An Ongoing Exploration: Getting to Know Red Ochre

iron seep 3 rt 30 brattleboro 2019

A very significant cultural component: ritual adornment, mortuary practice, healing properties, ornamentation… the importance of red ochre to the Abenaki, and to many indigenous cultures, cannot be overemphasized. The word  in Aln8baiwi is olamanjagw, red ochre mud; when mixed with grease,  it is simply olaman. In Anishinaabemowin, the word is very similar: onaman. Ochre is derived from natural iron oxide compounds, in mineral deposits, clay, or iron seeps , where iron oxidizing bacteria augment the chemical conversion.

iron ochre names royal society of canada 1885

Publication of Royal Society of Canada, 1885.

Local people sought nearby sources of this valuable material; if they were not fortunate in this respect, they were obliged to trade for it. Here in Sokwakik there is an abundance of iron in the local geology. An iron seep just north of Wantastegok yields an abundant flow of ferrous oxide mud, carried with the groundwater through a mineral-rich ledge of Waits River schist and emerging on the east face. In the summer, the iron-oxidizing bacteria colonies form amazing cellular structures. In the winter, these lose their shape and form a hard, crumbly crust. The pigmented mud accumulates in the crevices of the rock and can be collected simply, with a little careful examination of the best pockets.

The seep in summer.

The seep in winter

By collecting this dark red-brown mud, heating (oxidizing) ’til it reached its maximum color (too much heat will result in a darker, browner hue), and then sifting it, I  was able to produce a nice amount of orange/dark red/brown pigment on an initial trial. This could be further pulverized with a mortar and pestle, before mixing with a grease or oil and used for painting the body, or another use.

More to come…

 

 

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Hydroland: an Interview About the Vernon Dam’s Cultural Impacts

A well-crafted video project put together by two Brattleboro Union High School  (BUHS) students – Forest Zabriskie and Mason Redfield – for a recent class assignment.

To gather varied perspectives on the utilization of the Connecticut River – specifically the circa 1909 Vernon dam at the Great Bend in Sokwakik – they interviewed Matthew Cole, Community Relations for Great River Hydro (dam owner and operator); Kathy Urffer, River Steward for the Connecticut River Conservancy; and yours truly, for an Abenaki cultural viewpoint.

There are many ways to be in the world…

Red Paint, Red Ochre

iron seep 1 rt 30 brattleboro 2019

iron seep 2 rt 30 brattleboro 2019

iron seep 3 rt 30 brattleboro 2019

Iron-oxidizing bacteria feed on dissolved ferrous solutions in groundwater at the point where it emerges back into the atmosphere. There it may form deposits of ferrous oxide which can be collected and converted into yellow or red ochre pigments. This is also a historical source of what is known as bog iron.

These pigments are an important resource for many indigenous cultures, including the Wabanakiak. Ochre is a strong, persistent pigment that can last for thousands of years and has many practical and ceremonial uses. At times, the trickling iron-rich water will create intricate, organic cell-like patterns on rock or soil as the molecules aggregate. Sometimes it’s just a rainbow shimmer on the water surface.

A Timely Idea: MHC’s Archaeological Accountability Policy

Northfield MA sign

Members of the Northfield Historical Commission have sometimes felt like bystanders on the sidelines of history as archaeological sites with potential significance get dug up without accountability.

It’s an age-old problem. One has only to visit any local museum and browse the collection of arrowheads, pottery shards and other artifacts, often stripped of their connection to a specific site, to realize that important history may have been lost. Objects with a provenance offer clues to settlements and migration patterns that add value and interest beyond their inherent appeal as an ancient object.

According to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Franklin County “is home to a large number of Native American, Dutch and English sites dating from 13,000 years ago through the Contact Period of the 1600s and continuing on through the Colonial Period into the present.” That’s why the state historical commission has developed an Archaeological Accountability Policy for adoption by towns hoping to protect their archaeological resources. In Franklin County, Deerfield and Gill historical commissions have adopted the MHC Archaeological Accountability Policy. Now, the Northfield Historical Commission would like to get its own version passed as a town bylaw.

Read the full story in the Greenfield Recorder.

VT Yankee Citizens Panel Reviews Memorandum

Three newspaper articles covering the VT NDCAP meeting held on March 22, 2018 at BUHS, to discuss the Settlement Agreement reached as part of the Docket #8880 examination of the sale of VY by Entergy to Northstar for decommissioning and site restoration.

By Richie Davis in The (Greenfield) Recorder.

By Susan Smallheer in the Rutland Herald.

By Mike Faher in VT Digger.

A followup commentary by Guy Page in the Rutland Herald.

Great River Hydro’s FERC-Filed Notes from the 3/8/18 Study Results Summary

Cover letter:

Great River Hydro, LLC (“Great River Hydro”) is the owner and licensee of the Wilder Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 1892), the Bellows Falls Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 1855), and the Vernon Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 1904). The current licenses for these projects each expire on April 30, 2019. On October 31, 2012, TransCanada initiated the Integrated Licensing Process by filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) its Notice of Intent to seek new licenses for each project, along with a separate Pre-Application Document for each project.

With this filing, Great River Hydro submits its March 8, 2018 Updated Study Results Meeting Summary for the three projects, as required by 18 C.F.R. §5.15(c)(3) and the Commission’s current Process Plan and Schedule (dated February 15, 2018). The meeting for the Updated Study Reports filed between May 1, 2017 and February 9, 2018 was held at Great River Hydro’s Renewable Operations Center in Wilder, Vermont, with teleconference and call-in capability for participants who could not attend in person.

Below is a comment excerpt:

ILP Schedule – Brandon Cherry reviewed the Revised Process Plan and Schedule FERC issued on February 15, 2018, noting that GRH is required to file a progress report on May 15, 2018 and every 90 days thereafter until studies 9 and 24 are completed. The progress report is to include the status of study 33 – Cultural and Historic Resources Study.

Study 33 – Cultural and Historic Resources Study – Rich Holschuh concurred that this study is still open and indicated that while the draft TCP includes timetables for consultation, no consultation has taken place. John Ragonese disagreed that no consultation had occurred, citing several meetings with native American tribal leaders and informational resources but recognized the present open status of the study. He said the Programmatic Agreement (PA) and Historical Properties Management Plan (HPMP) are in development and will be shared for comment and review. The PA is a signed agreement among affected parties that usually includes SHPO’s, licensee and federal tribe(s). GRH suggests that no federal tribe is affected by this PA, but local tribes are and therefore should be included. The PA will reference the HPMP which includes details of how properties will be managed.

VT Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel: VT NDCAP Mtg 3/22/18

Brattleboro Community TV (BCTV) has archived the proceedings at the regular Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (VT NDCAP) meeting held at Brattleboro Union High School (BUHS) on March 22, 2018. The focus of the evening was to learn about the Settlement Agreement reached between all the parties involved, with the exception of CLF. The author, representing Elnu Abenaki with the support of Nulhegan and Koasek, adds his comments regarding the process at 51:37, and answers questions at 1:10:56 and 1:18:27.