District Announces Rules of Turners Falls Mascot Forum Oct. 25, 2016

turners falls indians mascot uniform

The Gill-Montague Regional School District has released rules for the upcoming open forums on the possible change of the Turners Falls High School mascot, currently the “Indians.”

According to a post on the school district’s Facebook page, the forums will have six rules and people will be asked to sign up for time slots to speak up until 30 minutes ahead of the meeting. The post said there will be three signup lists: one for keeping the mascot, one for changing it, and one that is neutral.

Read the full report in the Greenfield Recorder.

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Benjamin Gleason and Those Bothersome Canadian Indians

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The headstone of Mr. Benjamin Gleason, early settler of Dummerston (then Fulham). In the Bennett Cemetery on Schoolhouse Rd, E. Dummerston, VT.

Benjamin Gleason was an early settler of Fulham/Fullum (now known as Dummerston), Vermont. He was born in 1745 in Framingham, MA – the same year that Nehemiah Howe was captured by Abenaki raiders on Putney Great Meadows just a few miles north of Dummerston. These were the early days of what is often called King George’s War (1744-1748), part of the European War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748), and the third of the four so-called French and Indian Wars. Benjamin was one of the four sons of Sgt. Isaac and Thankful (Wilson) Gleason, later of Petersham, MA. He came to Westmoreland, NH, just across the Connecticut River, with his brothers when he was a young man and lived between both there and Dummerston for the rest of his life.

He married Mary Cole (circa 1775), who was born directly across the Connecticut River, on Canoe Meadow in Westmoreland, NH, eldest daughter of Jonathan and Edith (Davis) Cole. Her birth was sometime before 1764, in the blockhouse her father, Deacon Jonathan built as protection for the family and neighbors because, the record states, “in the early days of the settlement he was often annoyed by the Indians.”  Benjamin and Mary Gleason eventually had nine or ten children, depending on your sources. Benjamin was present in Westmoreland in March of 1776, when the roll call was taken of “all males above twenty-one years of age (lunatics, idiots, and negroes excepted)” and the Association Test of loyalty to the Revolutionary cause was administered. Benjamin ended up serving in the American Rebellion and his gravesite bears a veteran’s marker; his father Sgt. Isaac had served many years in the last French and Indian War, at Crown Point, Ticonderoga, and Fort Duquesne.

In the History of Dummerston is this striking anecdote:

Benjamin Gleason, a pensioner, served in the army 7 years. He was born in 1745, lived in this town many years, and died Oct.23, 1823, aged 78. Nothing can be ascertained about his long experience in war; but we met with one old gentleman, who told us the following story of his killing an Indian:

The Indians had come down the Connecticut valley, from Canada for the purpose of destroying the property of the whites and taking them prisoners. Gleason was an object of their search; but he was vigilant, and managed to escape into the forest, on the approach of the savages. His place of retreat was soon discovered; and with the intention of capturing him alive, an Indian came toward him looking very good-natured, and for the purpose of deception, came toward him pretended that he was going to shake hands, saying, as he walked along, “Sagah?” “Sagah?” in English how are you? how are you? “I’ll Sagah you,” said Ben and instantly shot him dead. The Indians were greatly enraged, on finding their comrade dead; but Gleason was too cunning for the red men, and was never made their prisoner.

I bounced this apocryphal story – the only reference I have ever found to the Abenaki language in the local settler’s history record, other than names – over to one of my language coaches and a fluent speaker of Western Abenaki, Jesse Bruchac. Jesse’s insightful reading is as follows: Very cool! Could be two things, saagat means “I’m sorry” and sagiljandi means “shake hands”.

It almost goes without saying that this strange tale, passed down in the community and originally related, no doubt, by the protagonist himself – Benjamin Gleason – may have more than one truth behind it. Dead men tell no tales and history is written by the victor. Without witnesses a story is simply hearsay, or perhaps better described as “I will say what I want you to hear.”

Sources:

  • History of Cheshire and Sullivan Counties, New Hampshire, J.W. Lewis & Co., 1886.
  • Gazetteer of Cheshire County, NH, 1736-1885, Hamilton Child, 1885.
  • History of the Town of Dummerston: the First Town Settled by Anglo-Saxon Descendants, David Lufkin Mansfield, 1884.
  • Western Abenaki Facebook discussion group.

Seeing Between the Lines

birdseye view north wantastiquet postcard after 1909

A vintage postcard, from sometime shortly after 1909.

The river central to the vista is the Wantastekw, now known as the West River, just west of its confluence with the Kwanitekw (today’s Anglicized Connecticut River), in the northeast corner of Brattleboro, Vermont.  The postcard’s legend could more accurately be described as northwest from the northern end of Mount Wantastiquet’s ridgeline. As far as dating this scene, the wide expanse of blue in the foreground indicates that the river’s water level is higher as pictured than its natural state of repose, due to the impoundment of the Connecticut by the construction of the Vernon hydroelectric dam eight miles downriver in 1909, by a business consortium which became known as New England Power. But the area known as the Retreat Meadows – the medium brown swathe just left of the broad watery area – had not yet been subsumed by the impoundment, as it is has been today – flooded permanently. An effort to maintain the Meadows as agricultural land, using a dike and a pumping station paid for by the hydropower developer, was successful for a few years but subsequently abandoned. Also worth pointing out is the fact that color cues in a hand-colored photograph such as this are not always reliable: studio artists often worked from a photographer’s notes remote from the site, and mistakes of interpretation were made. In this case, the thin band of blue at the lower left is mistakenly tinted as water; it is actually open land, perhaps that of the Richards Bradley farm, west of Putney Road and just south of the West River bridges.

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The same view today (Niben – Summer 2016).

 

 

Op-Ed: Info Gathering Key for Turners Falls Mascot Decision

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It’s obvious that people on both sides of the Turners Falls “Indians” debate are sincere in the viewpoints, even if the defenders of the status quo may seem more passionate.

Perhaps that’s because we generally resist having things taken away or having change forced on us. In this case, many in the Turners Falls community feel their traditional Indians mascot — which has been tied up with school spirit and identity for generations — is being threatened by political correctness. Of course, those who vocally or subtly advocate parting company with the mascot feel it has racist roots, intentional or not, and needs to be left behind in a more culturally and historically sensitive era.

Read the full editorial in the Greenfield Recorder.

Maine Tribes Hope to Purchase Traditional Lands for Healing Center

Members of Maine’s Wabanaki tribes are hoping a planned purchase of land along the Penobscot River is the first step in establishing a center for culture and healing in the state.

The 85-acre parcel, owned by Suffolk University, is in Passadumkeag and is the only available land access to Olamon Island, a historic and ceremonial gathering place for the Penobscot Nation, according to Tim Shay, president of theWabanaki Cultural Preservation Commission.

The commission’s Nibezun Earth Project is working to raise the $677,000 that Suffolk University is asking for the parcel.

Read the whole story in the Bangor Daily News.

Presentation and Celebration: Indigenous Crops and Climatic Resiliency

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A free, fun and unique event happening at Vermont Organics Reclamation (VOR), St. Albans, VT on Saturday, Oct. 22:

Starting at 11 a.m., Dr. Wiseman and VOR will host a bicentennial commemoration of the Year Without A Summer — or “1800 and froze to death” — when a volcanic eruption on the other side of the world caused plummeting temperatures worldwide and shrunk New England’s growing season.

The climate-induced crop shortages and ensuing famine forced many Vermonters to leave the state and seek better lands to the south and west. However, many Native American crops, as well as some old Euroamerican varieties, may have survived these terrible conditions. The Seeds of Renewal Project, led by Dr. Fred Wiseman, has just completed a “cold-hardiness” analysis of more than 35 regional, native crops that range from the early 19th century to over 500 years old.

The Oct. 22 event at VOR will explore and feature these fascinating crops, as well as little known facts about the survival and rebirth of ancient Vermont agriculture, agricultural ceremony and cuisine. The program begins at 11 a.m. with a welcome and then a Powerpoint presentation by Dr. Wiseman. (PLEASE NOTE: Seating for Wiseman’s presentation is limited to 50 people. Please RSVP to wisem@vtlink.net, timc@vermontorganics.com, or leont@vermontorganics.com.)

Afterward, there will be a free meal featuring many of these indigenous crops, which are being grown as part of an agroforest on VOR’s 185-acre campus. The agroforest, the crops in it, and an effort to raise pigs humanely and naturally, are all part of VOR’s new Rugg Brook Campus initiative, which is meant to educate the public about the impaired Rugg Brook watershed, its history, and its future.

The free meal will feature native squash and beans, as well as pork products from VOR. There will also be a bean hole supper — a Native American celebration dinner that features a bean dinner cooked from a pot in the ground. Following the dinner, there will be guided tours of VOR’s agroforest. (You will also have a chance to meet Lily and Ethan, two UVM interns who spent the summer building and cultivating VORs agroforest with VOR’s Jim Stiles and others.)

Thank you for your time and attention today. We hope to see you on Oct. 22. I have attached a map with directions to VOR and can provide you with more if necessary. (And please share this with anyone who might be interested within your professional and personal circles.)

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