Note: Mark Bushnell is a Vermont journalist and historian. He is the author of “Hidden History of Vermont” and “It Happened in Vermont.” Mark called me for comments as he was putting this VTDigger column together.
When Rev. David McClure of Dartmouth College ventured down the Connecticut River to Bellows Falls in 1789, he was on a scientific mission. As a natural philosopher – what we might today call a scientist – McClure was interested in stone carvings he had heard about from a local man. The carvings, cut into an outcropping on the Vermont side of the river, depicted a series of faces.
“The figures have the appearance of great antiquity,” McClure wrote, noting that the British colonists who first settled the area a half-century earlier had observed them. The faces were life-sized images consisting of a simple oval with markings for eyes, nose, mouth and perhaps ears, McClure wrote. Some had lines sticking out of their heads that various observers have taken to be feathers, horns or rays.
McClure’s was apparently the first written account of the carved rocks, which have been described as the oldest pieces of art in Vermont. How old? Though experts agree the carvings were made by Native Americans, they are unwilling to ascribe a specific date, or even era, to the petroglyphs, which literally means “stone carvings.” They could be anywhere from 300 to 3,000 years old.
The written observations of McClure and subsequent visitors during the 19th and early 20th centuries are invaluable because they offer a snapshot of these artifacts, which have been changing over time. If descriptions of the petroglyphs have varied since McClure’s visit, so too have the interpretations of their meaning.
Read the full article in VTDigger here.
The film’s storyline is fragmentary, its focal point like a crack in a wall.
A young girl, chin tipped up to the microphone, fingers toying with a bead necklace, attempts to tell a room full of congressmen about the abuse her brother endured, but she chokes on an enormous sob and can’t go on. In a black-and-white photo of American Indian children at a boarding school, identical in their close-cropped and bobbed haircuts and plain clothing, the number of children grows larger and larger as the camera zooms out, and then, a moment later, the image becomes just one of many pinpoints on a map of the United States. A woman tells of having her mouth washed out with soap for speaking Penobscot and abruptly stops. The screen goes black.
Throughout the new documentary Dawnland, screening Oct. 19 in Dartmouth College’s Loew Auditorium, a sense of incompleteness, of halted revelations and impenetrable grief, pervades. As it explores a dark and largely overlooked aspect of American life, the film opens just a tiny fissure, grants only the smallest suggestion of healing.
It is, nevertheless, a start.
Read the full article by Sarah Earle in the Valley News.
Corinne Kasper ’17, who belongs to the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi tribe in southwestern Michigan, has been studying her native language since she was 13 years old. But fluent speakers and teachers of Potawatomi have been dwindling as English has become dominant. Kasper, a linguistics major, is developing teaching tools to help people learn or re-learn an endangered language that she sees as a cornerstone of her culture.
“This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” says Kasper, who holds a Mellon Mays Fellowship. She’s one of five senior fellows who, recognized for academic excellence, are freed from classes in their final year to concentrate on a single project. The projects conducted by the senior fellows are funded by the Kaminsky Family Fund. Gerry Kaminsky ’61, who established the fund, was himself a senior fellow at Dartmouth.
For her thesis, Kasper is studying three similar languages: Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Odawa. She’s doing something she says has not been done before: making a study guide about the formation and function of verbs. Potawatomi’s verb system is difficult for language learners to master, and she wants to make it easier.
Read this encouraging story by Charlotte Albright in the Dartmouth News. Photo by Eli Burakian.
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.
Link to pdf for event announcement: eugenicspresentation_20170531
“Eugenics and the Vermont State Hospital are subjects with which we, as a state, continue to wrestle,” says Secretary of State Jim Condos. “Archival records provide context for these chapters of our government’s past, some of which are dark. We are pleased to have the opportunity to host two presentations that illustrate how these and other historical records help shed light on these matters.”
May 31 — “Blood has told:” The Push for a “Eugenical Solution” in the Green Mountain State. Scholarship on Vermont’s eugenics movement has largely focused on the Eugenics Survey of Vermont of the 1920s, even though state officials proposed eugenical policies as early as 1912. Mercedes de Guardiola, a senior at Dartmouth College majoring in history, examines why eugenics emerged in Vermont and its impact on Vermont’s eugenical policies over the course of the twentieth century.
From the press release from the VT Secretary of State’s office, which is hosting the event. Full copy here.