A Field Trip about the Indigenous Peoples of the Lower Merrimack River Valley (Draft)

Here’s a draft of an illustrated resource about Indigenous lifeways in the Lower Merrimack River Valley. The format is that of an annotated field trip because this information was often presented as part of an outdoor program along the trails of a beautiful nature center in Southern New Hampshire: Beaver Brook Association in Hollis. The audience was usually youngsters aged 6 to 12 plus their accompanying teachers and families, but sometimes the content was adapted for younger or older participants.

It is encouraging to know that, ever more frequently, there is public recognition that Indigenous Peoples are the most authentically qualified interpreters of their contributions to NH history, whether such interpretations are being offered to adults or children. At the same time, it is hoped that the information in a document such as this might continue to have utility. If only to avoid our predecessors’ mistakes, it’s often useful to consider the tactics and techniques of other teachers. With this in mind, I’ve revised and uploaded the annotated curriculum which was accepted (in an earlier form) as a social studies resource by the NH Historical Society during the tenure of Linda Betts Burdick. It represents an effort to pass along important understandings about the relationships between the First Peoples in this region and the precious lands, processes, and beings that sustained their lives across the millennia. As we all know, these same ecosystems (although altered due to intensifying human intervention since the 1600’s) continue to underpin the survival of both the descendants of the First Peoples and the Colonizers (and others) who arrived after 1600.

The content introduces youngsters to the Indigenous Peoples of this area by highlighting in very specific and tangible ways how the Indigenous Peoples interacted / interact with the amazing flora, fauna, fungi, etc. of this marvelous and precious place. It strives to reinforce children’s sense of belonging within the ecosystem, and their appreciation for the wider biosphere which gives them life – a planetary ecosystem in which they are integral and powerful participants. It endeavors to strengthen their familiarity with – and esteem for – both biological and cultural diversity by showcasing Scientific Ecological Knowledge (SEK) and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), and by frequently contrasting lifeways and systems of material production between various cultural groups across time and space. It highlights the history of interactions between Indigenous Peoples and this biome, and later with other people / cultures from Europe in the 1600’s. It does not omit a close consideration of the history of injustice, cruelty, and short-sightedness which has often dominated the past 400 years of interactions.

While acknowledging this, a major theme continues to be the reinforcement of children’s capacity for wonder and joy in the beauty of life and in human cultures’ remarkable capacities for variation, adaptation, and harmonization within the biosphere. The overarching goal of the field trip is to create a memorable and positive experience for children (and teachers) that fuels their sense of attachment to the realm of Nature (i.e. to their broadest, deepest, and most enduring ‘selves’). It strives to fortify their inclination towards informed care and stewardship / active compassion directed towards the Earth Community, toward the planet’s vital biodiversity, human and otherwise. Perhaps some facets of this resource can be of service as we strive to develop educational methods that spark gratitude and responsibility; that kindle a spirit of reciprocity, hope, and connectedness.

Indigenous Peoples of the Lower Merrimack River May 6 2022
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