Terra Nullius, Nobody’s Land, Free for the Taking

Wichita-Indians-Dwelling

The same story which has been told here, in n’dakinna. Vermont, in particular.

“The Wichita Indians are one more example of indigenous Americans who did not fit the stereotype of itinerant hunter-gatherers. That stereotype undergirds the legal theory that made Indian land available for settlement. The Americas, the argument goes, were sparsely populated by peoples who followed the game and annual ripening of berries and other foodstuffs available for gathering by savages who did not know how to raise their own food.

The hunter-gatherers lived in no fixed locations and so had no use for land titles. The empty lands that provided their sustenance were terra nullius, “nobody’s land,” free for the taking by sedentary farmers who represented civilization.”

Link to the story in Indian Country Today.

Hike the Pocumtuck Ridge

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From Nur Tiven and Nolumbeka Project:

Dear Friends,
Please join me and David Brule from the Nolumbeka Project on Saturday, May 13th, for a half-day hiking and Native history tour along the Pocumtuck Ridge Trail.  The PRT passes through beautiful highland wilderness and riverside forests, offering some great vistas along the way. On the walk, we’ll learn about the history of the region and it’s original inhabitants and stewards, the Pocumtuck people. The history will span before, during, and after contact with the European immigrants.

ROUTE
We’ll start in Great Falls (Turners Falls) and walk south on the PRT through the wilderness of Greenfield’s Rocky Mt. Park, Highland Park, Connecticut River, Deerfield River, ending at Woolman Hill Conference Center in Deerfield (Approx 5 miles)

At 6:30pm, we’ll end with a talk at Woolman’s Meeting Hall, open to the public, with more in-depth historical information and narratives from the research of the Nolumbeka Project.  By Donation, Open to Everyone (must be able to walk 5 miles along mostly gentle terrain)

Questions? Please email me! I hope you’ll be able to join us!
Nur Tiven                                  nurhabib1@gmail.com

 

Brattleboro Reformer Letter: Erasure, Celebration, Respect

My letter to the Editor at the Brattleboro Reformer, under the headline “Letter: Do not erase, but do not celebrate or emulate either”, posted 2:36 pm on May 1, 2017 and ran today, May 2, 2017.

Editor of the Reformer:

Last week, following a unanimous vote by the members of Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting, the Select Board officially adopted a resolution to make a change in observance from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. I’d like to offer a short explanation toward understanding why this is both appropriate and timely, and partly in response to Mr. Nickerson’s countering letter this week.

The process of adopting this change has been straightforward, thorough, and widely supported, and I am grateful for that public validation. Following direction from the Board last year, a petition was utilized to gather the requisite 5 percent of the Town’s registered voters’ signatures. With help from several friends, about 450 names were collected in short order, and presented to the Town Clerk, who vetted them and certified the threshold had been met. The petition was presented to the Select Board, who ultimately placed it on the Warning for the 2017 RTM. In the time that I was personally collecting signatures last autumn (on the sidewalk), only one person voiced their disagreement.

Why take this action? While we are all simply human beings, the basic meaning of “indigenous people” are those that are the earliest inhabitants of a place, usually over a very long period of time. It is roughly synonymous with the terms aboriginal and autochthonous. Indigenous people have maintained longstanding relationships with nearly all land masses on Mother Earth. Most indigenous groups have been exploited and/or displaced by later arrivals, usually through the ongoing process known as colonization, and they continue to deal with the drastic impacts of that dominant structure. The introduction of that system to the Western Hemisphere was marked by the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Yes, it was an epochal event and, yes, it is an ongoing reality.

History is not simply a set of facts. It is a story told by an individual, or group of individuals, to give voice to a worldview, of which there are many. People are, if anything, complex, and many stories have been told, often with an intent to assure a shared set of values and assuage fears of others that may be different. We know where those fears have led, and continue to lead, humanity. With a move toward understanding and mutual respect, we can make a little progress toward a better life for all — by this I mean all, human and other-than-human. We can recognize that Columbus was a person whose actions were significant, and lasting, such that they cannot be erased, but he and his legacy are no longer to be celebrated or emulated. Rather, the people who have been most deeply affected by his (symbolic) arrival are worthy of recognition, respect, and restoration for who they are and what they contribute.

Rich Holschuh,

Brattleboro, April 26

Workshop on Maine and Native People: Understanding Our Relationship

Maine-Wabanaki REACH will present a free workshop on April 29 from 9:30-4 in Brewer. This workshop has been well received across the state, with over 600 Mainers participating.

Maine and Wabanaki people are at an historical juncture in their long relationship; this workshop is an opportunity for non-Native people to reflect on our history in relation to Native people and our opportunities for the future. It includes a very brief history of US government relationships with Native people; awareness of white privilege; and an exploration of the concept of decolonization.

Maine-Wabanaki REACH is a cross cultural collaborative organization offering programming in Wabanaki and Maine communities. This workshop is co-sponsored by the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine.

Link to listing at Bangor Daily News.

Explore Maine History with Maine-Wabanaki REACH & UMaine Art Students

poster UMAECO

Join Maine-Wabanaki REACH and UMaine Art Education Students for an interactive story-telling event. We will be exploring events in the shared history of Europeans and their descendants and Wabanaki people.

Participation is limited to a maximum of 30. To enroll, you must RSVP by April 26th to Constant Albertson at constant@maine.edu. First come, first serve, and accepted participants will receive a confirmation email. A list of alternatives will be kept in case of spaces becoming available.

Link to web listing.

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Teaching Native American Histories Summer Program

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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.