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.

William Brotherton, Indian Mascots, and a Backstory

Members of the Turners Falls High School community were able to hear from William Brotherton, a lawyer and Native American who advocates for schools to keep Indian mascots. Brotherton, who is from Texas but is a member of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi in Vermont, was in the area and stopped in Montague Wednesday night to answer questions and discuss the Turners Falls High School situation at Hubie’s Tavern.

The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee voted in February to discontinue use of the Indian as a nickname and logo for the high school sports teams. The vote came to the disappointment of some members of the community who said they felt unheard in the decision-making process. Brotherton said there is a larger, cultural issue of political correctness in America, where people no longer feel comfortable discussing difficult issues.

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

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Another side of the story:

Yesterday I met William Brotherton in person for the first time. He’s a friendly, self-assured guy, and has been pro-active with me in opening up personal and intra-tribal communications. We had spoken on the phone and emailed a couple times; that afternoon, we both joined a tour of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant (VY) in Vernon, Vermont and were able to get to know each other a little. The tour was offered to participants in VT Public Service Board (PSB, now known as the Vermont  Public Utility Commission, PUC) Docket #8880. This is the State review process for the proposed sale of VY by owner Entergy Corp. to NorthStar Group Services, for purposes of decommissioning and site restoration. I had filed in May for intervenor status on behalf of Elnu Abenaki, with the backing of the Nulhegan and Koasek bands. Brotherton, who serves on the Tribal Council  for the St. Francis Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi, followed suit for their group shortly thereafter. The PUC process is now getting well underway with dozens of discovery and response documents going back and forth. By way of helping to inform the parties involved, the petitioners (Entergy and NorthStar) coordinated this tour within the plant’s security zone for an inside look at the scope of the project.

While on the tour of  the strongly-secured and highly industrialized site (we’re talking guards with machine guns), I asked many questions of our hosts regarding ground disturbance and oversight protocol. While I didn’t get many direct answers, Scott State (CEO of NorthStar) assured me that he understood and respected tribal concerns about cultural heritage and and wanted to be sensitive to them.  I believe he has become much more aware of these aspects than was the case previously, and while we must take any such proclamation with a grain of salt, I am guardedly optimistic that there may be some constructive dialogue going forward.

I noted that William Brotherton did not ask any questions about cultural resources. At one point, I gestured across the Kwenitekw (Connecticut River), to the eastern bank in New Hampshire, and mentioned to him about a fortified Sokoki village site there. It had been attacked in December 1663 by a  large force of Mohawk, Oneida, and Seneca warriors and successfully defended, although with a great loss of life; the land here holds many spirits, many at rest but others disquiet, whether from war or forced displacement or simply blatant disregard by modern development. William expressed surprise at what I had said. I began to understand the degree to which he was unfamiliar, indeed almost completely separated, from nearly all cultural understanding of Sokwakik. I am not sure that he knows what “Sokoki” signifies, much less represents  – if I am wrong, I welcome the conversation.

Afterward, we went down the river a half-mile and sat on a cottonwood log below the Vernon Dam, built in 1909 atop an ancient fishing site there at Great Bend. We spoke together for over an hour. I wanted to use the opportunity to talk with him about the significance of the landscape here to its people, past and present, and why we had filed as intervenors in PUC Docket #8880. I wanted to understand what he, on behalf of Missisquoi, had in mind as well. He didn’t really have an answer. I also wanted to talk to him about his endorsement, as a Tribal Council member, of the Indians team mascot/logo in Turners Falls, where he was going immediately afterward to speak to a group of supporters. I knew where he was coming from, ideologically, since I have read his articles and perused his CV.

I started by saying that I (and others) fully endorse the incorporation of a regular curriculum segment devoted to indigenous culture and the effects of colonization, not only in Turners Falls High School but all educational forums. This would probably be the best thing coming out of the entire mascot controversy, because it will help to displace the ignorance – the “not-knowing” – that brought us to this juncture and the benightedness – the “not-caring” – which follows. I pointed out to him that the contemporary indigenous people in the immediate area, Nipmuk and Abenaki, had clearly expressed their opposition to the continued use of the Indians mascot, and why this was the case. I don’t think he heard, or grasped the significance, what I was saying.

To borrow his own words, from Miranda Davis’s Recorder article: “Brotherton said there is a larger, cultural issue of political correctness in America, where people no longer feel comfortable discussing difficult issues,” this is exactly the case here. This initiative is not an erasure of history or a sanitizing campaign. Yes, this is very uncomfortable situation. It is hard to take a clear look at what has brought us all to this challenging place, recognizing that we can do much better and that everyone in the community will benefit. To NOT do so is continuing the illusion of propriety and the normalizing of disenfranchisement. This IS that difficult discussion which we are having, and to which Brotherton alludes. But first of all we need to know what we are talking about. I hope I can continue this exploration with William – I told him that as we parted on Wednesday afternoon. And I hope we can share this story with many others, in hopes for a healthier, more inclusive life for all in this beautiful place.

 

 

The Pessamit Innu Discuss HydroQuebec

cowasuck pennacook pessamit innu

From Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People:

We are super excited to welcome back our cousins- Council Members from the Pessamit Innu to New Hampshire to discuss the destruction that the HydroQuebec dams have created on their reservation in Canada.
If you would like to hear their informative yet heartbreaking presentation you have 2 opportunities:
July 18, 2017, 7 pm at All Saints Parish in Brookline, MA
July 19, 2017, at 7 pm at Nashua Public Library, 2 Court St., Nashua, NH
I hope to see some of you there!

Pictured above is Chief Simon and Grand Council members of the Pessamit Innu and our Sag8mo and Sag8mo Squaw (taken last fall).

 

Paths to New Hampshire’s Native Past

native new hampshire magazine

…Walking back to a time when foot trails and rivers were the main drag and birch-bark canoes coursed the waters, imagine a shoreline scene of wigwams set aglow from home fires and a moonlit sky. Inside, a circle of people share stories and trade, eating fish and waving away wood smoke — families coming together, celebrating the seasons and each other.

A recent National Geographic Channel special, “America Before Columbus,” notes that, in the 1400s, more people lived on our continent than in all of Europe and they had created “a managed landscape of cities, orchards, canals and causeways.” Likewise, New Hampshire’s Native roots cover every inch of the state, from the wooded realms of the north down to our big central lake and from our seacoast and salt marshes to the Connecticut River in the shadow of Mt. Monadnock. American Indians have lived here since the end of the last ice age, following food cycles, fresh water and fertile ground. The evidence that remains, mostly place names and myth, has become so familiar to us that we sometimes forget the source.

“It’s very important for people to understand that families were living in these places,” says Michael J. Caduto, author of “A Time Before New Hampshire: The Story of a Land and Native Peoples.”

“A lot of people think of Native history as being kind of static or represented by stone tools and bones and other archaeological findings,” he says. “Those artifacts are just evidence of the life that has been here for over 11,000 years — the Abenakis and all of their ancestors.”

See this above-average article by Mark Dionne, and illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke, in this month’s issue of New Hampshire Magazine.

Return to the River Part 1: Franklin, NH’s First Inhabitants

paul pouliot franklin nh elodie reed
Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People Chief Paul Pouliot stands for a portrait on a fishing and observation deck along the Winnipesaukee River in Franklin. He is in front the bend in the river by Odell Park, a place he said would have provided indigenous people abundant fishing as well as good grounds for agriculture for thousands of years.

Beneath cool, overcast skies, Paul Pouliot took in the land, the river, the trees – all the geophysical features – of Franklin’s Odell Park.

The chief of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People looked past the empty baseball field, the dilapidated mill buildings and the developed river banks. Eyeing the U-shaped bend where the river slowed, Pouliot knew – that’s where his Native American ancestors would have fished.

He pointed to the spot just in front of the historic Riverbend Mill, under renovation for an affordable housing project. It was downstream from the river’s rapids, where local community partners are suggesting a whitewater play park can be installed to attract eco-adventure tourists and help revitalize New Hampshire’s second poorest city.

The natural resource Franklin is turning to for its new lifeblood, Pouliot pointed out, is why people came to the area in the first place.

Read the full article by Elodie Reed in the Concord Monitor, the first in a multi-part story.

Vermont PSB Grants Abenaki Tribes Role in Vermont Yankee Sale Review

VERMONT YANKEE VPR

Howard Weiss-Tismann on VPR filed this story (excerpt below):

The Public Service Board says the Missisquoi Abenaki Tribe can take part in the regulatory hearings for the proposed sale of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

There are four state-recognized Abenaki tribes in Vermont, and the Public Service Board on Friday said the Missisquoi Tribe can take part in the hearings for the proposed sale to the industrial demolition company NorthStar Holdings. The board has already agreed to allow the Elnu Tribe, from southern Vermont, to intervene in the state hearings.

William Brotherton is a member of the Missisquoi Abenaki Tribal Council, and he says the northern tribe has a stake in the restoration of the Vernon site. “We have been diligent in making sure that our sites up north are protected and preserved, and so we wanted to be part of this process,” Brotherton said.

Mike Faher of VTDigger filed this story (excerpt below):

Two Native American tribes have won the right to be involved in the state’s review of the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee. The Vermont Public Service Board has ruled that both the Elnu Abenaki and Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi can act as “intervenors” in the state’s consideration of the plant’s purchase by NorthStar Group Services, a New York decommissioning company.

Both NorthStar and current owner Entergy had objected to the Missisquoi Abenaki’s intervention. But the Public Service Board sided with the tribe, saying its concerns about future use of the power plant site are relevant to the matter at hand.

In its request for intervenor status, the Swanton-based Missisquoi nation had summed up its concerns this way: “Our tribe wishes to participate in the process that will determine how the former nuclear power plant site is utilized in the future in order that we safeguard the heritage of our past.”

Mike’s story has also been picked up by the Brattleboro Reformer.

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Note: Elnu Abenaki, in keeping with its prior intra-Tribal agreements, will be standing in all of these proceedings as proxy for Nulhegan and Koasek Abenaki Tribes as well. We have agreed to keep tribal leadership in open communication and conference as we address mutual concerns.

Joseph and Jesse Bruchac at Mariposa Museum’s Annual Dawnlands Storyfest

joseph-bruchac

Author of more than 120 books for children and adults, Joseph Bruchac has been creating poetry, short stories, novels, anthologies and music that reflect his Native American heritage and traditions for over 30 years. Recipient of numerous awards, Bruchac is perhaps best known for his bestselling “Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children” and other titles in the “Keepers” series, which integrate science and folklore in highly entertaining and interactive formats that make them ideal for classrooms and family libraries alike.

This Saturday, Feb. 4, Joseph Bruchac will be the featured storyteller at the annual Dawnlands Storyfest at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough. He will be joined by his son Jesse Bruchac, a leading figure in indigenous efforts to preserve the Abenaki language and culture.

The Mariposa Museum is located at 26 Main Street in Peterborough, NH. It is wheelchair accessible. Admission is free to the Dawnlands Storyfest, which is hosted by the Mariposa and co-presented by the NH Storytelling Alliance and Peterborough’s business community. The event runs from noon to 8 p.m.

The Bruchacs will be joined at Saturday’s event by other local tellers of indigenous tales, including Medicine Story (Manitonquat), Sebastian Lockwood, Kim Hart, and HearsCrow. Simon Brooks and Chris Ekblom will emcee. In storytelling tradition, visitors will also have the chance to share their own tales at three open mics.

Read the full account at The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.