While no battles were fought in the Monadnock Region — the closest was in what’s now Northfield, Mass. — more activity happened there than conventional histories of the war acknowledge, said Rich Holschuh of Brattleboro, a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs.
Supplies from Canada came down the Connecticut River, and natives from southeast New England took refuge “by the thousands” in what is now Hinsdale and Vernon, Vt., he said. “This was still a very strong Abenaki homeland,” Holschuh said, referring to another Algonquian people, “and they had shelter and they were welcomed there.”
In addition, Mary Rowlandson, an English captive who would later write a popular memoir of her ordeal, was taken to modern-day Chesterfield.
Lurking behind the immediate causes of the war were ongoing tensions over land. The English imposed a foreign concept of land ownership on New England, which clashed with Algonquian understandings of the landscape.
I want to sincerely thank everyone here who pitched in to the Apess campaign to place an historical marker up in Colrain, MA commemorating Colrain as the place of William Apess’ birth in 1798. The marker has been purchased with the funds we raised together and it is scheduled to go up on the front lawn of the Griswold Memorial Library on Saturday October 13th of this year. I’d like to make this an event, a ceremony, and a celebration of continued indigenous presence in the region–so please mark it on your calendars and, if you can, come join us on October 13th. It may also be your last chance to pick up one of these fashionable What Would Apess Do t-shirts. More info to come.
“when this tree of distinction shall be leveled to the earth, and the mantle of prejudice torn from every American heart–then shall peace pervade the union.” William Apess
Sweet-fern – Comptonia peregrina – is a small, highly-aromatic, mounding shrub, 2-4 feet tall, that may occur in dense colonies in poor soils. It has multiple stems with loose, spreading branches bearing long, narrow, olive-green leaves, the edges of which have rolled back edges and rounded, fern-like division. Flowers are brown catkins that appear before the leaves unfold. They develop into small nuts in a bur-like husk. While sweet-fern’s common name derives from its appearance, it is not a fern at all; it is a member of the wax-myrtle or bayberry family (family Myricaceae). As with many other members of the family, the leaves are very aromatic: on a hot, sunny day you will know when you are walking past a stand of sweet fern.
Colonies are usually found in dry, sandy, infertile soils in full sun where other plants might have a hard time becoming established. Pine woods, cut-over forest, powerline right-of-ways, gravelly banks, abandoned and over-grazed pastures, and rocky outcrops are favorite places for sweet-fern. Preferring poor, acidic soils, sweet-fern fixes its own nitrogen through a symbiotic relationship with Frankia bacteria living in nodules on its roots. It grows throughout N’dakinna – Abenaki country – from Quebec and the Maritimes south as far as Georgia, following the mountains.
Sweet-fern, along with many other aromatic plants, happens to be a good repellent for ants. This is a good thing to know when one is living close to the soil, in a bark wigw8m or lodge, perhaps with food items in loosely covered containers. Scattering fronds around the walls of the shelter would help to keep these tiny visitors from wearing out their welcome. Knowledge of this ant-repellent aspect is what creates sweet-fern’s Native name, which translates to “ant bush.”
Working from the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy names for this plant relative (see next paragraph), which both translate literally to “ant tree” or “ant bush,” we can easily construct an equivalent in Aln8ba8dwaw8gan – the Western Abenaki language. Sozap Lolo – Joseph Laurent – in his “New Familiar Abenakis and English Dialogues” gives the word for ant as alikws; to this we can add the Abenaki suffix for “tree” or “bush” which can take the form -mizi or -mozi. With the letter “i” as a connector, the combination is: alikws + i + mozi = alikwsimozi. The pronunciation can be given as ah-leek-oo-SEE-moh-zee. The third syllable “oo” is nearly voiceless.
This photo and the one preceding are from the sweet-fern nation in Sokwakik, Sokoki Abenaki country – n’dal8gom8mek. #allmyrelations
The Penobscot cognate is enikwsimosi (listen to audio here). It is used for eye medicine, with the leaves steeped in hailstorm water. It translates literally as “ant bush”.
The Passamaquoddy cognate is eniqsimus (listen to audio here). It, too, translates literally as “ant tree (bush).”
Among the Wabanaki people, and close relations, the uses of alikwsimozi include:
- Ant repellent, also used for mosquitoes, as a skin rub or smudge
- Lining berry baskets and buckets to aid in keeping the fruit fresh
- Edible nutlets
- As a relief for poison ivy and other skin itches, infusion in water or rubbed on
- As a relaxing, dried ingredient in smoking mixtures
- As a tea for upset stomach and colic
- As a poultice for sprains or swelling
- Burned for smoke in ceremony
In closing, I end with a poem by Mi’kmaq writer Alice Azure, from the collection entitled “Dawnland Voices: An Anthology of Indigenous Writing from New England,” edited by Siobhan Senier, et al (Vol. 1, 2014):
Mi'kmaq Haiku Kejimkoojik cliffs, old sweet fern petroglyph still keeping us calm.
A brilliant exploration of the interweaving of past, present, and future, Memory Lands casts a fresh light on the maelstrom of violence known as King Philip’s War. “The landscape of New England will never look the same after reading this important and haunting book” – Karl Jacoby, author of Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History
Noted historian Christine DeLucia offers a major reconsideration of the violent seventeenth-century conflict in northeastern America known as “King Philip’s War,” providing an alternative to “Pilgrim-centric” narratives that have conventionally dominated the histories of colonial New England. DeLucia grounds her study of one of the most devastating conflicts between Native Americans and European settlers in early America in five specific places that were directly affected by the crisis, spanning the Northeast as well as the Atlantic World. She examines the war’s effects on the everyday lives and collective mentalities of the region’s diverse Native and Euro-American communities over the course of several centuries, focusing on persistent struggles over land and water, sovereignty, resistance, cultural memory, and intercultural interactions. An enlightening work that draws from oral traditions, archival traces, material and visual culture, archaeology, literature, and environmental studies, this study reassesses the nature and enduring legacies of a watershed historical event. This event is co-sponsored by Greenfield Community College, the Nolumbeka Project, and World Eye Bookshop.
Christine M. DeLucia is assistant professor of history at Mount Holyoke College. She grew up in Amoskeag/Manchester, New Hampshire, and presently lives in South Hadley, Massachusetts, in the heart of the Kwinitekw/Connecticut River Valley.
“Having tromped through woods, swamps, and widely-flung archives, Christine DeLucia has produced a powerfully poetic study of the dynamic, frequently conflicting meanings of Indigenous and settler memoryscapes in New England.” —Jean M. O’Brien, author of Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians Out of Existence in New England
“A remarkable ‘reopening’ of the history of New England. Christine DeLucia turns our attention to the ‘memoryscapes’ in our midst, demanding reconsideration of the markers, monuments, objects and placeworlds that memorialize King Philip’s War, alongside the processes that alternatively repress and recover Indigenous histories of survivance.” —Lisa Brooks, author of The Common Pot: the Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast and Our Beloved Kin.
Copies of “Memory Lands” will be available at the event or call World Eye Bookshop (413-772-2186) to reserve.