Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and Olympian Rick Chaffee. "It felt like we got the Governor up to speed with how other states comply with federal laws in recognizing their tribal artists to bolster Vermont's Cultural Tourism, its No. 1 draw," said the Chaffees."

I'm trying to just laugh and not be mad. This is part of Suzy Chaffee's "Olympic Natives" that showed up at Whistler during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and demanded to do some kind of "ceremonies" on the mountain, be considered part of the whole Native Olympic scene, film themselves, and have their junk be aired as official Four Host First Nations broadcast.
They actually got people to contribute thousands of dollars to their "Olympic Native Athletes" initiative.


Totally CRINGE-WORTHY!!! I offer heartfelt apology to all First Nations people. These guys were NOT us!
Suzy Chaffee has completely made up names of organizations that really and truly DO NOT exist, even on paper. There is no such entity as the "US Native American Olympic Team Foundation." It simply does not exist. It's her money-laundering scheme. It's how she makes a living. She's been doing it for years!

In the meantime, several very wonderful, very real Olympic moments celebrated for First Nations people and Alaska Natives.
Caroline Calve
Callan Chythlook-Sifsof

I'm sorry. This woman and the people she surrounds herself with are absolutely batshit crazy and fraudulent.
She shamelessly and falsely namedrops a whole roster of Native American leaders names as supporting her. When they do NOT.
"NAOTF is now guided by some of the most respected Native leaders in America, like NAOTF's Co-chairman, Brian Wallace, leader of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. In November, we are so honored, that Tex Hall, was elected President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). As chair the 3 Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota and the Great Plains Chairmen' Association, he sponsored our Native Blessing Ceremony at the Park City's America's Pre-Olympic World Cup, (with Wildhorse Casino of the N.W. Umatilla Confederacy) which resulted in their best snow ever!
His cousin Ed Hall, Director of Tourism for the BIA, is one of the most influential Natives in Washington D.C.
Iroquois Chief Oren Lyons founded the international Green Cross with Gorbachev and was instrumental in persuading Sweden to shift from nuclear to alternative energy; Medicine men, Lakota Wallace Black Elk and Navajo Lenny Foster have shared their Earth People Way of Life at the United Nations and are leaders at human rights conferences in Geneva and spiritual conferences around the world. Plus leaders from tribes across America.
Another NAOTF Board member is Lloyd Bald Eagle, an actor, reenactor, champion Native traditional dancer, and international unity leader from the Minnecojou Lakota Tribe of South Dakota.
The words of our tribal brother Nelson Mandela keep ringing in my ears this Olympic year when our people are being honored, reminding me that the sky's the limit," said Lloyd."


All lies. All nonsense.

What enrages me and causes me to feel that this is more serious than the plastic shaman stuff is this: she not only exploits Natives and disadvantaged Native athletes, but she's using CHILDREN to generate money. She's using Native children to generate donations to herself. Not only does no one stop her, but there are Natives who are encouraging it. This is beyond bad! This is illegal, targeted intentionally exploitative behaviour.

Tex Hall and others DO support her, but they haven't done their homework. Her "career" as an athlete has been grossly exaggerated. She had a mediocre, less than two-year stint on the US Ski Team, 1967-1968. She was on the US Olympic Team to Grenoble, but did not compete in the Olympics. She posted some of the worst times in the preliminary time trials and failed to qualify for competition. She did not return to the ski team after the Olympics and she never ski raced again.
She is famous because she was on a Chapstick commercial and became a celebrity figure because of famous boyfriends and a role in a ski movie. That's all. She's like Paris Hilton and Sarah Palin. Famous for being famous.

If this woman comes to town, looking for child athletes to groom, SHUT HER DOWN. TURN HER AWAY. SHE'S A PREDATOR AND STEALER OF SPIRIT.

Offline Smart Mule

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2011, 08:50:01 pm »
I agree Diana.  I also think that with April, this is just the beginning.  She doesn't pay taxes ad blames it on a dead woman.  She blows the funds of people she is supposed to be caring for and takes credit cards out in their names.  One of the individuals she was caring for that passed away didn't even have funds available for burial.  I really hope the courts look into where and how all of the federal, state and private funding was spent that the St Francis-Sokoki Band Inc obtained via grants and donations.

Offline tuschkahouma

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2011, 03:50:38 am »
Having been to Odanak and to Wendake (Huron) in the summer of 2003 in Quebec and read the "Original Vermonters" and harrassed
Howard Dean over the Abenakis and read about the Sokokis and having seen pictures of Indian looking people in that book the Original Vermonters
one must take your hammering of these people as the final truth...really....??? It helps to see the areas firsthand doesn't it?

Offline snorks

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2011, 04:14:58 pm »
How do "Indian-looking" people make a bonefide tribe?  My son and I are "Indian-looking" but we are White.  Also, there are White families in these rural areas who have been there a long time.  Few intermarried, and if they did, they remained White.  In short, it is ancestory and nothing more.  Makes for interesting conversation but nothing else.  Like saying you are Irish, but your connections to Ireland are a few generations back, and you have no living relatives in Ireland.  And all you know of Ireland is what you read.  Doesn't really make you Irish.

Offline Kestrel

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2011, 02:12:49 am »
If you have any question about the "Abenaki" groups being hammered you should read the BIA report. Its also important to note they have a large fulltime staff dedicated to Indian genealogy. They have the most extensive records of Indian genealogy anywhere. It speaks for itself. Of the 1700+ people of the Missiquoi/Sokoki less than 1% have any indian genealogy !
« Last Edit: March 06, 2011, 03:56:47 am by Kestrel »

Offline BlackWolf

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2011, 02:55:15 am »
If you have any question about the "Abenaki" groups being hammered you should read the BIA report. It speaks for itself. Of the 1700+ people of the Missiquoi/Sokoki less than 1% have any indian genealogy !


Here it is Kestrel. 

Proposed Finding on the St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Abenakis of Vermont

http://www.bia.gov/idc/groups/xofa/documents/text/idc-001532.pdf

Final Determination against Federal Acknowledgement of the St. Francis/ Sokoki Band of Abenakis of Vermont.

http://www.bia.gov/idc/groups/xofa/documents/text/idc-001527.pdf

Offline Kestrel

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2011, 03:51:58 am »
Thanks BlackWolf, I have read the BIA report cover to cover and there are also 2 reports by the Vermont state attorney general that concur ! We also have done many genealogies of the suspect groups members and "Chiefs" nothing works, so few have any Indian genalogy let alone Abenaki ! They are not genealogically documented Indians by any stretch of the imagination. Fraud is the word !
« Last Edit: March 06, 2011, 03:58:25 am by Kestrel »

Offline Smart Mule

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2012, 10:50:05 pm »
http://www.necn.com/06/11/12/Vt-Native-American-leader-faces-embezzle/landing_newengland.html?blockID=723104&feedID=4206

"(NECN: Jack Thurston, Swanton, Vt.)  - April St. Francis Merrill, 44, pled not guilty Monday to allegations she stole from the very Native American tribe members she once served as chief. Before the hearing, she completely ignored questions from New England Cable News as she walked into the criminal court in St. Albans, Vt.

St. Francis Merrill is a familiar face in northwestern Vermont, having pushed for decades along with her late father for formal recognition of her band of Abenaki, based in Swanton. The Missisquoi band won state recognition last month. But by then, St. Francis Merrill had stepped down as chief, citing personal reasons.

Franklin County prosecutor Jim Hughes said those reasons may possibly include knowledge of a police investigation into her alleged embezzlement from the tribe. Police accuse the former chief of siphoning more than $34,600 from tribal accounts through ATM withdrawals, grocery shopping, flower purchases, and even the installation of a deck on her own home.

Detectives said in paperwork filed with the court that the money for the deck came from an "Operation Santa Claus" charity fund meant to benefit children at an annual Christmas party. "There were many other things purchased on that account that never went to the party, and were alleged to have gone into her possession" said Jim Hughes, the State's Attorney for Franklin County, Vt.

The former chief faced similar charges in March 2011, for allegedly pocketing money from an elderly man whose finances she was supposed to be minding. That man is now dead and prosecutors have tabled the case, admitting it'll be very difficult to prove guilt without the man's testimony.

St. Francis Merrill denied three new embezzlement counts Monday. Conviction could mean time in prison and a call for restitution."

Offline Diana

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2022, 08:14:30 pm »
Follow the link to hear the conversation with Mali Obomsawin and Jacques Watso Abenaki representatives from theOdanak First Nation.


https://www.vpr.org/vpr-news/2022-05-05/odanak-first-nation-denounces-vt-state-recognized-abenaki-tribes-as-pretendian


Odanak First Nation denounces Vt. state-recognized Abenaki tribes as 'Pretendian'
Vermont Public Radio | By Elodie Reed, Mitch Wertlieb, Karen Anderson

Published May 5, 2022 at 5:00 AM EDT



Last week, Abenaki representatives from the Odanak First Nation – which has over 3,000 members, and is currently based in southern Quebec – gave a presentation at the University of Vermont.

Odanak government officials and citizens spoke about their history, and how colonization forced them to assimilate their language and culture – and to move to where they live today.

They spoke about their territory, N’dakinna, and how it transcends the borders of Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine.

And they spoke about Vermont’s state-recognized tribes, addressing an uncomfortable, long-simmering dispute. Odanak First Nation citizens and officials said prominent tribal leaders in Vermont are misrepresenting themselves as Abenaki – and profiting from it – when they are not Indigenous.

Hundreds attended the presentation, both in person and over a livestream. Titled “Beyond Borders: Unheard Abenaki Voices from the Odanak First Nation,” it called attention to a phenomenon known as “Pretendians,” which scholars say is widespread in Canada as well as the U.S., including in Vermont and New Hampshire.

“There has been a rising movement of race-shifting or Pretendians, groups of white people that may have a Native ancestor from long ago, deciding to form communities around this hobby,” said Mali Obomsawin, an Odanak First Nation Abenaki citizen. “It is perpetrated by groups of people, like I've mentioned, and also individuals, particularly in academia, where they see an opportunity to further their career, or get social capital or political capital by identifying this way.”

This is harmful, she says: “When other people that aren't from the community – that don't have cultural continuity – claim to speak for us, our information and our teachings are diluted and they're inaccurate … and frankly, it is a form of minstrelsy, Redface and reenactment.”

More from NPR: The race-shifting of 'Pretendians'

According to Odanak First Nation Councilor Jacques Watso, the people who are doing this are also profiting. Under federal law, for instance, members of state-recognized tribes like those in Vermont can market arts and crafts as made by Indigenous people.

“They started commercializing our culture and heritage,” Watso said. “And that went through all these traumas … where we were denied access to our own culture.”

Obomsawin says it’s confusing for everyone involved.

“It disrupts the movements and healing that is going on in real Indigenous communities,” she said. “And it disrupts our ability to learn our own culture… They make it harder for actual Indigenous people to reconnect.”

Obomsawin encouraged individuals who have familial relations to the Odanak First Nation to reach out and “rejoin the circle.”

As for those who do not have those documented connections, she was blunt: "There are so many ways to respectfully and appropriately be a part of a Native community without having to become Native yourself.”

Odanak First Nation does not recognize any of Vermont’s Abenaki tribes. Vermont’s tribes are not federally recognized either – despite one Vermont group applying several decades ago. Four of Vermont’s tribes do have state recognition, under a law passed in 2010.

But Watso, the Odanak First Nation councilor, says his members were shut out of the state Legislature’s debate on whether to recognize Abenaki tribes in Vermont. State records show only one Odanak member from Newport was listed to testify back during the 2011 and 2012 legislative hearings on state recognition.

“We were shut out and told to shut up, n’est-ce pas?” Watso said. “Because we're not from the state of Vermont. It was purely a political decision to go through this process.”

Watso argues that the Vermont Legislature doesn’t have the power to recognize whether a community is Indigenous or not.

“State legislators should go back and do their homework and revoke the whole thing,” he said.

VPR reached out to the state’s four recognized tribes. We received responses from Don Stevens, Chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk-Abenaki Nation, and Rich Holschuh, a citizen of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe.

Holschuh said he was dismayed that the UVM event only included the perspectives from the Odanak First Nation.

“The problem being that this was a large scale platforming, with a single voice, there was no other voices there and no other perspective,” he said.

Chief Don Stevens said: “When they use an institution, to use their voice to suppress someone else … then it's not an educational event anymore, it just – it's used as a way to suppress other people.”

Stevens was one of the people personally called out at the event as someone misrepresenting themselves as Abenaki.

“No other nation, no other tribe, no other people should tell us, or try to approve who we are, that’s what’s called sovereignty,” he said. “We have gone through a process, whether they like it or not, we have gone through the processes needed to to be recognized as an Indian.”

Holschuh was also personally called out.

“It's not anything new, and it's not anything that I feel really carries any credence,” he said. “Now we have to find a way to provide a response, or to answer with some – to bring some balance.”

VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb spoke to Councilor Jacques Watso and Mali Obomsawin this week. Their conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Mitch Wertlieb: Councilor Watso, let me start with you. The Abenaki Council of Odanak issued resolutions first in 2003, again in 2019, indicating it did not recognize groups representing themselves as Abenaki in Vermont. I'm wondering how the timing of this UVM event fits in with that. I mean – why give this presentation now in 2022?

Jacques Watso: It was an event put forth because the four tribes of Vermont were celebrating the 10th-year anniversary of their state recognition. We went to the state Senate in 2011, and we were asked, politely asked to leave, because we were not Vermont electors, and our voice should not be heard.

But we are always outspoken, because these people, they came to Odanak to learn our culture, our language, our stories, our heritage, our way, our dances, our songs. And once we started asking questions about their heritage, as Indigenous people do all across America, they gave us the runaround. And it was – we quickly found out that they were not who they were claiming to be, they were claiming a ancestry from colonial time, from the 1600s. And some had zero connection, but had French Canadian ancestry.

Mitch Wertlieb: Let me turn to Mali Obomsawin now. Mali, what is your response to Chief Don Stevens’ comment about who does and who does not get to determine indigeneity?

Mali Obomsawin: Indigenous nations determine who is part of the community. The line that the people in Vermont are trying to walk is, they're asserting themselves as sovereign nations, when for hundreds of years, they were just not known as Indigenous. And so in the last 20 to 40 years, they're coming forward and saying, "We're sovereign nations, we get to define who we are."

But even Don Stevens has admitted to the press, right – this is printed – that he didn't know that he was Abenaki until much later in his life. And so how can you say that you speak for the Abenaki when you had to go to the state of Vermont in order to have any kind of legitimacy?

Mitch Wertlieb: Mali, this is so interesting. And I apologize for sort of playing catch up here, because really, I'm on the outside looking in as many Vermonters will be on this issue. How is this all determined? In other words, you have your own ways as a tribe of determining who is true Abenaki, true Odanak. Have you ever sat down with some of these folks here in Vermont and said, “OK, this is why we believe that we are the true representation here, and why you, in fact, do not have the same links to this heritage that we do.”

Mali Obomsawin: Listen, we have invited the groups in Vermont time and time again to show us how they are related to us, because – and this is an important point – Wabanaki people are related to each other. The tribes in Maine are related. And you can – it's documented – you can see and trace how we are related at Odanak to the Penobscot or to Passamaquoddy. And we have recent and ancient, you know, kinship with the Mi'kmaq, right, that's what it means to be Wabanaki, that we are all related. And that's literal.

It is a red flag that these groups in Vermont, except for a handful of people who are actually descendants of Obomsawins, distant descendants, except for them, they haven't been able to show us or willing to show us how they're related to us, for one.

Two, because we've requested their genealogies and their proof of their claims and they haven't given us anything, we have actually had to do their genealogies ourselves. So we know – we haven't publicized these things, but we know for at least for many of the prominent families, what the genealogies are.

And third, my father as well as several people from Odanak were going back and forth with Missisquoi in the 80s and 70s. And my father had the computer that had all of the genealogies of the people there on it, and so he has also had access to those.

Mitch Wertlieb: Councilor Watso, how should not just the state of Vermont as a government, but as a people, as a culture, how should we be moving forward with this? What would you like to see as a statewide governmental and cultural response to the claims that you're making here?

Jacques Watso: Well, that's a big question. But what now, is to go back to all these scholars to say, “You've gotta stop. You're harming the Indigenous voices. You're taking the space of Indigenous voices within the academic sphere.”

And we're leaving the door open to say, to acknowledge – that maybe you were misled, a lot of people were misled. Because behind all of these groups, they go get grants. And those grants are paid for by the Vermont taxpayers, and they're being fraud. It's a fraud, to receive grants on a false pretense.

Kianna Haskin provided production assistance for this story.

Offline Smart Mule

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Re: Abenaki VT Frauds
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2022, 11:34:26 pm »
https://www.rutlandherald.com/news/local/larivee-going-to-prison-for-eight-months-in-abenaki-fraud/article_7d09ca31-b27e-50f1-a5db-90c20e3737ce.html
May 06, 2022
The Rutland Herald Newspaper
By Mike Donoghue
Larivee going to prison for eight months in Abenaki fraud
BURLINGTON – A former program director at the now-defunct Abenaki Self Help Association Inc. in Franklin County has been sentenced to eight months in prison for embezzling more than a $100,000 from a federal grant given to the tribe.
Louise Lampman Larivee, 63, of Swanton, who served as the tribe’s director of the U.S. Department of Labor grant program from March 2013 to May 2017, will be under federal supervision for three years once freed from prison.
Chief Federal Judge Geoffrey Crawford told Larivee, the mastermind of the scheme, she needs to make $96,725 in restitution for her part of the fraud.
Co-conspirator Candy L. Thomas, 64, of Swanton is under court-order to make $20,000 in restitution for her part. Thomas, who had worked for ASHAI as a bookkeeper from about February 2013 to April 2017, admitted her guilt immediately when confronted and is serving three years on federal supervised release.
Thomas, who testified against Larivee, began making restitution before she was sentenced. She is required to pay at least $200 a month.
In contrast, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory L. Waples noted Larivee had not made a single restitution payment since pleading guilty in November partway through her trial in Rutland. She admitted to one of two felony fraud charges on the third day of the trial after the government had only one minor witness left to testify.
Larivee, who pleaded not guilty to the two-count indictment, fought the case for 2½ years before she folded. The government had presented 10 witnesses, several from the tribe, to paint a clear picture of the long-running fraud Larivee executed, records show.
Larivee admitted that between 2013 and continuing until about April 2017 she “knowingly and intentionally embezzled, stole, obtained by fraud and converted money” that was under the control of ASHAI.
The government maintains Larivee, after pleading guilty, posted a Facebook message the next day telling the niece of one of the most damaging witnesses that her aunt had lied on the witness stand and that was the only reason she changed her plea.
Waples argued the court should reject Larivee’s recent claim that she get credit for acceptance of responsibility for her criminal conduct due to her guilty plea. Waples said Larivee was not entitled to a lighter sentence after making the false claim about the witness.
Crawford agreed. He said he could not give Larivee acknowledgement for acceptance of reasonability after she dishonestly wrote a witness had lied in open court one day earlier.
Even with a recent letter from Larivee admitting she was wrong to send the social media message and to falsely claim a woman lied at the trial, Crawford said it did not change the harm inflicted.
Crawford agreed to allow Larivee to self-surrender on July 5 at a federal prison, likely in Danbury, Conn.
During the hearing Larivee offered an apology to the tribe, family and friends.
“I am truly, truly sorry from the bottom of my heart,” she said during the nearly two-hour sentencing hearing.
Larivee noted she is most disappointed because her father, a former tribal chief, in his final days, told her she needed to take care of Abenaki Nation.
“I feel like I let him down. I feel like I betrayed him,” said Larivee, who asked for no prison time. She said she was concerned for her daughter’s medial issues and wellbeing.
The federal sentencing guidelines, which are advisory, calculated that a defendant with Larivee’s history and criminal conviction should be imprisoned somewhere between 21 and 27 months.
Crawford, in imposing the eight-month sentence, said he had gone into the hearing expecting to impose a stiffer sentence, but was swayed by two character witnesses at the hearing. Larivee also had a series of letters submitted by friends, including several from out of state.
Abenaki Chief Richard Menard, of Swanton, testified that while Larivee had stolen from the Tribe, he thought that she had done considerable service that had gone unrewarded. He also said she was a big help when he found himself taking over as Chief in October 2019 when his predecessor walked out. Larivee knew the tribe’s history.
Professor Lisa Brooks of Amherst College, who grew up in Swanton, said she had known Larivee for 30 years and had worked alongside her on Abenaki issues, including preserving the “Grandma Lampman” land.
Crawford asked both witnesses during their testimony – and later quizzed Kirby – how they each reconciled all the civic good they said Larivee had done through the years in contrast to stealing from a fund designed to help needy Abenaki tribe members. The annual federal grant was designed to help provide employment and training activities for Abenaki members.
Each year, ASHAI, which received tens of thousands of dollars in grant money from the Department of Labor, functioned as the service arm of the Abenaki Nation. “The main goal of ASHAI has been increasing the self-sufficiency of the Native American community by promoting economic and social development via program efforts in education, employment and economic development,” court records note.
Crawford also said nobody had been able to tell the court where the money went.
Kirby had asked the court to consider no prison time and placing Larivee on probation or home confinement. That would allow her to help take care of her daughter, who is severely disabled by PTSD, and her three children, Kirby said in court papers.
Even a short prison sentence would endanger the welfare of the family, Kirby wrote.
Waples, who has handled many of the significant federal embezzlement cases in recent years, reminded the judge he has said in past cases that deterrence is critical for the criminal justice to be successful. He said the only way deterrence is served in through punishment.
He said Larivee’s good work in the community is an aggravating factor in her case because she knew all the social and economic challenges the Abenaki tribe had to deal with and she decided she wanted to steal the money.
While he did not give a specific sentence recommendation in open court, Waples listed in his sentencing memorandum the sentences imposed in 39 other federal fraud cases. He said the one that came close with the facts was the $165,000 stolen from Hunger Free Vermont that netted Sally Kirby a 15-month prison sentence.
Waples said a probation sentence would neither serve the interests of fairness nor consistency. He also noted that Larivee, who just finished paying off a $40,000 vehicle, has a negative cash flow.
“Paying restitution will not be a meaningful form of punishment in her case because she has few assets or income streams with which to pay restitution. She is not likely to be ostracized or estranged from her community in ways that might be ordinarily expected,” Waples wrote in his sentencing memo.
Waples said the government has become aware that “many member of the Abenaki community either do not blame for Larivee for her unthinkable breach of trust or are prepared to forgive her transgressions. Larivee’s defiant protestation of innocence, even after admitting her guilt in open court, suggests the stigma of shame has not sunk deeply under her skin,” he said.
“Larivee should be punished in some way that will be meaningful to her and viable to the public at large,” Waples said.
The prosecution and defense had sparred at the start of the hearing over the actual loss to the Abenaki nation. The U.S. Probation Office had pegged the loss at $156,000, including $22,276 in falsely inflated mileage reimbursement claims, court records show.
The defense objected to Waples assertions about false mileage claims. Crawford said he gave more credit to arguments by Waples because Larivee had destroyed files and records that might provide the actual amounts.
There also was some question about a $5 an hour raise that Larivee received, but there were questions about whether it had been authorized by all the proper parties.
Crawford also expressed doubts about claims by the defense that when money was taken from the bank account that it was used to pay bills, including water and power. The judge questioned why checks would not be written and instead Larivee would stop by and pay in cash or seek money orders to pay Abenaki bills.
There were disputes about the actual number of hours Larivee claimed. A federal investigator wrote Larivee had claimed as many as 80 hours a week for certain time periods. The director that served from about 2011 to January 2013 before Larivee took over said it was impossible.
“There is no way that job would include that many hours,” she said. “There were days it was deader than dead because people were not coming in,” she told an investigator.
The Swanton-based tribe continued to employ Larivee after her indictment with a similar job with Maquam Bay of Missisquoi. Larivee lost that job in March 2020 after the U.S. Department of Labor pulled the federal grant, Menard has said.
Abenaki is considered one of the most prominent early Indian tribes in Vermont.
There are more than 3,600 members in the Missisquoi Abenaki Tribe, according to Menard. The Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi is believed to be the longest continuous kinship-related Abenaki tribal community in existence in the United States.
May 6, 2022
Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Vermont
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Louise Larivee Imprisoned for Non-Profit Embezzlement
The United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that Louise Larivee, 63, of Swanton, was sentenced today in United States District Court in Burlington upon her guilty plea to a charge of federal program embezzlement.  Chief U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford sentenced Larivee to serve 8 months of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  The court also ordered Larivee to pay restitution in the amount of $96,700.  Larivee had pleaded guilty on the third day of her jury trial in Rutland last November.  The court ordered Larivee to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on July 05, 2022 to begin serving her sentence.
In June 2019, a federal grand jury in Burlington returned a two-count indictment charging Larivee with conspiracy and federal program embezzlement.  Candy Thomas, 64, also of Swanton, a separately charged co-conspirator, had previously pled guilty to the federal program embezzlement charge.  According to the indictment, between 2013 and 2017, Larivee was employed by the Abenaki Self Help Association, Inc. in Swanton as the director of a federal grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.  ASHAI functioned as a service arm of the Abenaki Nation, promoting economic and social development through programmatic efforts in education, employment and economic development.  Each year, ASHAI received tens of thousands of dollars in grant money from the Department of Labor.  During that same period, Candy Thomas worked at ASHAI as an office worker and bookkeeper.  Thomas had check signing authority on ASHAI’s bank accounts.
According to the indictment and testimony at Larivee’s trial, between 2013 and 2017, Larivee and Thomas conspired to embezzle, and did embezzle, more than $100,000 from ASHAI.  Thomas aided the commission of this theft by issuing checks and giving cash to Larivee, at Larivee’s request, in amounts that significantly exceeded Larivee’s authorized compensation.  Larivee also received travel reimbursement checks based upon fraudulently inflated mileage claims.  Thomas helped cover up this fraud by sending tax forms to the Internal Revenue Service that concealed the true amount of ASHAI funds that were being paid over to Larivee. 
Thomas, who testified at Larivee’s trial, was sentenced to probation in December and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $20,000. 
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General.
Larivee is represented by David Kirby.  Thomas was represented by the Office of the Federal Public Defender.  The prosecutors were Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Spencer Willig.