JAMAICA -- As Chief of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe, Roger Longtoe knows the importance of celebrating and remembering his town’s history.
Longtoe and other members of the Abenaki tribe will be at Jamaica State Park on Saturday, July 28, as part of the town’s Old Home Days, to demonstrate what life was like for his ancestors more than 400 years ago.
"We want people to know about our history, our culture and music," he said. "When the Sokkey Abenaki tribe still had possession of this land it was used for hunting, fishing and travel. Many of the local descendants of the Abenaki tribe alive today came from this group."
Two years ago, scientists from the University of Vermont confirmed that the area of the park, commonly referred to as the "Salmon Hole," was the site of thousands of different fishing camps, dating back 7,000 years.
In April of 2010, UVM’s Consulting Archeology Program was hired by the state to survey a possible location for a new septic system for the park but what they discovered at two dig sites turned out to be one of the largest collections of Native American historical tools and artifacts in the state.
Charles Knight, the assistant director of the UVM program, said what he and the graduate students and other professors dug up in August of that year, told a clear story of how the land was used.
Although salmon haven’t been spotted at the site in dozens of years, the deep water
Among the pieces found were fire-cracked rocks and post molds, which suggest there was some sort of cooking area, which clued the group that the area was indeed a premiere fishing spot.
The amount of tools, shards of pottery and other artifacts suggest people in small groups have been returning to the same spot for millennium, Knight said.
Longtoe agreed, added that the West River served as a prehistoric highway that connected the Connecticut River, Green Mountains and Lake Champlain and even offered passage to the Hudson River.
"Best we can figure, they would take Branch Creek up toward Londonderry to Otter Creek and head north to Lake Champlain," Longtoe said. "Otherwise people would turn south and head to the Hudson River."
On Saturday, he said he plans to show how members of the tribe would catch fish, share their history, explain why the river was so important and hopefully demonstrate how they performed traditional crafts such as twinning, which created fabric for them.
Jamaica Old Home Days is scheduled to run from noon until the evening with events including food with Jamar’s Famous Barbeque Chicken, a magic show, foot race, train rides and music by Beyond Further, The Kelly Stand Boys, The American Legion Band, Stratton Town Hall Boys and Jamaica’s own Andy Avery.
Karen Amenden said she’s been helping put on the event since she was a little girl and fell in love with idea of people returning to where they were raised.
"It’s a great way for the town to get together," she said. "People who have left the town for various reasons come back from all over the world to reconnect."
The Jamaica Historical Society will be open and have photos from the damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene last August as well as previous floods and storms to raise awareness of the destruction that befell the small town. Various fundraisers will also be held with money going to the school, church, fire department and library, Amenden said.
Prior to the Main Street parade at 2:30 p.m., people can buy spaces for the Horse Plop Contest and the first horse to "plop" on a purchased spot wins the 50/50 cash prize.
Chili aficionados can enter the annual contest with their best recipes or people can be judges for $5 a piece from noon until 2 p.m.
The day concludes with the annual Ducky Dash along Ball Mountain Brook, where hundreds of plastic ducks will float downstream.
For more information visit www.johd.org.
Josh Stilts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.