Sokwakik Now: Vernon Eyes Data Center for VT Yankee Site

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Could rows of quietly whirring computers replace Vermont Yankee? Seeking long-term options for the former nuclear plant property, Vernon Planning Commission is looking into the possibility that a technology company could build a data center – sometimes called a “server farm” – at the site.

Commission members were buoyed Wednesday night by Matt Dunne, a former Google executive with experience in siting data centers. Dunne said he believes the Yankee property has many key assets for such a development including land, water and access to large quantities of reliable power.

“It’s difficult to find the land and the kind of infrastructure that you happen to have here,” Dunne said. “It is a unique site.”

Officials said they would explore the idea further. “This, to me, is the most exciting thing for Vernon right now out of everything we’ve discussed,” Planning Commission member Patty O’Donnell said.

Full story by Mike Faher at VTdigger.org

Another version in the Greenfield Recorder

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Observations: Matt Dunne mused that this is a unique site; he may have no idea of the deeper significance of his statement. The land immediately adjacent to the Great Bend of the Kwanitekw, on both sides of the river – in Vernon, VT to the west and Hinsdale, NH to the east, but especially on the Vermont side – is highly sensitive to the Sokwakiak Abenaki and their ancestors. Adjacent to a highly favored [former] fishing place at the rapids now subsumed by the Vernon hydroelectric dam, the level terraces would have hosted the shelters, fish processing stations, food storage, celebratory and ceremonial areas, and other supporting functions needed for any sizeable, extended gathering of people. The popularity of the location amongst the region’s indigenous dwellers is documented in the historical literature, although scantily, in common with most of the area at the time of contact and immediately thereafter. It is likely there are multiple cultural sites of both a permanent and transient nature, constructed and occupied over thousands of years, and home to many hundreds of occupants, much less their final resting places purposefully chosen close by a beneficient and sacred gathering place.

Beside historical settler uses for agriculture, mills, logging, residences, and mineral extraction over the past 275 years, the very same area has been heavily compromised by the construction and operation of two electric generating plants. The aforementioned Vernon Hydroelectric dam and power station, currently owned by TransCanada, and the recently-shuttered Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, owned by Entergy Corp. – both utilizing the 26-mile impoundment of the Kwanitekw/Connecticut River – have been sited directly atop this sensitive area. As an aside, it is a patently obvious correlation that nearly all of the most noteworthy locations up and down the Valley (in terms of advantageous siting and “resources’), now heavily developed by modern industry and their attendant settlements, were chosen as a direct observation that they had already been recognized as such by the preceding indigenous populations.

These two industrial installations, although under the purview of Federal as well as many other state and local agencies, have never had comprehensive cultural assessments performed at their sites. There was little to no sensitivity for these attributes of this naturewhen the power facilities were initially sited in the early to late mid-twentieth century; although that regulatory environment has changed, awareness and responsibility have not progressed as far. There have been several smaller-scope studies completed in the course of more recent operational amendments, but these have been dismissive, incomplete, or cursory at best. A simple review of newspaper accounts from the past two centuries reveals many accounts of human remains and cultural “artifacts” recovered in the immediate vicinity. While there are a very few documented, professionally-managed archaeological sites in the record, there was also a plethora of amateur digging and collecting over the last 150 years, when such activities were quite popular and the whereabouts of such sites was much more common knowledge. The names of Walter Needham, Jason Bushnell, and Gerald Coane come to mind.

This grave omission should not stand unacknowledged and unaddressed. There are several projects and/or processes currently underway, or imminent, that will once again open these ancient and still hurtful wounds. Today’s agencies of oversight operate under a somewhat more enlightened set of responsibilities, not the least of which is inclusivity of indigenous tribal concerns, along with both human and environmental rights in general.  It is hoped that the dialogue will expand to truly reflect many more voices going forward. This blog will be sharing these stories and viewpoints as they manifest. The Old Ones are here with us in this land.

N’mikwalm8nowak – we remember them.

Askwa iodali n’daoldibna – we are still here.

 

The Pre-Colonization New England Salmon Controversy

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In his Recorder column, Gary Sanderson takes a look a critique of the New England Atlantic salmon argument developed by archaeologist Catherine Carroll Carlson in her controversial 1992 UMass-Amherst Ph.D. dissertation: “The Atlantic salmon in New England prehistory and history: social and environmental implications.”

Dr. Carlson’s often-referred-to thesis has been challenged. Which doesn’t mean Carlson is buying the arguments of an obscure 2013 UMass research paper’s critical assessment of her conclusions. No sir. She’s firing back.

Read this fascinating story in the Greenfield Recorder here.

A Story of Survival Amid the Artifacts

robert goodby norma wilson

Archeology provided the backdrop for a story of human survival during a presentation of “Digging into Native History in New Hampshire: Whatever happened to the Abenakis?” at Seabrook Library.

The New Hampshire Humanities Council co-sponsored the library’s presentation by anthropologist Dr. Robert Goodby, associate professor of anthropology at Franklin Pierce University and author of more than 100 reports delving into New England prehistoric archaeology.

Goodby began his presentation to several dozen audience members with an explanation of his passion for finding and studying artifacts. He said his interest in studying anthropology began at the University of New Hampshire but he became engrossed with archaeology when he found a 7,000-year-old object at his first paid archeological dig. He said the experience changed his life.

“Archaeology is about people,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘How can I use this object to find out about people and their stories.’”

Full story at Seacoast Online.

Wabanaki Tribes Receive Dept. of Interior Grant

isle au haut forest

WASHINGTON, June 10 — The U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service announced that it intends to award a $145,000 cooperative agreement to the Wabanaki Tribes of Maine for community history and archeology projects at the Isle au Haut.

The agency description of the grant states: “Specifically, the recipient will:
1) Conduct research on traditional uses of Isle au Haut by Wabanaki, including oral histories, placenames, and material culture collections, at Isle au Haut and among Wabanaki communities.
2) Conduct research and education to develop and deliver resource stewardship training for Wabanaki youth and community members about archeology, and develop and deliver training and workshops to NPS staff about stewardship of heritage resources in association with tribal communities.
3) Participate in consultation meetings with the Wabanaki tribal partners about research and education programs about the Wabanaki, in partnerships with the NPS.”

The funding opportunity number is NPS-16-NERO-0077 (CFDA 15.954).

For more information, contact Keith Zotti, 215/597-9153.

Cassidy for VPR on Abenaki Artifacts at Brooks

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When Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro announced an exhibit of local Native American artifacts, I made a special trip to the library, but then walked right by the small, anonymous bits of clay and stone in the local history section and had to ask a librarian for directions to the display.

A printed guide said that in 2004 Gordon Crandall, a local “avocational archeologist,” discovered a projectile point and a flake of flint in a test pit on a point of land near where the West River joins the Connecticut. Crandall engaged some young students to help him look for more artifacts a few feet below the surface of the earth. A casual observer might not even have noticed most of the objects, and fragments of objects, which are up to 3,500 years old. They include arrowheads chipped from flint, “projectile stones” that hunters threw at animals they were hunting, and the oldest pottery shards ever found in Vermont, which look like crudely flattened pieces of brick. All are humble, everyday objects, serving everyday needs.

[Full commentary on VPR]

 

A Theme of Invisibility: Abenaki History in New Hampshire

professor bob goodby

From the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript:

Franklin Pierce professor Robert Goodby used this statement as his premise during a talk on the Abenaki presence in New England at the Greenville library on Wednesday, Oct. 14th. “There is a theme of invisibility,” said Goodby. “Native history is largely invisible to people, and there is a lack of information about native history.”

“They’re still here,” said Goodby. “They never left.”

Bixby Library Considers Repatriation For Native American Artifacts

bixby collection

From VPR, dateline Sept. 28, 2015:

Volunteers at the Bixby Memorial Library in Vergennes are nearing the end of a two year project to document all of the artifacts in the library’s museum. Many of items are Native American artifacts and some may need to be returned to the tribes they came from.