Don Healy's

TheAbenaki - the St. Francis-Sokoki Band

Once spreading across upper New England and into Quebec was the Abnaki or Abenaki Confederacy. This union of tribes included such nations as the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot or Maine, the Micmac and Malecite of Maine and New Brunswick, and the Pennacook of Vermont (ENAT, 3-4). Today, the Abenaki are found primarily in the province of Quebec but a band is also located in Vermont.

Based in the town of Swanton in northern Vermont is the Saint Francis - Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation, sometimes referred to as the Western Abenaki. Sokoki is their native word for the Western Abenaki. Their original name, the Wabanaki meant "those who live at the sunrise", or "the easterners". That may mean that the St. Francis - Sokoki Band is actually being called the "Western Easterners" by those unaware of the tribe's name's etymology. The tribe, which numbers around 1200 individuals has been recognized by other Abenaki Bands in Quebec as true Abenaki. The State of Vermont extended recognition to the tribe in 1976, only to rescind it in 1977 due to protests from hunters and fishermen. The state recognition had included special hunting and fishing rights for the band (The Abenaki Today, 99).

Despite the withdrawal of state recognition, the St. Francis - Sokoki Band is pursuing federal recognition; a long and intricate process. To establish themselves as a functioning governmental body, the Abenaki adopted a constitution, established election procedures for the tribal council and defined the powers and duties of the tribal council and the chief, currently, Mr. Homer St. Francis. On July 24, 1991, the Abenaki nation adopted a tribal flag.

The flag of the Abenaki is dark green recalling the Green Mountains and the overall green image that Vermont possesses. Centered on the green field is the tribal seal. The "shield" of the seal is a representation of an animal hide, either deer or beaver, it could not be determined. The hide is brown. It bears three symbols, starting with a red sun at the top. Below this is a pair of blue waves recalling the rivers and Lake Champlain and lastly is a green grassy patch bearing two deciduous and three conifer trees. These recall the lush woodlands of western Vermont. A large painting of the tribal flag appears over the main entrance of the Tribal Office in Swanton.

My thanks to Peter Flood, a member of the St. Francis - Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation for supplying me with information concerning both the tribe and its flag.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603