qotw: lessons from the land

“when you pull something in nature the rest of the world is connected.”

Since the only Christophers we acknowledge are Wallace and Rios. I decided today’s quote would come from Judy Dow, an educator, activist and Abenaki (pronounced Wa-ba-naki) basket maker from Vermont. In “Lessons from the Land” Dow discusses the Vermont eugenics projects of the 1920s-1930s—some of which were still happening into the 21st century—and the impact it has on the educational attainment of Abenaki youth in Vermont.

For safety and survival, the Abenaki students are more withdrawn because their previous generations were sought out for eugenic practices. The students are cautious around authority figures especially teachers, who informed eugenicists of those who were Abenaki.  Dow was invited to Neshobe School to do an ethno-botany program with third and fourth grade students. Neshobe is an Algonquian word meaning full of water. The program included walks along a trail near a river and as she explained: “The land is the book of life; the land is the written language.” They began to learn the story being told along the trail and as time went on, some Abenaki students (whose cultural marker is to be reserved) began to share stories and jokes they learned from their elders. Their academic engagement was very different prior to Dow’s arrival. On the trail, the students also learned about actions and consequences when it comes to the land and that, “when you pull something in nature the rest of the world is connected.”

The erasure of the Indigenous people, whether government-sponsored (policies and practices) or for survival reasons, is a loss for all of us because we have a lot to learn from our sameness and differences.


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