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.
“.. 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
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