“Gill: A Chronicle of a White Indian Family” By George Gill Ducharme

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The census of the year 2000 was historic. For the first time in our nation’s history, it was possible for a person to declare that he/she was both Caucasian and Indian — a White Indian.

White Indians have existed since the beginning of contact between Europeans and Native peoples. Some early explorers, trappers, traders and even some settlers willingly entered into the Indian way of life through marriage or adoption into the tribe.1 As time went by and tensions between Native peoples and Europeans increased, violent capture followed by adoption became more common. Young children and some women were more likely than men to make a successful transition from the European settlers’ way of life to the Indian way of life.

For centuries the rivers of the northeast woodlands have connected diverse peoples, diverse cultures – White and Indian – as rivers have done through the world’s history. On these rivers White people traveled north and west into Indian country, some willingly to explore, to trade, and to settle; others unwillingly as captives. On these same rivers Indian descendants of White captives returned to the White world to find work, get an education, and build new lives. Today the rivers continue to guide and connect Whites, Indians, and White Indians.

The English Settlement Years
Salisbury, Massachusetts on the Merrimac River
1638 – 1697

The land now called Salisbury, Massachusetts was first settled by English colonists in 1638. The world into which Samuel Gill was born forty-nine years later in 1687, was a world shaped by the interaction of the river, the land, the people of two European powers, England and France, and the native groups called Indians for whom this land and this river had been home for more than 10,000 years. Interaction between the peoples who originally lived on this land and the newly arrived Europeans was changing the way of life of both groups, neither of which could understand the behavior and way of life of the other.

“These early settlements created areas of contact between Europeans and Indians, which have been variously called a frontier, a middle ground,2 or a borderland.”3 Some Native inhabitants soon saw the new settlements as the first stage of an invasion of their lands. Others welcomed the new trade items, such as glass beads and metal pots, brought by these strange people. Europeans regarded the new settlements as the natural progression of colonizing the land they had recently discovered through the guidance of their God. They proclaimed ownership of these lands in the name of their God and their king. Yet owning land was an unknown concept to the Native peoples. The creator allowed them to live on and use the land and all its creatures with reverence. These completely different world views of two dramatically different cultural groups set the stage for interactions which were to follow in what is now called North American.

Of particular interest to this story is the interaction among Native peoples of the northeast woodland section of North America, the French (along the St. Lawrence River) and the English (along the Atlantic coast). The interactions between the two European powers in this land they presumptuously called “New France” and “New England” mirrored their interactions on the European continent. They were enemies who were at war both in Europe and in the “New World.” They were not only at war to gain advantage in territory, but also to “win” on the religious front. This was clearly a French Catholic versus English Protestant struggle,4 and each sought allies among the various tribal groups with whom they came in contact.

Native groups were also divided among themselves. Each tribe sought advantage over others by becoming allies with European groups who provided access to fire power. The Abenaki peoples, both Eastern (Maine) and Western (Vermont and New Hampshire), who were fleeing north and west from English settlers, formed alliances with the French who were establishing refugee mission communities along the St. Lawrence River Valley in “New France.” Similarly, members of the Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy west of Lake Champlain were allied with the English. Native peoples and European powers alike sought to take advantage of this new set of circumstances unfolding in the Northeast Woodlands. Yet these alliances for advantage against enemies were only a part of a much larger picture, part of which was positive, advantageous and hopeful.

This larger picture included many examples of European and Indian individuals and cultures seeking and finding ways to “coexist and cooperate” in a “middle ground” – a place where trade, cooperative exchange and authentic listening and learning took place between peoples and cultures. Colin Calloway states: “If there was treachery and hostility, there was also trust and harmony; if there was confrontation and conflict, there was also cooperation and conversion; and if there were occasional acts of genocide, there was also the genesis of new societies – born out of the meeting of Indian and European in northern New England’s dawnland.”5 The daily life experiences of European settlers and Native peoples were far more complicated than the one sided, simple picture we have been given throughout our history. This, indeed, was the more complex reality into which Samuel Gill was born in 1687, in Salisbury, Massachusetts, on the banks of the Merrimack River.

Gill’s Corner – Salisbury, Massachusetts

The story of the Gill family begins in 1646, on the banks of the Merrimack River in a relatively new English settlement, Salisbury, Massachusetts. During the previous twenty-six years, large numbers of English settlers had arrived on the eastern shore of what they called New England. They came to create new communities in order to begin a new life in a new land. Many, if not most, came to escape religious persecution and establish places where they could freely practice their particular form of Puritan Protestantism completely separate from the Church of England. One of the communities created for this purpose was Salisbury. Begun in 1638, the “Plantation” was located on the north side of the Merrimack River, an ideal location since it was rich in “clams, fish, fowl, and wild game,”6 as well as having a field cleared recently by Indians.

About eight years after the founding of Salisbury, John Gill, a “planter”, moved to Salisbury and “bought a house, lot, and right of commonage ab. 1646”7 He had married Phoebe Buswell in 1645, in Salem. It is unknown when and where John Gill landed in “New England”, but according to the tax records of Salisbury, John Gill was an official taxpayer as of 1650. He established his family and his farm in the northwest section of the new town, where his fourth child, Samuel, was born in 1652. The younger Samuel became a sergeant in the militia and married Sarah Worth in 1678,8 and in 1687, their fourth child was born, a son also named Samuel. This young Samuel is remembered in Salisbury history because of the way he left the community – as a captive of French/Abenaki raiders.

The life of those in New England and New France was never far removed from the wars between old England and old France. Two years after the birth of the younger Samuel Gill, King William’s War began, in 1689. The alliance of the French and the Abenaki brought into play a tactic used by Native peoples through the ages – raids and capture of the enemy. The French/Indian alliance employed this strategy against English settlers in an attempt to stop them from moving further north and west into Indian land. Men, women, and children were forcibly removed from their homes or property, generally in a very violent way, and taken to one of the refugee villages for either adoption or ransom. (Capture for torture and killing was not as common in Abenaki as in some Native cultures.) Ten year old Samuel Gill experienced this French/Indian strategy as the war in Europe played itself out in the New World. On June 10, 1697, Abenaki warriors emerged from their canoe to seize young Samuel from his grandfather’s field and take him to their French/Indian refuge on the banks of the St. Francis/St. Lawrence Rivers in Quebec, Canada.

Several hundred miles north along the St. Lawrence River, villages of refuge, such as the one to which Samuel was taken, were formed by French Jesuit priests to assist native peoples who sought to live their lives according to the traditions and beliefs handed down through the ages. Though these were mission villages established by the Jesuits with the help and support of the French military and governmental leadership, and though there was strong instruction and a clear message inviting people to convert to Catholicism, Native peoples were not compelled to convert to the Roman Catholic faith. Many did choose to embrace Catholicism, but the old ways survived nonetheless.

As the mission village of St. Francis was a refuge for Native peoples of “New England”, so Salisbury, Massachusetts, had been founded as a refuge for Puritans fleeing religious persecution in England. However, there were dramatic differences between the English Puritans and the Indians and these can best be seen in the area of child rearing. The Puritan view of conversion and salvation was so severe that they looked upon their children as being born with a great sin – as though they were controlled by the devil. They believed that this evil had to be removed from a child by strict discipline, which might include beating. Native child rearing, on the other hand, held that the innate goodness and spirit of a child should not be damaged by any physical force. Therefore, English children captured by Abenaki people often found themselves treated in ways they simply were not used to as Puritans; very often they stayed with the Indians and even rebelled against being brought back to their English community if they were ransomed, or “redeemed.”9

The rhythm of life for English settlers was tied to the rhythms of their religious beliefs. They had a negative view of “the world” as a corrupting force that must be conquered and subdued. Abenaki people also tied the rhythm of their everyday life to the rhythm of their spiritual beliefs. They held that “the world,” which they called Mother Earth, was a sacred force from which all life flowed. It was necessary for the Abenaki people to work in concert with the rhythms of nature, the spirit of the earth, and all of the creatures that lived in it. Seasonal movements of the Abenaki people were dictated by what the earth and its creatures provided for them. Great care was taken not to upset the balance of what was learned over the ages from leaders and elders who passed on their understandings of how life was to be lived on and with the earth. These dramatic distinctions between two cultures produced many clashes during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

The Abenakis found the French approach of understanding and accommodating to the life of the Native people (while at the same time trying to convert them to Catholicism), less threatening than that of the English. The French way of life was a small enough price to pay to obtain an ally against the English, from whom they were fleeing. Of course, the French, too, gained a powerful ally, skilled in the tactics of war specific to the northeast woodlands of New England. Therefore, Samuel, as an English captive, found himself not only in the hands of Abenaki captors, but also in the complex cultural atmosphere of a French Jesuit missionary refuge village called “Saint Francis” or “Odanak”.

Emma Coleman, in her lengthy work, English Captives Taken to Canada, records the capture of Samuel Gill in the following way:

Gill, Samuel, June 10, (1697)
. . . Luke Wells (& a lad at Salisbury) the same day Carried away.
The lad was Samuel, son of Sergeant Samuel Gill and Sarah (Worth). He was b. Sept. 16, 1687, and his identity is proved by the following petition dated May 29, 1700. “That about three years since your Petitioners Son named Samuel Gill was taken Captive by the Indians, and carried Captive to Canada, where he hath ever since remained in the hands of ye Indians.”10

“On the first night of their capture, Luke Wells managed to free himself and escape, but he was not able to bring Samuel with him. Wells reported to authorities everything he saw and heard in hopes of rescuing Samuel. However, militia groups knew that when trying to rescue captives, early pursuit often resulted in the death of the people they wished to rescue, since the Native warriors would sacrifice their captives in order to escape.”11 Therefore, once the authorities heard and considered Luke Wells’ news, they abandoned rescue efforts out of concern for Samuel’s safety. They understood that ransom talks could begin once they knew to which particular village the captive was taken.

The journey to St. Francis/Odanak, on the St. Francis/St. Lawrence Rivers, north of Montreal, may have taken from one to three months. For Samuel, it was not only a physical journey across miles but also a journey across cultures. As has been noted by historians such as James Axtell, the transformation of an English captive into an adopted Indian began almost immediately after capture. The first thing the Indians did was remove the awkward shoes of Puritan boys and replace them with more flexible moccasins. This switch was often accomplished by one of the warriors who, according to custom, claimed a captive as his own for himself or for his family. If the captive was female, she had no fear of being harmed sexually, since adoption meant becoming a sister or clan relative within a family structure, and incest was taboo.

As the journey toward St. Francis continued, Samuel learned many lessons, listened to many stories that explained the Abenaki understanding of practical and spiritual matters, and learned such practical skills as hunting. Children responded particularly well to the positive and protective behavior of their captors. Even the process of coloring the body and fashioning the hair physically transformed the captive into an Indian before his arrival at the village of St. Francis. Titus King, captured as a young boy in June of 1755, brought to Canada, and adopted into a native family, recalled the process:

Saturday 21st: The Indians told me this day that I must be an Indian. They had always told me before that I should go to Montreal but now they told [me] I must go with them to the Indian town. I told them I chose to leve with the French; they told me Frenchman no good, Englishman no good, Indian very good. At noon they went out of the conaoes and spread a blanket on a lettel nole [and] told me to set down. The took out my sleve buttons, pulled of my shurt, put on a old shurt of theres that stand with Indian sweet, put wonpun in my neck, painted my face. I began to think I was an Indian.12

As the raiding party that had taken Samuel approached Odanak, paddling their canoes with renewed energy, runners alerted the village about the successful return of the men who had been gone for months. Crowds gathered, drums and chanting were heard; the excitement in the whole village was high. A gauntlet was assembled between two lines of Native people. In some cultures the people tried to harm and severely test a new captive. But, according to captive Susanna Johnson, in some Abenaki refugee camps the gauntlet was more of a ceremonial event in which the people tapped the newly arrived captives on the shoulder as they passed between the lines.13

For Samuel and other captives slated for adoption, the tribe and family into which he was to be adopted made spiritual and practical preparations. All old English clothes were burned, a new set of clothing was given, items of special meaning were received, all in preparation for the formal adoption as a son into a particular family. Once these ceremonies were completed, little distinction was made between children born to the family or a boy like Samuel adopted into the family. Thus began Samuel’s life for the next 68 years as a “White Indian” among the Abenaki people of St. Francis/Odanak.

French/Indian Mission Reserve
1697 – 1888
St. Francis/Odanak, Quebec on the St. Francis and St. Lawrence Rivers

Refuge missions established by both French governmental leaders and Jesuit priests were useful for both the safety and survival of Abenaki people and to create allies and converts for the French. The creation of English settlements along the coasts and rivers of southern and central New England caused migration northward of numerous Algonkian speaking tribal groups.

Many went as far as the St. Lawrence River, where French government officials and Jesuit priests (blackrobes) welcomed the refugees. In return, many of the refugee warriors willingly accompanied and guided French military units on raids against English settlements.

The French Jesuits customarily followed the rhythm of life (of the seasons) lived by the Native people. From time to time, but especially in the Fall, the men of the village left on hunting expeditions or, in the Spring, portions of the village moved to a well known part of a nearby river to fish during annual salmon runs.

The kind of life Samuel Gill experienced at Odanak is suggested in the first hand account of a Jesuit priest, Father Sebastian Rasles, who lived in the village of Norridgewok in Maine. In 1723, Father Rasles wrote to his brother a recollection of his first impressions when he arrived in New France in 1689, within eight years of Samuel’s arrival at Odanak:

Narantsouak, this 12th of October, 1723,

I then went to dwell in a village of the Abnakis Tribe, which is situated in a forest, and only three leagues from Quebec. The village was inhabited by two hundred Savages, nearly all of who were Christians. Their cabins are very quickly set up; they plant their poles, which are joined at the top, and cover them with large sheets of bark. The fire is made in the middle of the cabin; they spread all around it mats of rushes, upon which they sit during the day and take their rest during the night.14

English and French recorders, often very critical, noted that the parenting techniques of Native families and villages involved patient teaching and storytelling instead of hard discipline and beatings. Father Sebastian Rasles wrote in 1723: “There is nothing equal to the affection of the Savages for their children.”15

The life that Samuel experienced as a boy included a great many lessons preparing him to be a hunter and a warrior. These were conducted by mentors and teachers who built physical capacity without destroying the spirit of the boy. In an Abenaki community Father Rasles observed: “No sooner do the boys begin to walk than they practice drawing the bow; they become so adroit in this that at the age of ten or twelve they do not fail to kill the bird at which they shoot. I have been surprised at it, and I would scarcely believe it if I had not witnessed it.”16

In a hunt for larger game, if the boy Samuel accompanied the men at all, he would not have participated in the kill. His role would have been limited to herding the deer or the elk into a particular area where older boys and young men were ready for the kill. As he played games and practiced with bow and arrows and other weapons, he constantly demonstrated his skills until leaders in the tribe trusted that he was ready to be a mature hunter.

It is easy to picture Samuel entering a similar environment, in which his adoptive parents performed the expected roles of native men and women and ordinary parents, and he began to develop the skills of a young boy. The first five years that Samuel spent as an adopted Abenaki saw dramatic changes in the life and demographics of Saint-Francois/Odanak. As the maps and illustrations indicate, movement of refugees north was constant. But of equal impact was the movement, in the autumn of 1700, of a large number of Native people from the mission village on the Chaudiere River, Saint-Francois-de-Sales, to Odanak on the Saint Francis River. Two moves of the entire village occurred from 1700 to 1715 – one to a larger location in 1706, when Samuel was nineteen, and in 1715, when the village was moved downstream to its present location on the same side of the River and on higher ground.17

As young boys grew into young men the tribal elders traditionally helped choose proper mates. According to Emma Coleman, however: “The Indians could not agree upon a marrying plan for their two young captives (Samuel Gill and Rosalie James) whether to marry each to a savage or whether to keep a family of pure white blood, so the priest, probably Pere Aubery, settled the question by quickly marrying them saying that he had received an inspiration from the Great Spirit.”18 This story is debated by some who would challenge even the notion that Samuel married an Englishwoman. However, all written documents to date indicate he did marry an English captive called Rosalie James. There is considerable controversy around the name and around the circumstances of her capture. A February, 1768, printed note found in a book published by Judge Charles Gill and signed by seven of Samuel’s children stated that they wished to learn more about the relatives of their father and mother, both of whom were captives from New England.19

Married in 1715, Samuel and Rosalie had eight children, the most famous of which was their first son, Joseph Louis Gill (b. 1719).Their fifth child was Francois Gill (b. 1734), from whose line the author is descended. Very little is known about seven of the eight children. However, Joseph Louis Gill who became the White Chief of the Abenaki, was well known.

The White Chief of the Abenakis

Joseph Louis Gill, born in 1719, the first son of Samuel Gill, became an Abenaki Chief. How he achieved this status in not known; however, one can assume that traditional Abenaki child-rearing methods were used and that, as a young man, he began to demonstrate by word and deed his worthiness to be considered for the responsibility of Chief within the tribe.

One of the first accounts of Joseph Louis as a leader in the tribe was recorded in 1749 in a “Letter from Father Joseph Aubrey, in the name of the Abnakis of Canada, to the Dean of the Chapter of Chartres.”20 The letter celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of a gift described as “Porcelain’ [a term used by the French for wampum], which is their silver and gold here, formed [into] a collar therof; it contained eleven rows of beads, and was about six feet long , and ornamented to the best of their ability with porcupine quills.”21

A plaque in the Catholic Church at Odanak on the Abenaki Reserve in Odanak, Canada, states that this “necklace (wampum belt) is still in show glass at Chartres Cathedral Crypt.” The letter sent to Chartres Cathedral was signed by Father Aubery, four chiefs, and “The chanter, Joseph Louis Magwiouiganbaouit” (aka Gill).22

The second report of Joseph Louis Gill as a leader among his people in St. Francis was recorded in the “Captivity Narrative” of Susanna Johnson, who was abducted from her home at Charlestown, New Hamsphire on the Connecticut River by an Abenaki raiding party in1754 and taken to Odanak. She wrote:

I was taken to the house of my new master, and found myself allied to the first family. My master, whose name was Gill, was son-in-law to the grand sachem, was accounted rich, had a store of goods, and lived in a style far above the majority of his tribe. He often told me that he had an English heart, but his wife was true Indian blood. Soon after my arrival at his house, the interpreter came to inform me that I was adopted into his family. I was then introduced into the family, and was told to call them brothers and sisters.23

In a separate narrative, James Johnson, Susanna’s husband, offers this first hand description of the village of St. Francis in 1754: “from St. Francis to St. Lawrence is about five miles – the whole village of St. Francis stands on a rise of Ground Mountains near forty buildings of all sorts that there is no fort in it but some stone houses and buildings.”24

Joseph Louis Gill was chief in 1759. As a forty year old-man, he was enjoying the position of prominence he had achieved among his Abenaki people. He was married to Jeanne-Marie, the daughter of the Grand Chief, with whom he had three children. War against the English and raids with their French allies against English settlements kept his village, St. Francis, in the spotlight. Tragically, the reputation of his village and his warriors as allies of the French attracted the attention of the English raiders. On an autumn day in 1759, while most of the men were on a hunting party, English Major Robert Rogers and about 200 men staged a predawn attack on St. Francis, burning the village and killing many of the women, children, and elders. Among the captured was Joseph Louis’ wife, Jeanne- Marie, who was later killed, and two of his children, Antoine and Xavier, one of whom, Antoine, ultimately returned to Odanak. When the men at Odanak returned they pursued Roger’s troops and killed many of them as the English fled by various roots down or near the St. Francis River. There are many stories concerning this raid. Major Rogers himself wrote in his report of the total destruction of the village, and two hundred killed. More objective observers and reporters indicate about twenty to thirty Abenaki were killed and most of the village was burned, including the Catholic Church, in which most records prior to 1759 were kept.25 Major Rogers and Susanna Johnson met in October of 1759 at Charlestown as Rogers was returning from his raid on Odanak. With him was a captive Indian boy, Antoine ‘Sabatis’ Gill, the son of Joseph Louis Gill. Sabatis and Susanna immediately recognized one another as adopted brother and sister. The first Gill had made the return trip down the Connecticut River.26

The raid had been undertaken upon the order of General Jeffrey Amherst after several raids by the Abenakis of St. Francis on English settlements. This pattern of raids on English settlements and capture continued a sixty year strategy into this latest French and Indian War, known in Europe as the Seven Year’s War (1756 – 1763). As can be expected, the results of the 1759 raid were received differently by the English and the Abenaki. The English felt that Major Robert Rogers was a hero, finally vanquishing the savages. Yet to this day the Abenakis refer to Rogers as the White Devil. His mission, though not as devastating as he portrayed in his own account, did fundamentally change the people and the place of St. Francis/Odanak. Though rebuilt physically, St. Francis/Odanak took a very long time to recover its previous population level and importance. Chief Joseph Louis Gill and the warriors of St. Francis were not viewed with as much fear as before 1759. In fact, during the four years leading up to the defeat of the French and the surrender of Canada to the English in 1763, the primary work of everyone in Odanak was rebuilding both the buildings and pride of the Abenaki people of St. Francis.

After the loss of his wife and two children and the burning of his village, including the church with its precious records, Joseph Louis Gill began to rebuild his own life as well as his village and his people. In 1763 he married Susanne Gamelin-Chateauvieux, a French woman with whom he had five more children. No records survive of the life and work of Joseph Louis between 1763 and 1773. However, a new college in Hanover, New Hampsire, on the Connecticut River, and the Revolutionary War waged by the people living in the colonies in New England and beyond returned Chief Joseph Gill to the pages of history once again.

In 1773, four years after Eleazar Wheelock moved his Moor’s Indian School from Lebanon, Connecticut to Hanover, New Hampshire to establish what is now Dartmouth College, he found he needed the help of Joseph Louis Gill, the White Chief of the Abenakis of St. Francis. Having been rebuffed by the Iroquois, Eleazar Wheelock turned his attention to the Indian refugee villages along the St. Lawrence River to which he sent recruiters beginning in 1772. The following year he made the long journey (225 miles) from Hanover to St. Francis/Odanak. There he met Chief Joseph Louis Gill who, after vigorous debate among the tribal leaders, agreed to send his son, Antoine, and three nephews with Dr. Wheelock to see if this new school run by the English could provide what Chief Gill understood to be so necessary for a future that must include interaction with English people. Dr. Wheelock and the four Gill boys made the journey up the St. Francis River, with a portage between Sherbrooke and the head of the Connecticut River, and then down the Connecticut River directly to Hanover.

The European Eleazar Wheelock needed the White Chief, Joseph Louis Gill, to continue his college dream. Joseph Louis Gill, on the other hand, needed the goodwill of English (and later American) leaders to maintain the survival of his people. As in so many examples from the first contact of European with Indian the interaction was neither simple nor one-sided. Because Dartmouth College was founded to educate Indians in European, and particularly English Protestant, ways, few Indians stayed to complete their education. A letter dated Nov. 1st, 1777 from Eleazar Wheelock to Chief Joseph Louis Gill, four years after he brought the four Gill boys with him from Saint Francis to Dartmouth, is very instructive here. The letter was delivered by Antoine, who “seems to have desire to go home and I think it best for him and for you. I have faithfully done the best I could for him, and the school masters have taken much pains with him – but he don’t love his books, but loves play and idleness much better. I hope you will know better than I do what to do with him and for him.”27

Barely had the first Gill boys arrived at Dartmouth College than the world turned upside down once again for the people of Odanak. A new group of actors and a new nation entered the scene as the American Revolution produced the United States of America. This was truly a confusing time. Twenty years earlier, after the Peace of Paris of 1763, France had been forced to leave “New France” to the English victors. An English governmental official, rather than a French official, was placed at Odanak. This presented a very real challenge both to Joseph Louis Gill and to the English Governor Frederick Haldimand and his officers placed at Odanak. The English wished to keep the Abenaki, especially Chief Joseph Louis Gill, loyal to the king, or at least neutral while the Americans of New England agitated and spoke of independence. Not until October 9, 1780, did Joseph Louis Gill sign a letter pledging loyalty “foi et fidelite a – Majeste le Roi Georges.”28

However, this was not the compete story. Striving to preserve his people, Joseph Louis Gill walked a dangerous and delicate tightrope path of loyalty to both the British and the Americans. In April 1780, several months before Joseph Louis’ pledge of loyalty to the English king, the Continental Congress granted George Washington’s request, dated Novemeber 3, 1779, to commission Joseph Louis Gill a Major. Washington wrote:

Sir: I have taken the liberty to enclose, for the consideration of Congress, the memorial of Col. Hazen in Behalf of Capt. Joseph Louis, Chief of the Abeneeke or St. Francis Tribe of Indians. The fidelity and good services of the Chief, and those of his Tribe, are fully set forth in the memorial. I have taken upon me to order the subsistence of them till the further pleasure of Congress be known: And I would beg leave to recommend the measure, pointed out in the memorial, of giving this Indian a command, with liberty to engage such a number of his Tribe as are willing to take a part with him. These people will not only be really useful, but there is policy in the measure, as they will in a manner, ensure the neutrality of those Allies who remain in Canada. I imagine he would be contented with the rank of Major, to which he thinks himself entitled as having been long time a Captain.”29

After the Revolutionary War, with the survival of Odanak assured, no more is heard from Joseph Louis Gill publicly. Yet more sons and nephews came to study at Dartmouth College. Gill and all the Indians at Odanak in Canada, began to adjust and live with the reality of a new and emerging nation to their south, the United States of America. His understanding of the importance of education kept many of his sons and nephews traveling up the St. Francis River and down the Connecticut River to Hanover. Joseph Louis Gill, son of English captives, guided his people with cunning and commitment. His last efforts were to see to the education and preparation of future generations in the world, as he understood it in the late 18th century. After a full life of seventy-nine years, The White Chief of the Abenakis, Joseph Louis Gill, died in 1798. In the life of this one man the complexities of the interaction of European (French and English) and American people with the Abenaki people were reflected. There was no simple story here, but there was a complex set of interactions with each group trying to dominate the other and each group working to survive.

(Excerpted from a thesis submitted to Dartmouth College)

1 James Axtell, “The White Indians of Colonial America”, in The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial America; (1981) p. 176.

2 Richard White, The Middle Ground; Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (1991) p. 50.

3 James F. Brooks, Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands (2002) p. 36.

4 Colin G. Calloway, First Peoples (1999) viii.

5 Colin G. Calloway, Dawnland Encounters (1991) xii.

6 Carolyn Sargent, Salisbury History (1991) viii.

7 Margaret Rice, On These Things Founded — The History of Salisbury, Massachusetts (1988) 18.

8 David W. Hoyt, The Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts (1981) 175.

9 John Demos, The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America (1995) 140-168.

10 Emma Lewis Coleman, New England Captives Carried to Canada, (1925/1969) 362.

11 John Demos, The Unredeemed Captive (1995) 19 & 29.

12 Colin G. Calloway, Dawnland Encounters (1991) 237.

13 Captive Narrative of Mrs. Johnson

14 Reuben Gold Thwaites (editor), The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents (Vol. LXVII, 1900) 133.

15 Ibid., 12.

16 Ibid., 34-35.

17 Ibid., 34-35.

18 Emma Lewis Coleman, New England Captives Carried to Canada, (1925,1989) 363.

19 Ibid.

20Reuben Gold Thwaites (editor), The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents (Vol. LXIX, 1900) 69.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid., 73.

23 Colin C. Colloway, (Compiled and Introduced by), North Country Captives (1992) 67-68.

24 Ibid., 86.

25 Colin C. Colloway, The American Revolution in Indian Country, (1995) 66.

26 Colin C. Colloway, North Country Captives (1992) 80.

27 Eleazar Wheelock, Letter to Chief Joseph Louis Gill, November 1, 1777.

28 Ibid.

29 John C. Fitzpatrick (editor), The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 17 (1779)