Elnu Abenaki tribe: Artifacts found in Northampton dig belong to the earth

  • A crew from Archeological Historical Services Inc. works at one of two dig sites near North King Street in Northampton on Oct. 3, 2019. In foreground, from left, are Emma Wink, Quin Harper, James Poetzinger and Jordan Tabolt. In background, using a screener, is David Leslie. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 7/6/2020 5:03:47 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Elnu Abenaki, a state-recognized tribe in southern Vermont, released a statement Monday about the proposed construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Hatfield and North King streets that would go through a Native American site estimated to be at least 8,000 years old. 

“We concur that any ancestral materials should return, or remain, in the Earth, our Mother, who is the holder and provider of everything,” reads the statement from Elnu Abenaki members Roger Longtoe Sheehan, chief of the tribe; Jim Taylor, councilman; and Rich Holschuh, tribal historic preservation officer.

Abenaki “have a direct, ancient association with the mid-Kwenitekw/Connectict River valley, by proximity and through diplomacy and kinship,” reads the statement, which touches on the tribe’s connection to Northampton and Hatfield in particular and references “the dispossession of Indigenous people” as a result of colonization that led to many joining the Abenaki in other regions. “Their descendants are among us today.”

They echoed the Nipmuc Nation of Massachusetts who put out a statement last week saying that artifacts should stay in the ground. “The rightful owners of any and all artifacts are the ancestors themselves and all artifacts removed from the site should be returned to the earth,” Cheryll Toney Holley, chief of the Nipmuc Nation, and Tenah Richardson, chairwoman of the Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council, wrote in their statement. 

Sheehan, Taylor and Holschuh appreciated that a cultural resource monitor from a federally recognized tribe, Mark Andrews of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), was present at the Northampton dig. “Meaningful inclusion of Native voices with regard to Indigenous cultural concerns is paramount and should be foregrounded and expanded,” the statement reads. 

“We maintain that, going forward, the best means of finding balance and peace, and minimizing these situations — recognizing that the inevitability of change is embraced through responsibility and relationship — is to prioritize inclusion and awareness. We aspire toward a better way of being here together and that includes recognizing where change is needed.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.

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