Sokwakik Today: Volunteers Prepare Accessible Trail in Northfield

greenfield recorder shelby ashline mt grace trail northfield

“Since the project began, Rasku said Mount Grace has coordinated with the Abenaki, Nipmuc, Narragansett and Wampanoag tribes due to the land’s cultural significance.

“It’s had a lot of features tribal nations would appreciate,” he said, explaining the tribes could gather medicinal plants, harvest the nearby farm fields and take advantage of the water source, making the area around the pond active.

As such, Rasku said that in making the accessible trail, Mount Grace has avoided changing the terrain or excavating out of respect for the land’s Native American history.”

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

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Interpretive signage on the Ames Trail will include information about Abenaki cultural lifeways and language translations for our many indigenous relations. Aln8baodwaw8gan!

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The River In Us

I was asked by someone recently what is it that makes the Kwenitekw, n’sibo, our river, sacred. Is it the traditional fishing places? Is it the burials of the ancestors? What follows is my reply:

Thank you for asking; these are understandings that are foundational and go below the surface of things. I hope we have a chance to speak together again some day, for it is simpler to express these things in person. But I will share a few things:
  • It is important to remember that words have power and they derive from our worldview, which is expressed in the cultural tool we call language. There are many languages, and many ways of seeing the world. They differ dramatically, and the use of a word, or concept, can mean very different things to different people. Thus, “sacred.” When speaking of Abenaki cultural concepts, one cannot look at it through a Western religious lens. The dictionary definitions that fit “sacred” best are (from Merriam-Webster): 1) entitled to reverence and respect and 2) highly valued and important, as in “a sacred responsibility.” It is not a religious designation, but rather a spiritual recognition.
  • So, with regard to your questions of the river’s significance regarding fishing locations or burial grounds, the answer is yes, all of that, and much more. The reason being that we are all related, all equally significant, and part of the same great circle of Creation. Time does not exist in a linear sense, but is a continuum, constantly changing but all part of the same. Thus, we as human beings (in common with, say, plant beings, fish beings, stone beings, wind beings) have a ongoing responsibility to honor these relationships. We cannot act to harm the River, as it is as deserving of respect as anyone else, and in fact, we derive our very life from it – it would be very shortsighted to do otherwise..
  • As indigenous people (defined as the original people of a distinct place), we so identify with our homelands that we see ourselves as part of it, inseparable and continuous. For example, when an Abenaki person identifies him- or herself, they would not say “My name is so-and-so and I live in Brattleboro.” They would state “… I am Brattleboro.” Consequently, one’s attitudes and actions toward the River, are as unto one’s very self and one’s family, because it is exactly that. We (most of us!) consider human life to be sacred. So is the river.
  • You have heard the expression, especially this past year with the action at Standing Rock, that “Water Is Life.” This plays out clearly in the Abenaki language, which by nature embodies its cultural worldview. Let me explain that, in a Native sense, the well-known term “medicine” means anything that promotes or sustains health and vitality – this makes complete sense, but in our Western way of thinking it has been separated and limited into a drug that addresses (often only symptomatically) sickness. It has got the relationship backwards and misses most of the bigger picture of the interconnectedness of life. The word for water in Abenaki is “nebi”; the word for medicine in Abenaki is “nebizon.” So, you can see, that water is at the heart of life. The River is our great provider, for which we can only be grateful.
  • To learn that burials are often at the edge of the River is no coincidence. I don’t think I even need to explain that one! It is a place where strong connections have always been made, and where they can be accessed over and over. We go there to pay our respects to our ancestors, to say thank you to the water, and to pray for the same blessings for the generations to come. It is our “church.” There are certainly other places that are important as well, but the River is at the heart of them all. It unifies and connects – think in terms of a watershed – a flowing cradle, a web, an endless cycle enveloping the people.

Doug Harris in Northampton Aug. 5th: Let the Landscape Speak

A fundraiser to support the Indigenous Tribes of the Northeast in protecting Ceremonial Stone Landscape Features in Sandisfield, Massachusetts.

Presenter: Doug Harris
Preservationist for Ceremonial Landscapes
& A Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO)

Doug Harris will present a history of Ceremonial Stone Landscape Features in the Northeast region and the struggle to preserve them. The hills and valleys of New England are dotted with living prayers of stone (Ceremonial Stone Landscapes) created by the Indigenous peoples of this region. These stone structures were built to create and restore harmony between human beings and Mother Earth. The prayers that they embody continue to live as long as the stones are kept intact.

As has happened before in other places, our government, more specifically, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been complicit in the destruction of these sacred stone landscapes. Over 1/3 of the 73 features identified in Sandisfield have been desecrated by the construction of a new gas pipeline. This occurred because FERC approved the project before the stone features were identified, and then failed to consult with the tribes in a meaningful manner to resolve the adverse impacts. While harm has been done, this is also an opportunity to support the Indigenous peoples of our region so they can challenge FERC’s behavior in the courts. If successful, ceremonial stone landscapes will be preserved, not destroyed, a result that would have national implications.

Saturday, August 5, 2017
3:00-5:00 pm
First Churches, 129 Main Street
Northampton, MA
The church is handicap accessible and on a bus line
Please enter on the Center Street side of the building
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You can make a tax deductible contribution in one of two ways

1) Write a check to Creative Thought and Action (memo: CSL), and mail it to Climate Action Now’s treasurer: Rene Theberge, 250 Shutesbury Road, Amherst, MA, 01002.

2) Donate online by going to https://tinyurl.com/protectsacredstones

Please share far and wide with friends and family.

For more info and/or to help with this campaign contact Susan Theberge
Please include CSL in the subject line.

The First Inhabitants: Before Barre Was Barre

Missisquoi Abenaki Flag

With the Barre Heritage Festival around the corner, it’s a good time to look back and celebrate Barre’s history. For many people, that means looking back over 200 years to when the town was officially founded. How about looking back over 10,000 years?

The people native to the area, the Abenaki, are a community that has lived in the central Vermont area ever since their ancestors first migrated here several thousands of years ago.

Thirty people, give or take, are “American Indian and Alaska Native alone” in Barre (City and Town) taken together according to the Vermont Census. More Abenaki people might identify as being of “two or more races,” and they aren’t included in that number.

Read the full article by Will Kyle in the Montpelier Bridge.

Mi’kmaw-Indigenous Float to Lead Halifax Pride Parade

wabanaki two spirit alliance halifax parade

For the first time, a Mi’kmaw-Indigenous float will lead the 30th annual Halifax Pride Parade on July 22. John R. Sylliboy, co-founder of the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance that submitted the float, was informed of the decision on Monday.

“The Grand Marshalls recognized the importance of an Indigenous float so they said they supported (the idea) that the Indigenous float goes first and that they would follow us in the parade,” Sylliboy said. “It was nice of them,” he added.

The parade is part of the Halifax Pride Festival which begins today and runs until July 30. Approximately 120,000 participate in the annual festival.

Read the full story by Maureen Googoo at Kukukwes.com.

Dartmouth Senior Fellowship Project: Saving the Potawatomi Language

corinne kaspar dartmouth potawatomi eli burakian

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.