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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > Native American Indians 1780-1820 > Points of Contact
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

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(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Points of Contact : Traveling Old Trails

In August of 1837, the Greenfield Gazette and Mercury reported that a group of Abenaki from St. Francis, Québec, were camped in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Their appearance, according to the Gazette, caused "considerable emotion" among Deerfield residents when they discovered that many of these "visitors" were descended from Eunice Williams. Eunice was one of the many Deerfield inhabitants taken captive in a French and Indian raid over a century earlier. Her subsequent refusal to return to Deerfield grieved her father and gained her everlasting notoriety in Deerfield as an unredeemed captive.

According to the Reverend John Fessenden, members of the Williams family "were not slow to admit" the ties of kinship with the Abenaki and "uniformly called them, 'our cousins.'" Of particular interest was the wish of the elderly granddaughter of Eunice Williams to visit the burial place of Eunice's mother. The Gazette and Mercury reported that the "Williams Indians" departed for Canada by way of the Albany road, observing that they "will have become extensive tourists by the time they reach home."

This last remark highlights a general lack of understanding among white observers regarding the broader purposes and context of the Abenaki presence in Deerfield. Except for the visit to the gravesite, neither this trip nor the route they took were unusual events for the Abenaki. Like their ancestors before them, Abenaki and other Native people traded, visited and exchanged gifts as they moved through their traditional homelands along ancient routes. In this case, the St. Francis Abenaki had traveled through New York, Vermont and down the Connecticut River to Deerfield. From Deerfield, they would go to Albany, traveling along the Hudson River to join other Native people selling baskets in the thriving resort town of Saratoga Springs. From Saratoga Springs, they would make their way through Lake George, to Lake Champlain, and on back to St. Francis, also known as Odanak.

The trip in 1837 thus was unusual only in the degree of attention it received from white observers intrigued by the visitors' connection to the Williams family. An Abenaki descendent of Kanenstehawi (Eunice Williams) gave this covered splint basket to Caroline Williams of Deerfield during that visit.

 

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Basket with cover

creator   Abenaki
creator   Marie Saraphine "Sophie" Watso Denis-Paul
date   1837
location   Deerfield, Massachusetts
width   11.25"
height   5.75"
process/materials   ash splint
item type   Art/Decorative Arts - Basketry
accession #   #IR.H.106


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See Also...

"Sermon preached to 1st Congregational Society in Deerfield, Mass. and in the Hearing of Several Indians of Both Sexes Supposed"

"A Visit "in the Gazette and Mercury Newspaper

"Civilization rebuked by the savage" in "Gazette and Mercury" Newspaper

Covered Basket with handle

Basket with cover


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