An Establishment for the Indian Dance

algonquian dance circle

“Indians Dancing Around a Circle of Posts” by John White (1585-1586)

An integral part of this place, here in Wantastegok (Brattleboro):

I have also been told, that among the broken hills back of where Joseph Goodhue now lives, was to be seen, not long after the commencement of the settlement of this town by civilized people, the remains of an establishment for the Indian dance. A circle trodden hard, so hard that it refused vegetation, was distinctly marked, and a substantial post was standing in the centre, with holes in the earth around it, supposed to be places for fire.

From “Lecture on the Early Settlement of Brattleboro” by Rev. Jedediah L. Stark (May, 1832)

Pieces of the past, to be woven back into the fabric of our lives in this land. #ReclaimingWantastegok #1



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4 thoughts on “An Establishment for the Indian Dance”

  1. Are these the post holes that you mentioned – not a shelter or long house but a ritual place at Wantastegok? Could those posts by like totem poles? I wonder if they represented a given number of clan lines.


    1. If I recall correctly, I did speak with you about this historical account and, yes, the holes may have been posts, perhaps sculpted. Not totem poles in the classic, popular sense, but perhaps some sort of representational carving; there are multiple accounts of early examples witnessed among the more southerly Algonquian tribes, and we cannot generalize but perhaps we can extrapolate the possibility. As to what may have been “represented” it’s hard to say. Traditionally, I think it is safe to say there is very little celebration of personality – Abenaki society is notably decentralized, loosely organized, and non-authoritarian – operating on a family band system. There is a certain amount of controversy about the prevalence or significance of clans, or even more specifically moieties; whether that aspect played a large role in ceremonial or ritual dance I myself can’t quite say.


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