Testimony for VT S.68, An Act Regarding Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Video links for ORCA Media/CCTV coverage of Committee hearings – testimony and debate – for S.68  of the 2019-2020 Session.

1. Senate Committee on Government Operations. S.68 – Indigenous People’s Day. Recorded February 28, 2019.

2. House Committee on General, Military, and Civil Affairs. S.68 Indigenous Peoples’ Day recorded April 10, 2019.

 

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Elnu Abenaki S8gm8 Roger Longtoe Sheehan on Sacred Sites in Vermont

From the YouTube channel of the “Year of Indigenous Peoples of the AmericasCultural Initiative, a program of SUNY Empire State College. For this new virtual residency curriculum, a series of videos has been created with indigenous culture keepers sharing various aspects of their people’s understandings.

In this production, S8gm8 Roger Longtoe Sheehan speaks about the Abenaki relationship with the land and rivers of Ndakinna, and how these interactions take place within their worldview. The interview took place in June, 2018 at the Abenaki Heritage Weekend annual event at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. By request of Vera Longtoe Sheehan, a co-producer of the film, I contributed some still photography from Kchi Pontekw/Bellows Falls, VT for the video.

Three Little Indian Sisters

watso sisters blodgetts landing nh

The daughters of Louis Watso and Katherine Tahamont. The Watso family kept a shop on the shores of New Hampshire’s Lake Sunapee following the turn of the last century.

From the Ne-Do-Ba website:

Louis Watso was born about 1874 and descends from an Abenaki War Chief. He married Katherine Tahamont on 20-Jan-1893. Katherine was born 5-Jan-1878 at Odanak or upstate NY. Louis died in 1959 and Katherine died 18-May-1943. Both are buried in Claremont NH, where they spent much of their lives. This couple had three daughters that grew to adulthood;

  • Jessie born 25-Feb-1897 at Odanak, married Mr. Barton
  • Eva born 7-Jun-1899 at Odanak, married Mr. Perry
  • Mable born about 1900, Married Mr. Turner

The Watso family continues, the Abenaki continue. #respect

W8kwses in Nd’akinna

red fox w8kwses winter

In the interests of sharing some of the insightful conversations happening here and there… A discussion of the Abenaki names for “fox” and its variants on the Western Abenaki Facebook page this past week (02.09.2019) led to a discovery about its original and expansionist range. I would like to archive that dialogue here.

How would you conjunct “red fox” as a person’s name aln8baiwi? I was thinking mkuigow8kwses
Mkuiw8kwses
Mkuigiw8kwses

Eric Brier Mkwiôkwses. For a name: Liwizo mkwiôkwses or ni wizwôgan mkwiôkwses or however to indicate it’s a name. So either liwizi- “to be called” or “wizwôgan” for “name”
Joseph Joubert If white fox is w8bi8kwes it stands to reason mekwi8kwes is red fox. I rest me case.

Wendell Sanborn Joseph Joubert wliwni Nijia Thank you brother

 

Wendell Sanborn Joseph JoubertJoseph so would it also make good grammatical sense pinefox would be koai8kweses?
Joseph Joubert No, because there is no such word in the English language as pinefox.

Wendell Sanborn Joseph Joubert thank you wliwni

Conor Quinn As Joseph Joubert points out, the main way to do it is likely

mkwi(w)ôkwsess

That’d be my best guess, too.

If you wanted to do it the other way, it would not be mkwigiôkwsess but
makwigit wôkwsess

…but that would be a more roundabout, literal ‘fox that is red’, so I think Elie’s version is more natural, and as he shows, more fits the pattern of similar expressions.

Joseph Joubert Thank you Conor. I have trouble expressing why I choose something other than I would use it. Thank you for offering a reason for its use. I am not a pro, but I was brought up surrounded by Abenaki speakers. My mother would stop others in the language, and announce that her son understands what is being said in Abenaki.
Rich Holschuh I could be wrong but I was under the impression that w8kwses IS the name for a red fox, as the type for all the others. Gray fox has his own name: wibegwigid w8kwses. White fox has his own name: w8biw8kwses. So it may be duplicative to specify mkwi8kwses, but it certainly does clarify!

Wendell Sanborn Rich Holschuh w8kwses = fox. But I am understanding it is a “given” that it is red as it is not specifically mentioned otherwise. Is this correct?
Rich Holschuh Wendell, I could be off the mark, but that was my understanding. Happy to learn otherwise if it is not so.

 

Jesse Bruchac Rich Holschuh I suspect it just means fox as red foxes are new to the area only migrating into the northeast in the 1800s or possibly introduced from Europe around that time.

Rich Holschuh Jesse, your answer provoked surprise and then curiosity. I was not aware that red foxes had that sort of range history. So I looked into it and found a great recent paper on exactly that!

I found that your observation did indeed have basis, but was able to get some clarification around the delimitations of native and expansionist ranges. I was pleased to learn that the study’s conclusions were that the eastern red fox’s original range approximates the Wabanaki homelands (map below). Whereas the map show the approximate southern bounds coming nearly to the MA state line, I did note that some of their Eastern native test samples seemed to come from Fort Orange/Albany area. Perhaps that line is a little fuzzy and might more closely correlate to the biomes (montane vs pine-oak plains) that also approximate the northern MA line.

Meaning, the Abenaki people did know the red fox as native, and had a word for that particular relative (possibly w8kwses?) and may even have enjoyed some trade advantage with more southern groups due to that!

No photo description available.
Rich Holschuh The map key is a little cut-off on the left. Expand the image to full screen to view. (Light gray is the Eastern lineage genetic clade)
Jesse Bruchac Rich Holschuh really cool! Wliwni for sharing. I was raised under the notion they were invasive. But I do love those little red foxes! Nice to know they’ve called Ndakinna home for so long. ❤️

Wendell Sanborn kchi wliwni Lich!!! thank you Rich!!! I am so happy that you posted this info about foxes being from here!!!

 

In Response to Seven Days: Exploring Mt. Philo With Historian Judy Chaves

mategwas mategwas abenaki rabbit rabbit tweetOn Twitter, Nov. 1, 2018

A response to an article by Tom Slayton in the online Vermont magazine Seven Days today, November 1, 2018:

This article includes a classic example of the minimization of a 10,000 year-long (or longer) indigenous presence in the landscape, exemplified by characterizing cultural usage patterns as ephemeral and insubstantial. This biased historical trope is deployed typically in comparison to later European land settlement practices such as fence- and wall-bounded properties, permanent structures, commoditized agriculture, and extractive industry.

mt philo view

The narrative device is used so often it has become de rigueur and may not even raise an eyebrow in notice. In this case, the statement is made: “There’s no evidence that Native Americans lived on the mountain, but they may have used it as a strategic lookout.” This, in spite of the fact that the subsequent post-Contact history (to draw a fuzzy gray line) was and is exactly that as well.

Given that the Champlain Sea is estimated to have been about 450 feet above current Lake levels, Mt. Philo and a few other nearby elevations would have been islands at the time, projecting only a fraction of their mass above the surrounding brackish water. They would have been heavily utilized by the region’s first inhabitants for occupation, food processing, resource gathering, and reconnaissance. With a broad prospect over the water- and landscape, the eminence would play a significant and lasting role for the Native descendants of these first peoples. It is not hard to find evidence for this supposition. The Abenaki have their own name for the landmark: Mategwasaden – Rabbit Mountain. Immediately west, Thompson’s Point remained a significant Abenaki community well into recent times. The Point and the surrounding Lake are well-documented for archaeological significance.

With a twist of irony, the State of Vermont’s management plan for Mount Philo State Park states: “In the late 1800s, William Higbee, a Charlotte resident and journalist, wrote that Mt. Philo was named for an “Indian fighter and famous hunter” named Philo who camped on the mountain. One of the first written references to the “Devil’s Chair” [a slopeside feature] was in an 1896 article that describes a natural rock outcrop by that name.” People who are able to “read between the lines” will recognize here another common displacement trope masquerading as quaint local history: the Devil epithet is often attached to Native sacred landscape features, and a description of “chair” or “seat” will often refer to an elevated ceremonial site, used in recognition of its prominent exposure to the sweep of landscape and sky.

We are not served well by such dismissiveness.