General > Research Needed

Abenaki VT Frauds

<< < (3/4) > >>


--- Quote from: Kestrel 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. It speaks for itself. Of the 1700+ people of the Missiquoi/Sokoki less than 1% have any indian genealogy !

--- End quote ---

Here it is Kestrel. 

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

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

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 !

Smart Mule:

"(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."

Follow the link to hear the conversation with Mali Obomsawin and Jacques Watso Abenaki representatives from theOdanak First Nation.

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.

Smart Mule:
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
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.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

[*] Previous page

Go to full version