Wanascatok: Wanaskatekw

wanasquatok wanaskwatekw

A deep, green pool at Broad Brook, toward the top of the main gradient, near the site of one of the first mills in Guilford, Vermont. 

Wanascatok (sometimes, later, as Wanasquatok) is the name historically attached to Broad Brook, which flows from the heart of today’s Town of Guilford, Vermont into the Kwenitekw just below the Brattleboro/Vernon line. It is recorded thus in the 1687 colonial land deed, the last of several that together constituted the Town of Northfield, Massachusetts. The deed covered an area of about 65,000 acres identified as Nawelet’s land, and was signed by that person, identified as a chief of the Squakheags, along with Gongequa, Aspiabemet, Haddarawansett, and Meganichcha (as recorded). The legality of these deeds will be discussed elsewhere; suffice it to say this document is a good primary source on several counts.

1687 nawelet wanascatok northfield deed

A transcription of the 1687 Northfield land deed by Nawelet with four others, from Temple and Sheldon’s “A History of the Town of Northfield, Massachusetts: for 150 Years, with an Account of the Prior Occupation of the Territory by the Squakheags.”

A contemporary Abenaki spelling would be Wanaskatekw, which roughly translates as “end of the river” or even “the rivers meet.” Wanask- signifies ‘an end’ or ‘a meeting’ and -tekw is ‘river’, as in ‘flowing, moving water.’ The reason for applying this name to this particular place requires a little exploration, informed by some familiarity with the lay of the land. Broad Brook is a medium-sized tributary of the Connecticut, with a watershed of 23.8 square miles. Since it is obviously not at the end of the Connecticut, the reference is likely to the end of Broad Brook itself – in other words, the point of its confluence with the larger river, the place where they meet. This, in turn, indicates that Wanaskatekw is not the name of the brook after all, but indicates the specific location at its mouth, as a landmark. This fits with its use in the 1687 Northfield deed to denote the northernmost bound of the land running up the west side of the Connecticut. For some reason,  later historians (not Native speakers) presumptively chose to spell the word as ‘Wanasquatok’, adding the ‘qua’ or kwa’ sound, but this is not the original form.

It follows that this location was familiar to the Sokwakiak inhabitants, and, by extension, the earliest Euro-colonizers (more on this elsewhere); amateur collectors, known to include Jason Bushnell, and probably Walter Needham and John Gale, were active in this immediate vicinity in the last century. The topography has all the hallmarks of a good site: fresh water, a confluence, good visibility, well-drained, sheltering hills to the west, and readily defensible. There are substantial wolhanak (rich alluvial planting lands) immediately adjacent, much of which are now submerged since the 1909 construction of the Vernon hydroelectric dam four miles downstream.

Bushnell Old Red Mill Vernon VT

A postcard for Jason Bushnell’s museum at the Old Red Mill in Vernon, VT, where he displayed his life’s collection of “Indian relics” and oddities. It burned down in 1962.

There was a convergence of trails here also. The primary north-south path on the west side of the Kwenitekw – the Great River Road – ran parallel to the Connecticut, hugging the bottom of the closely encroaching hills. And there was a path running west from here up the narrow ravine of Broad Brook itself, which rises in a steep gradient of about 200 feet in a mile and a half, to a lush valley nestled in the uplands. It is recorded that the earliest British settlers of what is now Guilford Town took this trail to stake their claims, first among them being Micah Rice at Weatherhead Hollow in 1761; it is the only ready access point to the uplands from the Long River and became the first road.

It should be kept in mind that place-name references in Algonquian language usages are nearly always directly descriptive, referring to observable natural attributes. Any place that matches a set of general descriptives may carry a similar toponym, in its own context. The name Wanascatok, or a variant, appears in several other places in New England. It fits here, once one is familiar with the circumstances.

8manosek Kwenitegok

“Where there is fishing”

At the Rock Dam on the Connecticut River, below the Great Falls at Montague/Greenfield.

Twilight in Mzatanos/Freezing Current Maker Moon (November16, 2019).

Quinneh Tuk Camp

quinneh tuk camp northfield kwenitekw

An advertisement in Arthur Percy Fitt’s “All About Northfield” (Northfield, MA, Northfield Press, 1910), found on page 108.

The Quinneh Tuk Camp for Boys, Northfield, MA:

A remarkable (rare) near-perfect phonetic transcription of Kwenitekw (kweni- + -tekw = “the long river”), the original name of the Connecticut River in Aln8ba8dwaw8gan, the Western Abenaki language.

The colonial name for Northfield, of course, was Squakheag (various spellings) which is itself a fairly faithful phonetic iteration of Sokwakik, the Abenaki name for the mid-Kwenitekw valley, viz. sokwa- + -ki + -k = “at the separated land.” We use this word today in the form “Sokoki.”

Field Research for Battle of Great Falls/Wissantinnewag-Peskeomskut Continues

battlefield study recorder

“This year is the fifth year, and third phase, of the grant, which has studied the event of May 19, 1676, the Battle of Great Falls/Wissantinnewag-Peskeomskut that took place during King Philip’s War.

The Battlefield Grant Advisory Board — composed of the Aquinnah Wampanoag, the Chaubunagungamaug Band of Nipmuck Indians, the Elnu Abenaki and the Narragansett Indian Tribe, as well as historical commissioners from Montague, Greenfield, Gill, Northfield and Deerfield — have been meeting monthly over the past five years, coordinating this battlefield study of the complex massacre and counter-attack in 1676 that has marked the region over the subsequent centuries.

“Montague Town Planner Walter Ramsey said one of the unique aspects of this study is the involvement of Native Americans. “We have a balanced approach to our research. We are working with different tribes of Native Americans that can inform history,” Ramsey said. “Because previously, all we had was the history written by the colonists.”

Brule added that by working with many people on the study, it’s enriched with more perspectives. “We’ve had one perspective for so long. Now this study is overseen and monitored by tribes that have a voice,” Brule said. “They are also being compensated for their expertise.”

Read the full article by Melina Bordeau at The [Greenfield] Recorder here.

Quentin Stockwell 1677: Memory Marking in the Landscape

life in the wigwam samuel g drake 1850

Samuel Drake’s Indian Captivities or Life In The Wigwam, 1850 a compilation

From the Narrative of the Captivity of Quintin Stockwell, Who was taken at Deerfield, in Massachusetts, by a Party of Inland Indians, in the Year 1677; Communicated in his own Words, and Originally Published by the Eminent Dr. Increase Mather, in the Year 1684

In the year 1677, September the 19th, between sunset and dark, the Indians came upon us. I and another man, being together, we ran away at the outcry the Indians made, shouting and shooting at some others of the English that were hard by… They now took and bound me and led me away, and soon was I brought into the company of other captives, who were that day brought away from Hatfield, who were about a mile off… About the break of day we marched again, and got over that great river at Pecomptuck [Deerfield] River mouth, and there rested about two hours. Here the Indians marked out upon trees the number of their captives and slain, as their manners.

Recall is made of the story of Roanoke’s Lost Colony, and the tree found with the word “Croatoan” carved on the trunk.

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.

Nolumbeka and Elizabeth James Perry: An Island Perspective on Wampum

nolumbeka elizabeth perry wampum poster

Saturday, February 2, Full Snow Moon Gathering, Great Falls Discovery Center, 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. “An Island Perspective on Wampum”. 11 a.m. to noon.

Join Aquinnah Wampanoag Researcher and Artist Elizabeth James-Perry of Original Wampum Art for an informative presentation focused on historic wampum arts, including adornment, diplomacy and record keeping from the perspective of a Native woman, which will include a demonstration of wampum weaving. Free. All welcome. Elizabeth will bring a display of her wampum jewelry for sale.

1—3:30 p.m. Traditional Wampum Bead-making workshop follows. Limited to 30 participants.  Materials fee $40 per person, cash, on day of workshop.  Minimum age, 15. Pre-registration recommended at Nolumbekaproject@gmail.com

Elizabeth James-Perry is enrolled with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head -Aquinnah, a community located by the richly colored clay cliffs of Noepe (Martha’s Vineyard). She is a contemporary and traditional artist, speaker and exhibit consultant.  She continues the work of her many tribal mentors to shore up culture, through museum and archival research in local and international collections. In her creative process, Elizabeth focuses on early Northeastern Woodlands Native American culture, including traditional regalia, diplomacy and ancient wampum design. The artist explores the rich purple hues of the quahog shell in designing jewelry, sculpturing whale and bear effigies; and making fine beads to weave the luxurious drape of collars and belts.  She has revived traditional coastal plant dyes, using them to create museum-quality textile arts in milkweed and woven quillwork.  Elizabeth’s art has received national recognition; earning awards at the Heard Museum Art Show; as well as the 2014 Traditional Arts Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Weather concerns? Check www.nolumbekaproject.org for cancellation. Snow date, February 3, 2019.

Co-sponsored by DCR  and a grant from the Montague Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.