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.

Hartland Man Seeks to Rename Mt. Ascutney

Mount Ascutney

A Hartland resident has petitioned the federal government to change the name of the 3,130-foot peak that dominates the Upper Valley’s landscape from Mount Ascutney to Cas-Cad-Nac. Robert Hutchins, an exterminator who works in the Upper Valley, said the name change would more accurately honor the traditional Abenaki who lived here for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers.

“I grew up in Windsor,” said Hutchins, who has started a Facebook page devoted to his cause. “I’ve been hiking that mountain since I was a kid. And when I heard the story, I thought it was too bad that we’re calling it the wrong thing.”

Full story at VtDigger.org.

Recognizing the Symbolic Power of Words

sokoki falls brockways mills gorge vt

A bid to honor the Sokoki people within their homeland by naming the set of waterfalls on the Williams River at Brockways Mills, Vermont as Sokoki Falls has made substantial progress. Approved by the Vermont State Board of Libraries, the designation must now pass muster with the Federal government, an action which is expected to be in agreement with the local decision (article here).

“The majority of what is known as the State of Vermont has been, and remains, Abenaki traditional homelands. Specifically, the indigenous people in the central Connecticut River valley and its environs are known as the Sokwakiak Abenaki, or Sokoki. Over many millennia of occupation, all of the natural topography became intimately known and was referenced in the native tongue, Aln8baodwaw8gan (Western Abenaki). In the process of, and as an integral aspect of, colonization by European settlers and their several governments, the vast majority of the terrain was renamed. While some of the original references have survived, many (including this instance) have been lost – but it is important to acknowledge both that heritage and the actions that have displaced it. Recognizing that words have power, and that exercises in toponymy have an effect far beyond simple words on a map, it is appropriate to consider these choices carefully.”