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History of Lake Champlain Islands

Vermont Indian Culture in the History of the Islands

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Neighborhood Fist Fights Weren't Invented Recently

...For centuries, two great Indian nations, calling the lake their own, were mortal enemies

indians.gifA fashionable Algonquin Indian couple, as drawn by a member of Samuel de Champlain's expedition in 1613. 

Lake Champlain has been home to humanity for 8000 years. Archeologists keep digging up the remains of a village here, a jawbone there. 

But in the centuries just prior to its "discovery" by Samuel de Champlain in 1609, the lake had become a bitter boundary line between two great Indian nations. On the West bank, were the Iroquois and on the East, the Algonquins. Each nation claimed the lake in the name of their ancestors, and anyone caught on those waters by an opposing war canoe, was in for some serious stress. 

Naturally, the islands (that is, our islands) in the middle fell under the same dispute. So fiercely were they contested, that an early Catholic priest referred to them as a "highway of war parties". 

There was one matter however, that these warring tribes readily agreed upon...neither had any affection for early white settlers. Recently, there has been a tendency for politically correct American historians to re-write the unpleasant portions of its Indian history. We've been given a new picture...of noble, peace-loving forest dwellers, sitting round the campfires, sewing beads on their moccasins and singing peace songs. 

Hardly! Noble they were. Magnificent they were. Peace loving, they were not. Not amongst themselves, their Indian enemies or their white enemies. 

The first-person accounts of savage attacks by the Indians are chilling. Those settlers who chose to leave the safer, but more expensive regions of Boston, Montreal and Philadelphia to farm by the lake's edge did so at considerable peril. In the first century of settlement, the Indians dominated the area, and most settlers felt lucky to reach adulthood with their scalps in place. 

Although the balance of power shifted towards the end of 18th century, a small amount of that tension still exists today. Lake Champlain has always been big enough, generous to provide for many...yet it has been fought over since its discovery by the tribes of all colors!