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.

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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.

Turners Falls Still Divided Over New Team Name

turners falls athletics

It’s been over a year since Turners Falls High School decided to remove the Indian as its mascot, but some community members are having a difficult time letting go.

Overall, the Logo Task Force received 197 suggestions for “Indian” and multiple suggestions for “Pride” and “Tribe,” according to Task Force member Alana Martineau.

After a preliminary screening, the task force gave the Gill-Montague School Committee a list of 136 potential mascot names to review — which led to a lengthy debate about the appropriateness of “Tribe.”

Read the full article by Christie Wisniewski in the Greenfield Recorder.

Unrecorded Petroglyphs in the Valley?

gary sanderson greenfield recorder

Petroglyphs and pictographs here in the Pioneer Valley? Well, there is no question they were here. Now we’re left to ponder how many are still decipherable and where do you suppose they reside? The answer is that one never knows.

According to Edward F. Lenik, author of “Picture Rocks: American Indian Rock Art in the Northeast Woodlands (2002),” the most likely sites are around water. These shamanistic images show up throughout the Northeast, around lakes and ponds and especially near important riverside gathering places at waterfalls and mouths of rivers, where you’re apt to find carvings of fish, eels, serpents, thunderbirds, effigies, maybe deer or elk or moose, scratched into large stones and ledges, including midstream outcroppings splitting a river, and others jutting far out from the shoreline to provide natural entry and exit points for ancient canoe travelers. Remember, rivers like the Hudson, Connecticut, Merrimack, Penobscot, Saco and many others were our native peoples’ interstate highways when Europeans arrived on the scene.

Read Gary’s column musing on this topic in the Greenfield Recorder.

Our Beloved Kin: King Philip’s War Informs Today’s Events

lisa brooks amherst our beloved kin

The story of King Philip’s War, which ended [340] years ago, may be central to the history of this place, marked in locations like King Philip’s Hill in Northfield, the Bloody Brook Battle monument in Deerfield, and even King Philip restaurant in Phillipston. The three-year armed conflict is largely blamed on attacks on colonial settlers by Wampanoags and other native “savages.”

But a book released this week by Amherst College associate professor Lisa Brooks, an Abenaki, depicts the prolonged war on a dozen settlements throughout much of the region as more complex. And it’s seen as the result of mistaken assumptions English settlers made about the native tribes.

What’s more, Lisa Brooks’ “Our Beloved Kin” (Yale University Press) is based on written letters and other materials written by those Indians, who are largely assumed to have been illiterate. And the creative, readable telling by this associate professor of English and American studies she describes as a relevant and timely interpretation, suggesting the plight of refugees and racial profiling.

Her history, which traces the interwoven paths of three characters — Wampanoag leader Weetamoo, who as a woman is less known than Metacomet (aka King Philip); James Printer, the persecuted Christian Nipmuc; and Mary Rowlandson, the Puritan woman whose own account of her capture in Lancaster is recast in this deeper interpretation.

Read the full review by Richie Davis in the Greenfield Recorder.

This article also appeared in the Hampshire Gazette on 1/25.

Turners Falls Mascot Task Force Still Welcoming Submissions

turners-falls-athletics-fields

More than 100 submissions have been received about a new mascot for Turners Falls High School as the Gill-Montague Regional School District moves toward a decision on a replacement for the Indian.

The task force gathering mascot suggestions is still accepting nominations, which so far have ranged from the old Indian logo to elementary school submissions like “coyotes” or “blueberries’’ — which drew a chuckle from school committee members who heard an update this week.

Many people in the community opposed dropping the Indian mascot after some Montague and Gill residents called for a change in late May 2016, arguing the mascot was racist. After a number of discussions and forums, the school board voted to remove the Indian in February 2017, and reaffirmed the decision following a nonbinding referendum in May 2017 that supported restoring the Indian.

Read the full update article by Christie Wisniewski at the Greenfield Recorder.

Native Insight: Local Scholars Offer Fresh New Look at an Old War

king philips war lithograph

…how could the timing of two new Yale University Press books by local scholars examining King Philip’s War be better? Both books are scheduled for a Jan. 9 release. One, by Amherst College historian Lisa Brooks — who may be familiar to readers for her previously authored “The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast (2008)” — is titled “Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War.” The other, by Mount Holyoke College historian Christine M. Delucia, is titled “Memory Lands: King Philips War and the Place of Violence in the Northeast.”

Both authors write from the authority of their own Native American lens, as both share Wabanaki roots and understand what West Coast poet Gary Snyder calls “The Old Ways” — a belief system under which all animate and inanimate objects are beings with palpable spirits. That includes lakes and ponds and streams, mountains and swamps and high, lonesome glacial-erratic boulders, beavers and bears and deer, insects and worms and underworld serpents with ominous rattling tails. Viewing the world through such a holistic lens, buttressed by deep oral history recited in song, dance and ritual performance around warm winter fires, puts a different spin on life, one that conflicts in a major way with the Christian way Europeans transported with them to the New World. It is this world-view that backbones Brooks’ and Delucia’s refreshing narrative and challenges conventional, accepted conclusions about KPW.

Both of these fresh, New-Age female scholars refuse to buy the tired documentary evidence supplied by the likes of old-standby colonial clergymen William Hubbard and Increase Mather, entrepreneur John Pynchon, or Narragansett-country colonial land-grab military officer Benjamin Church. The recorded histories from these primary sources are, in Brooks’ and Delucia’s opinion, those of conquerors publishing second-hand accounts that are, at the very least, biased if not totally invalid. Of course, these two young scholars are not the first veritable historians to challenge the long-accepted, often-repeated norms of KPW history. They’re just taking similar positions to previous chroniclers like Francis Jennings, Howard Zinn, Jill Lapore and others pejoratively called “revisionary historians” by more conventional colleagues and critics.

Read the review by Gary Sanderson in The Greenfield Recorder.