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Last Updated: April 9, 2022

July 03

People of the First Light

"Lakelight," color woodblock print by TNLG printmaker Mary Graham

I am one whose formal education regarding American history was woefully incomplete.

I am working to fill in glaring gaps. While the colonizers' perspective is the easiest to obtain, I desire a more holistic point of view, one that honors and respects Indigenous history, one that surfaces the voice of the people who first occupied North America in general and Northern New England in particular, one that teaches me to live harmoniously with nature.

The land upon which I've settled was the homeland of the Abenaki, a word that means "People of the First Light."

According to archaeologist Robert G. Goodby, Ph. D., the area in Keene now known as Tenant Swamp is one of the oldest sites of of human activity in North America and dates as far back as 12,600 years ago. Back then, the Abenaki tribe lived along the banks of the Ashuelot River where stone fishing dam and fishing sites in Swanzey date to about 9,000 years ago.

One of 17 Walldogs murals honoring the Sadoques family, a well-known Abenaki family in Keene history

The Indigenous Abenaki people of the Northeast have, for generations, been subjected to both genocidal attacks (killing of people) and ethnocidal attacks (killing of culture) by colonial settlers and their descendants. Today, these threats have included eugenic sterilization, forced separations of children and families, misrepresentations of history, and other attacks that the United Nations classifies as “ethnocide.” By definition, ethnocide includes both a “mental element” – “the intent to destroy” – and a “physical element” – when perpetrators deliberately take actions to cause “serious bodily or mental harm."

As my understanding of American history deepens, my awareness of unfathomable tragedy expands. I accept that I have benefited from systemic racism. I recognize my responsibility to do all possible to bend the arc of history towards equity, peace, and well-being for all. It feels fitting, as we in the United States recognize the Fourth of July holiday, to deeply contemplate the concept of interdependence and to re-imagine the concept of re-generative community.

Following this past year of pandemic isolation, political tension, and social transformation, Matt and I felt inspired by the idea of silver linings, or things discovered following profound loss. At the upcoming League of NH Craftsmen's Annual Fair at Sunapee, The New Leaf Gallery is sponsoring an exhibition called "Lost and Found," a collection of original, hand-made prints that illustrate hopeful prospects, things discovered as a result of hardships endured.

Taryn Fisher, 07.03.2021

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