Written by: Board Member Rebecca Roy, Vermont State Parks
It is difficult to turn the huge ship that is Vermont State Government. Bureaucratic and container ship jokes aside, it takes time for large organizations to make important changes. I hope you feel comforted knowing there are caring people in state government working extra hard to make important changes. One example is our project at Vermont State Parks incorporating Abenaki place names into our state park signs.
With feedback from my Department, Governor Scott signed into law H.880, Act 174, an act relating to Abenaki place names on State park signs in October 2020. This law requires state parks to include Abenaki place names on state park signs as we replace them. This is an exciting moment at a time when we are opening our eyes to the people who came before us, the native peoples who have lived in Vermont for over 10,000 years and continue to live here. This is a beautiful opportunity to have a meaningful way to acknowledge the original inhabitants of N’Dkinna, the Abenaki people who have cared for the land for many generations and continue to do so.
Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs leadership is providing state parks with a list of Abenaki place names for state parks, and features within state parks. We are redesigning signs to include Abenaki place names, as well as the pronunciations and name meanings. We are adding Abenaki place names to signs as we need to replace them. Abenaki place names, stories, and history will be added to interpretive signs in state parks.
Abenaki names describe how these places and features fit into the larger landscape and are not named after people as many of our colonial culture names. Abenaki names tell a rich story about different elements fitting into larger landscapes around us. For example, the popular destination, Elmore State Park, has an Abenaki name: Tabsidemagok (tah-bsi-dem-agok) which means at the shallow/low water.
Want to get started with land acknowledgements and using native place names? Look at this map, you can zoom in close and see native place names wherever you are: https://native-land.ca/
Want to learn more about the Abenaki people, or take an Abenaki language course? https://www.ndakinnacenter.org/
Whether you have a large ship to turn, or if you have a smaller nimble canoe—now is a great time to make some positive changes no matter how large or small and acknowledge the great nation that has been in Vermont for over 10,000 years and continues to thrive here today.