Teaching Native American Histories Summer Program


From the posting:

Teaching Native American Histories is a 2-week program held in the Wampanoag homeland (aka Cape Cod), July 16-28, 2017.  The co-directors are Linda Coombs (Aquinnah Wampanoag) from the Aquinnah Cultural Center and Alice Nash, who teaches History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  This Summer Institute is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  There is no cost for the program itself and each of the 25 Summer Scholars will receive a $2,100 stipend to defray the cost of travel, lodging, food and books.

It would be great to have a mix of Indigenous and non-Indigenous teachers from different parts of the country, with a range of teaching interests, who can thrive on long days and intensive learning.  A major benefit of the format is that teachers get to meet and work with other teachers.

The application deadline is March 1, 2017.

Nahmetawanzik, Ames Hill, Brattleboro

nahmetawanzik ames hill

Nahmetawanzik, Ames Hill,  Brattleboro, VT – a summer house on the south side of Ames Hill Road around the turn of the past century.

A photograph by Porter C. Thayer, circa 1905.

A sociocultural trend began in the late 19th century – continuing well into the mid-1900s – of dubbing summer camps and cabins with Native-inspired names, many of dubious origin and/or translation. This movement sprang from the influence of the work of educators, scientists, authors, and social activists following the stifling Victorian era, individuals such as G. Stanley Hall, Ernest Thompson Seton, and Daniel Carter Beard, meshing with the progressive social reforms of the time. Mixing recapitulation theories of adolescent development, the romantic idealist’s adoption of the noble savage, nationalism, a newfound mobility, and the financial ability to indulge in outdoor recreation, America took to its reclaimed, appropriated, whitewashed roots with enthusiasm. The proliferation of Camps Hiawatha – Keewaydin – Weehawkin – Runamuck – Thunderhawk – Kootenay was a wonder to behold. On a smaller but more prolific scale, private vacation cabins and cottages followed suit. Some of these names were deliberate fabrications, evoking a fancied Indian motif or alliteration. Others had a more authentic origin, or attempted to emulate such.


The house on Ames Hill seems to fit into the latter category. At this point, we don’t know the identity of the property owner or their intentions, but it is possible to make some educated guesses, based on both word structure and its practical application. The word Nahmetawanzik demonstrates several basic Algonquian language characteristics: first personal possession or action with the initial “n”, small compounding morphemes, and a locative ending with a “k”. Although we can by no means assume that the word was derived from the indigenous language of this land Aln8ba8dwaw8gan/Western Abenaki, it actually corresponds quite closely. I put the question out to members of a Western Abenaki language forum. This is what came back:

Jesse Bruchac: Sounds like “one sees something” from “namit8zik” a bit to me on a first pass . Is there a good view there?

Rich Holschuh: Without going out there to see if it’s still standing, I can’t say exactly. But Ames Hill Rd. does have grand views east in general. And this seems to be one of a number of summer houses that were/are up there. Awesome first pass, Jesse !

Marge Bruchac: Or it might be a pseudo-Indian invented name, which was the fashion among white folks building summer homes in the era (and in the northeast in general). Other camps in the same area (also photographed by Porter C. Thayer) include Quiturkare (quit your care) and Welikeit (we like it).

Joseph Joubert: I totally agree with with Marge Bruchac. This is a fictitious name. However, I also agree with Jesse Bruchac. I am seeing another word there – “wan” – lost, hidden away. This is my take on it. Remember this is not a word in the Abenaki Language of Odanak. “Something inanimate seen hidden away”. I am also getting “wild turkey” out of it – ha ha! That is why I say it is a fictitious name conjured up without the knowledge of the Algonquin grammer. “zik” is what tells me it is something inanimate. Jesse, I think “pazombwôgan” would mean “view”.


There were (and still are) several summer places on Ames Hill Road, rising from Brattleboro to Marlboro as it heads west and climbs into the foothills of the Green Mountains. It’s a beautiful landscape, open to the east and south, rolling forested hills with meadows and orchards, and little brooks and springs tumbling down the slopes. Wantastekw Wajo/Mount Wantastiquet stands tall and abrupt in the mid-distance, about 5-8 miles away to the east, along the Kwanitekw/Connecticut River. So, it’s not much of a conjecture to suppose that the homeowner, or an acquaintance with some knowledge of the area’s Abenaki heritage, came up with a fitting descriptor to the effect of n’namit8wanzik – “I see the lost place” – (the Wantastekw/Lost River/West River mountain). Or simply, as Jesse suggested, namit8zik, “one sees something” – the pronunciation of the Abenaki vowel “8” can suggest a “w”sound between syllables.  This phrase might also poetically signify a romantic view back to the “vanished and noble” Native heritage. I will keep looking for more clues to this pictorial mystery… the structure’s site, the original owner, their disposition and motivations.

Retreat Farm Expansion Underway


The Retreat Farm’s makeover-in-progress is mostly likely observed if you’re driving in or out of Brattleboro via Route 30. The Windham Foundation donated the property to Retreat Farm LTD and grants have propelled the nonprofit to this point. “We’re just about to kick off additional fundraising,” said Arthur “Buzz” Schmidt, Retreat Farm president. Close to $1 million has already been spent on planning, groundwork and renovation of the farmhouse, according to Schmidt’s estimate.

Retreat Farm was transferred to his group on Aug. 19, a little later than originally anticipated due to issues with subdividing the land. The Grafton Cheese Factory had to be separated from the parcel. The business is owned and operated by the Windham Foundation. Last winter, the state approved an Act 250 permit so some development on the property could begin. A master plan application will still be needed for Act 250 review.

Altogether, there are 600 acres that Schmidt’s group is responsible for maintaining, including Retreat Meadows, trails, woodland and a farmstead. “It’s an expansive complex property,” Schmidt said. “There’s an underlying easement with the Vermont Land Trust that restricts the development on the property really to one 25-acre farmstead. That’s where all the development has to occur. We can develop farm resources on the other lands and we’re doing that.”


Note: The land at and near the Retreat Farm is highly sensitive for indigenous heritage and cultural lifeways, in more ways than one. Discussions have been initiated with the team (specifically Buzz and Lu, at this point); they are aware of this aspect and intend to incorporate awareness and respect into their long-range plans.

Full story by Chris Mays in the Brattleboro Reformer.

More information can be found at retreatfarm.org and on Facebook.


Ed Gregory: Turner’s Falls Massacre Was Revenge



Read Ed Gregory’s full column in the Greenfield Recorder.

As of late there’s been quite a stir about the Turners Falls High School “mascot.”

Recent Recorder letters have alluded to the Capt. Turner raid on the Indian gathering at Riverside (not the Turners Falls side of the Connecticut River), mentioning that Turner indiscriminately killed the Indians that were there at the time of the foray.

As a historical fact, Turner and his men did kill a sizeable number of the Indians encamped there. For those folks who believe Turner had nothing better to do than kill Indians, let’s briefly examine why this took place.

Before King Philip’s War, concerted Indian attacks were waged upon the English settlers in Massachusetts and elsewhere. The Indians, stole crops and cattle, burned buildings and, in some instances, kidnapped and killed settlers. These attacks went on for a number of years. There came a point in time when the settlers had to make an attempt to put these assaults to rest.

A contingent of settlers approached the then-governing body of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to plead their case.

Hearing and understanding the concerns of the settlers, the officials were aware of a person that was jailed in Boston for being a religious dissident. This person they knew had a military background, and as an enticement for him to form a group of a few military men and settlers, commuted his sentence and allowed him to formulate plans for the encounter at Riverside. This person was Capt. William Turner.

The raid took place in the dark hours of the morning of May 19, 1676. Turner had little knowledge of the size of, or the number of, Indians gathered there. It turns out that most of the Indian braves were away hunting, and the gathering was made up of mostly women and children.

The rest should be familiar to those so interested in the Turner incident.

Now here’s the rub. Indians are not as innocent as some would believe. Native American advocates never mention the aggressiveness and vicious intent of the various Indian tribes in and about the New England area at that time. In some instances, that aggression was duly wrought.

Turner’s raid was sanctioned by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I say again: sanctioned by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. With its blessing, the encounter at Riverside now resides in the annals of New England and Indian history.

Concerning this truncated historical account, and the knowledge that the Massachusetts Bay Colony officials endorsed Turner’s actions, some of those who wish to change the Turners Falls High School “mascot” (name and logo) are now advocating changing the name of the village of Turners Falls to whatever.

They may also want to consider changing the name of Massachusetts. After all, the Massachusetts Bay Colony officials would be the leading contributer to the entire Riverside episode. I would think that this would be far more offensive than an “Indian” moniker or head-dressed brave … the rather mundane but proud T.F.H.S. “mascot.”

I would encourage those so inclined to sympathize with the Indian culture and tradition to expand their historical understanding in regard to this: the Falls Fight of King Philip’s War (also known as Metacom’s Rebellion). One will also learn that the Falls Fight would be the leading contributor to ending the 1675 to 1676 King Philip’s War.

Numerous historical accounts of King Philip’s War and the Falls Fight are available via the internet and local libraries.

Learn the rest of the story before making judgment.

Ed Gregory is a historian of the town of Montague and village of Turners Falls. Born and raised in Turners Falls, he resides in Greenfield.

Peter Thomas Shares History at First TF Educational Forum


A local historian says he believes it unlikely that whoever chose the Indian to represent the Gill-Montague school district did so for its historical significance.

Peter Thomas, a retired professor from the University of Vermont, discussed the King Philip’s War and its relevance to the debate whether to keep the Turners Falls High School mascot, currently an Indian, at the first in a series of events set up by the school committee and Superintendent Michael Sullivan. About 20 members of the public attended the talk in the high school auditorium. The events aim to help inform the school committee as well as the public of the different perspectives in the current debate.

When asked if the mascot was selected to honor local Native Americans, Thomas said it was unlikely, but that he’d like to see proof if that is the case.  “That’s an argument we’ve been hearing time and time again,” said School Committee member Christina Postera, who asked the question.

Read about the evening in the Greenfield Recorder.

Turners Falls Community Invited to Educational Forums


Just below the Great Falls at Peskeompskut. Photo by Cheryll Toney Holley, from her blog For All My Relations.

After passionate hearings where the public weighed in on Turners Falls High School’s use of “Indians” for its identity on the athletic fields and beyond, the focus now shifts. The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee is planning to hold a series of what are being called “educational forums” that examine different aspects of the issue that has segments of the community at odds. The four events scheduled are set to make an in-depth examination of a piece of the story.

Recognizing that feelings on both sides of the matter are running hot and that many minds appear to be made up, we nevertheless urge the community to be prepared to listen. This is what those who spoke before the committee during its hearings wanted, after all — to have people listen to their pleas, their thoughts and wishes about the future of the use of  “Indians” imagery by the high school.

Absorb the full op-ed in the Greenfield Recorder.

A Long Time Ago in Brattleboro

Worth sharing in its entirety: this post by Lise LePage appeared on iBrattleboro.com last month, amidst the effort to make a change from Columbus day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day here in Brattleboro. She used the occasion to give a synopsis of her personal research over the years into the pre-contact and early contact history between the Sokwakiak and the first British settlers. For those unfamiliar with the details of that first clash of cultures in what we now call Vermont, it’s a good look at a quintessential example of colonialism at work right here. Original link here.

Brattleboro Celebrates First Indigenous Peoples Day

By Lise | Sun, October 09 2016

It’s not often that something happens that cries out to be corrected and then, in a matter of days, it is.  I’m not talking about Vermont’s GMO law either (which Congress mooted within the month) – no, I’m talking about Indigenous Peoples Day which has been proposed, here and elsewhere, as a less racist and more fair alternative to traditional Columbus Day.  Unfortunately, honoring native American people was not something the Selectboard could get its collective mind around and Indigenous Peoples Day lost here in Brattleboro by a vote of 2-3.  But just when you thought all was lost, along comes Governor Shumlin with a state-wide proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day, signed, sealed, and delivered.  What do you know, we get to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day after all.

This is a good thing.  We should celebrate the native people of our country – for starters, we’re sitting on their land. In fact, the first beachhead established by the British settlers in the Brattleboro area was on the site of a Squakeag village situated on the Hinsdale side of the Connecticut just above the Vernon Dam.  Ironically, Fort Dummer was established to control the Indians moving up and down the river, especially those raiding the English villages further south.

Before the English got here, the Squakeag  (southernmost branch of the Abenaki) were the inhabitants of the land from Brattleboro down to Northfield, Massachusetts.  It was a good place to live – abundant beaver and salmon along the waterways, decent land for cultivation, and best of all, maple sugar in the spring.  The Squakeag apparently loved to sugar – it was the one activity that brought the whole family of men, women, and children, young and old together.  Then as now, people like a sweet treat.

There’s an anecdote published in Thomas St. John’s Brattleboro History Scrapbook that suggests that the area around the Retreat Meadows might once have been a regular gathering place for native people.  According to Rev. Jedidiah L. Stark of West Brattleboro (writing in the 1830s), unspecified native people used to come here and dance in the meadow above where the Retreat Farm used to be.  According to Mr. Stark, the circle was so compacted from the weight of those many dancing feet that it remained visible and free of vegetation years after the Indians stopped coming.

Another indicator that Brattleboro’s Retreat Meadows was at the least a notable location for native people are the pictograms found carved in the rocks around the Meadows.  Surely there was a reason to mark this spot so strategically located at the confluence of two rivers.  Perhaps (I surmise) people came through here often on their way to other places and stopped to camp (and perhaps dance) here.  It would make sense.  The first lasting  settlement in Brattleboro by an English person* was Arms Tavern, an inn and stagecoach stop, located where the Retreat Farm buildings are now.   One marvels at the coincidence.

Native people made one of their last visits to our area in the 1850s when an elderly chieftain made his final visit to Bellows Falls.  He and his people had made summer visits for generations, and the old chief wanted to be buried with his ancestors.  As autumn turned to winter, he passed away and was buried by his sons, who then traveled back to Canada never to return.  The Indians who visited Bellows Falls had long since ceased to be scary and local residents looked forward to their arrival each spring.  It was a sad year when Bellows Falls realized that their Indian visitors would not be coming back.

Today, many descendants of the Squakeag band live in the St. Francis area of Canada where they were driven in the aftermath of King Philip’s War.  Others still live here in Vermont, assimilated under English names, partly in self defense.  We can’t alter the past, but here in the present we can take one small step toward owning that past.  Happy Indigenous People’s Day, everyone!

*The first less lasting settlement was located in the exact same location, a homestead built by Captain Fairbanks Moore for himself and his family.  Unfortunately, he and his son were both killed in an Indian raid soon after taking up residence there, and the remaining Moores, after being redeemed from captivity, moved away.