Sipsis – pronounced seep-sees – #Abenaki for small bird
S8soseli – pronunced sohn-SOH-seh-lee #Abenaki for White Throated Sparrow
The pure, simple song of the white-throated sparrow reminds us of the conversations to be joined outside of our own minds. This was going to be a post observing #NationalBirdDay, then realized it was a rather ludicrous construct. So, I will let sparrow speak for himself.
In English, the song is often described as “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” or, if you are a little further north, “Oh Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada.” I grew up having been taught and hearing the “Oh Sam Peabody” mnemonic. Many small birds are now known (in Western Abenaki) simply as “sipsis” (literally small bird), with no surviving differentiation between species. But a number of specific names have persisted into the present, mostly the more common and larger individuals such as crow, robin, blue jay, eagle, and turkey. I wondered if the #Abenaki had an onomatopoetic name for this little songster, a device often employed in the language, given that the song of the white throated sparrow is so memorable. To my joy, I was able to locate it! Father Rasles gives it as “sôhsohseli” – which I might rewrite as “s8soseli” pronounced sohn-SOH-seh-lee. It is a pretty good evocation of the song.
VPR’s Vermont Edition devoted June 7th’s broadcast to an interview with Dartmouth College senior Mercedes de Guardiola. Mercedes spoke on the State of Vermont’s Eugenics Survey at the State Archives just the week before (see Sokoki Sojourn’s post here). The original 6/7/17 VPR article includes 34 minutes of audio – please listen carefully by clicking here.
Vermont’s prominent role in the American eugenics movement of the early 20th century is an often overlooked part of the state’s history. The state’s brutal history of sterilization, forced institutionalization, and racist pseudoscience is the focus of a new academic paper by our guest.
We’re joined by Dartmouth College senior Mercedes de Guardiola. Her thesis covering the eugenics movement in Vermont is “Blood has told”: The Eugenical Campaign in the Green Mountain State.
Broadcast was live on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.
Click here for the audio on VPR News’ The Frequency.
In the early 20th century, Vermont was among a group of states that had policies on the books based on eugenics — the idea that the human population could be controlled to bring out what were considered “desirable” characteristics.
Mercedes de Guardiola, a student at Dartmouth College, wrote her senior thesis on the history of eugenics in Vermont. Though the study of eugenics has since been discredited, when the policies were in effect, they resulted in the sterilization of some Vermonters.
De Guardiola is presenting her work Wednesday evening at the Vermont State Archives in Middlesex. [Note: this took place last night, 5/31/2017]
VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with de Guardiola about the origins of Vermont’s eugenics policy, its lasting effect on the state and what’s been done in the years since to reckon with this period in Vermont’s history.