Mural at Durham, NH Post Office May Add Interpretive Text

durham nh post office mural

Interpretive text may soon be added to a controversial mural at the Durham Post Office to give it historical context, but a group representing Native Americans still say that is not enough.

The mural was questioned last year by Rev. Larry Brickner-Wood of the Waysmeet Center at the University of New Hampshire. Brickner-Wood said at the time that he has always felt uneasy about what is depicted in the panel “Cruel Adversity,” which shows a Native American preparing to torch a settler’s home.

According to a decades-old brochure about the 16-panel mural, it was commissioned by the Women’s Club of Durham in 1959 and painted by artist Bernard Chapman. The goal was to reflect the history of the town, and the panel is meant to depict the Oyster River Massacre of 1694, where five garrison-style homes and 15 dwellings were burned. It is believed 100 people were killed or carried off.

Last week, during a meeting with town officials, members of the New Hampshire Commission of Native American Affairs, a representative from the New Hampshire Division of Cultural Affairs and a representative from the United States Postal Service (USPS), the idea of installing interpretive text on the wall was brought up. The USPS has a policy that it does not remove or cover historic artwork, and it does not allow new artwork to be added, according to town administrator Todd Selig.

Full story (and photos) by Kimberly Haas in the NH Union Leader.

Vermont Author Under Scrutiny for Ties to Eugenics

dorothy canfield fisher vermont author eugenics supporter

The eugenics movement is a dark chapter of Vermont’s history, and now one local author’s alleged role in that movement is under intense scrutiny.

Dorothy Canfield Fisher was a prolific local writer, and her namesake rests at various institutions in Arlington today including Fisher Elementary School. In 1957 a Vermont children’s literacy program was established in the author’s honor, and the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award has recognized outstanding children’s writers over the last 60 years.

Fisher’s reputation has been questioned in recent weeks, as Essex educator and artist Judy Dow has led the fight for the removal of Fisher’s name from the award. Dow, who has both French Canadian and Abenaki roots, claims that Fisher not only stereotyped French Canadians and Native Americans in her extensive works, but played an active role in the eugenics movement as well.

Read the full story in the Bennington Banner.

Elnu Abenaki Tribe: Native Americans Present Local History

roger longtoe sheehan elnu northfield history day

The Abenaki are here. They exist. And yet, they still live in a reality where not everyone is aware of that. But that is changing, slowly, but it is changing, said Joe Graveline, a member of the Northfield Historical Commission.

“They are having a renaissance, a rebirth in understanding their heritage,” he said. “They are finding their voice.”

A better understanding not only of the history of the Abenaki people but their place in the here and now — is just one of the many reasons why living history events like the one the Northfield Historical Commission is sponsoring this weekend are so important, Graveline said.

Read the full article in the Brattleboro Reformer. Two previous posts on Sokoki Sojourn reference Greenfield Recorder articles about the same event (here and here). Unfortunately, this well-written article ran a week too late. The Northfield event had already been held the previous weekend, on June 11, 2017.

Also, one correction, with respect to the quote “Among the Abenaki people, who made their homes in the Connecticut River Valley of what is now New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, were the Sokoki and a smaller, related band called the Squakheags — both members of the larger Abenaki nation.” These are, in fact, the same people. A simple linguistic comparison between Squakheag and Sokwakik (Sokoki, in today’s usage) makes that clear. More on that soon…

Col. Louis Cook: Operatic Abenaki, US Patriot, Devoted Catholic

Valley Forge Louis Cook Abenaki Trumbull 1785

During the cold winter months of February 1778, a 17-year-old Frenchman named Peter Du Ponceau joined the soldiers at the Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, encampment of Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army. Du Ponceau had arrived with Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a former Prussian military officer who had volunteered to serve in the army and train Washington’s soldiers much like professional European soldiers.

The young Frenchman, who also knew how to speak German, English and Italian, was acting as a translator for von Steuben in his new role. Several years later, in 1781, Du Ponceau became a citizen of Pennsylvania; and after the war, he became a lawyer. In 1836, he wrote some letters about his time at Valley Forge, including one particularly interesting story that occurred sometime before the British evacuated Philadelphia June 18, 1778, and the Continental Army left Valley Forge in pursuit.

One morning, while out for a walk before breakfast, Du Ponceau heard a voice singing a fashionable French opera song. In his own words, Du Ponceau wrote: “I cannot describe to you how my feelings were affected by hearing those strains so pleasing and so familiar to me, sung by what seemed to be a supernatural voice, such as I had never heard before, and yet melodious and in perfect good taste. I thought myself for a moment at the Comedie Italienne and was lost in astonishment …”

There, in the woods of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, amid the awful mess that had been the winter encampment of Washington’s Continental Army, was “a tall Indian figure in American regimentals” with “two large epaulettes on his shoulders” singing French opera…

Read the full article in the National Catholic Register.

Afternoon Encampment Teaches Pre-Colonial History

bryan blanchette northfield history day

Residents of Northfield and the surrounding area spent Sunday afternoon at the Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center, learning more about pre-colonial and Native American traditions and customs from the Connecticut River Valley.

Those who attended the afternoon encampment listened to songs and stories while browsing crafts. It was an interactive event where Elnu Abenaki tribal leaders presented to the group, told stories, and answered questions about pre-colonial times in the Pioneer Valley. The event was hosted by the Northfield Historical Commission.

Elnu Abenaki Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan and Bryan Blanchette both presented during the event, which ran from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and about 50 [ed. note: closer to 100] people attended on Sunday.

Read the full article by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder.

roger longtoe sheehan elnu northfield history day

Abenaki Lifeways Focus of Northfield’s Day of History on Sunday

elnu abenaki northfield squakheag living history

Residents will get a taste of local Native American history Sunday, as members of the Abenaki tribe recreate the mid-17th century lives of their ancestors as part of Northfield’s Day of History. The Day of History, organized almost every year by the Northfield Historical Commission, serves to raise awareness of the commission while teaching residents about the town’s history, according to Historical Commission Chairwoman Carol Lebo.

In recent years, the commission has offered a home and garden tour, an exploration of 19th-century evangelist Dwight L. Moody’s birthplace and a history-oriented walk down Highland Avenue. But Lebo said the commission wanted to try something new this year. “Up until recently, the Historical Commission has been mostly interested in colonial history,” she said. “More recently we’ve become more interested in pre-colonial history and in archaeology … We decided this year that we’d sort of go back to earlier history.”

Through connections to different bands of the Abenaki tribe, the commission was able to arrange for members of the Elnu band to offer a re-enactment Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside of the Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center.

Read the full article by Shelby Ashline in the Greenfield Recorder.

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.