THE PETROGLYPHS AT KTSIPÔNTEKW (BELLOWS FALLS)

A Brattleboro Words Trail Site

The Bellows Falls petroglyphs located near the Vilas Bridge. Credit: Kristopher Radder, Brattleboro Reformer.

A Land Acknowledgement

Like every place in the United States, Brattleboro was built on stolen land, and the European settlers who came here during the colonial period did everything they could to drive out the Indigenous people who lived here. Those people are the Sokoki Abenaki (or, translated into English from the original Sokwakiak, the People Who Separated), and despite centuries of persecution they survive today. Their native tongue, Aln8ba8dwaw8gan—the Western Abenaki language—survives as well, but is greatly endangered. To the Sokoki Abenaki, this place is known as Wantastegok, the Place of the River Where Things Are Lost, referring to the confluence of Kwenitekw with Wantastekw, what we now call the Connecticut River and the West River. Every corner of this land holds their stories. This research site on the Brattleboro Words Trail documents the history and enduring presence of the Sokoki Abenaki and their homeland, Wantastegok.

Just downstream of the Vilas Bridge between Bellows Falls, Vermont and North Walpole, New Hampshire are clusters of carvings in the bedrock, visible from the road that runs along the shore. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, these carvings are ancient petrogylphs made by the Sokoki Abenaki, the original people of this region.

The petroglyphs at Ktsipôntekw—the Great Falls, today called Bellows Falls—are one of only two primary petroglyph sites within the borders of today’s Vermont, the other nearby at Wantastegok. They depict a rare assemblage of humanoid figures thought to be unique in New England, and uncommon even in surrounding areas.

These figures, and those carved at Wantastegok, are a form of awhikhigan, what Abenaki scholar Dr. Lisa Brooks has called “.. an instrument that can be used for communication, for recording and remembering, for persuasion, for marking a journey, for telling a story, for sealing a promise,” (The Common Pot).

According to Dr. Brooks, awikhigan as an Abenaki concept encompasses treaty literature, communications through artistic symbolism written on birch bark scrolls, wampum belts, the land, oral history, and more—awikhigan is an Abenaki concept that encompasses many forms of text created and presented to the world to communicate among people.

Awikhigan

“.. an instrument that can be used for communication, for recording and remembering, for persuasion, for marking a journey, for telling a story, for sealing a promise.”

—Dr. Lisa Brooks

Petroglyphs at Ktsipôntekw, (“Great Falls” in Abenaki), now called Bellows Falls. Photo credit: Kristopher Radder, Brattleboro Reformer.

On The Map

Bellows Falls Island, south of the Vilas Bridge in Bellows Falls, Vermont

The Bellows Falls Petroglyphs Site

About the Research sites

The Brattleboro Words Project is working with the community to identify specific sites and themes significant to the study of words in Brattleboro and surrounding towns. Research Teams – classrooms/teachers, amateur historians, veterans, writers, artists and other community members — will produce audio segments and other work to be incorporated into audio walking, biking and driving tours tours.

Research Team Leader

Jessica Dolan, Ph.D

Jessica Dolan, Ph.D

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