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.

Hydroland: an Interview About the Vernon Dam’s Cultural Impacts

A well-crafted video project put together by two Brattleboro Union High School  (BUHS) students – Forest Zabriskie and Mason Redfield – for a recent class assignment.

To gather varied perspectives on the utilization of the Connecticut River – specifically the circa 1909 Vernon dam at the Great Bend in Sokwakik – they interviewed Matthew Cole, Community Relations for Great River Hydro (dam owner and operator); Kathy Urffer, River Steward for the Connecticut River Conservancy; and yours truly, for an Abenaki cultural viewpoint.

There are many ways to be in the world…

Troubled Dreams

Quote I came across tonight:

“Ohio was the only state to house four separate facilities of the national nuclear fuels and weapons complex, each one of them built in proximity to an ancient Indian earthwork.”

It is no accident that VT Yankee sits where it is, on the Great Bend of  the Kwenitekw in Sokwakik. But it is a painful reality. Exploitation of the sacred places, the places where “it all comes together” is a hallmark of Western society. It is all here yet, the land, the water, the sky, the ancestors, all of our relations, though perhaps much diminished, and with great hurt and troubling, disturbing dreams.

VT Yankee Citizens Panel Reviews Memorandum

Three newspaper articles covering the VT NDCAP meeting held on March 22, 2018 at BUHS, to discuss the Settlement Agreement reached as part of the Docket #8880 examination of the sale of VY by Entergy to Northstar for decommissioning and site restoration.

By Richie Davis in The (Greenfield) Recorder.

By Susan Smallheer in the Rutland Herald.

By Mike Faher in VT Digger.

A followup commentary by Guy Page in the Rutland Herald.

Great River Hydro’s FERC-Filed Notes from the 3/8/18 Study Results Summary

Cover letter:

Great River Hydro, LLC (“Great River Hydro”) is the owner and licensee of the Wilder Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 1892), the Bellows Falls Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 1855), and the Vernon Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 1904). The current licenses for these projects each expire on April 30, 2019. On October 31, 2012, TransCanada initiated the Integrated Licensing Process by filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) its Notice of Intent to seek new licenses for each project, along with a separate Pre-Application Document for each project.

With this filing, Great River Hydro submits its March 8, 2018 Updated Study Results Meeting Summary for the three projects, as required by 18 C.F.R. §5.15(c)(3) and the Commission’s current Process Plan and Schedule (dated February 15, 2018). The meeting for the Updated Study Reports filed between May 1, 2017 and February 9, 2018 was held at Great River Hydro’s Renewable Operations Center in Wilder, Vermont, with teleconference and call-in capability for participants who could not attend in person.

Below is a comment excerpt:

ILP Schedule – Brandon Cherry reviewed the Revised Process Plan and Schedule FERC issued on February 15, 2018, noting that GRH is required to file a progress report on May 15, 2018 and every 90 days thereafter until studies 9 and 24 are completed. The progress report is to include the status of study 33 – Cultural and Historic Resources Study.

Study 33 – Cultural and Historic Resources Study – Rich Holschuh concurred that this study is still open and indicated that while the draft TCP includes timetables for consultation, no consultation has taken place. John Ragonese disagreed that no consultation had occurred, citing several meetings with native American tribal leaders and informational resources but recognized the present open status of the study. He said the Programmatic Agreement (PA) and Historical Properties Management Plan (HPMP) are in development and will be shared for comment and review. The PA is a signed agreement among affected parties that usually includes SHPO’s, licensee and federal tribe(s). GRH suggests that no federal tribe is affected by this PA, but local tribes are and therefore should be included. The PA will reference the HPMP which includes details of how properties will be managed.

VT Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel: VT NDCAP Mtg 3/22/18

Brattleboro Community TV (BCTV) has archived the proceedings at the regular Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (VT NDCAP) meeting held at Brattleboro Union High School (BUHS) on March 22, 2018. The focus of the evening was to learn about the Settlement Agreement reached between all the parties involved, with the exception of CLF. The author, representing Elnu Abenaki with the support of Nulhegan and Koasek, adds his comments regarding the process at 51:37, and answers questions at 1:10:56 and 1:18:27.