In the waters of the Retreat Meadows, near the confluence of the Wantastekw (West River) and the Kwenitekw (Connecticut River), sits one of only two primary petroglyph sites within the borders of today’s Vermont.The carvings on a ledge outcropping at the south bank river are now submerged, covered by the rising waters caused by the construction of the Vernon dam, eight miles downriver, in 1909. They include multiple thunderbird figures, a canid, and snake-like shapes, first documented in writing by Samuel Williams in The Natural and Civil History of Vermont (1794) and later by Edward Augustus Kendall in Travels Through the Northern Parts of the United States, in the Year 1807 and 1808 (1809). Interpretations of these markings have changed over the years. Today’s Abenaki people consider this a sacred site: the ancestral messages in stone still remain relevant. Scholars place the date of the carvings at perhaps 3000 years old.
“Petroglyphs are not just a billboard in the wilderness. They’re in certain places for certain reasons…the fact that they’re here tells you that there’s something larger going on.”— Rich Holschuh, Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs
Brattleboro Students on the Meadows
This two-part podcast produced by Joe Rivers and his Brattleboro Area Middle School students recount the story of the Vernon hydroelectric dam’s construction in 1909, giving background to the flooding of the Meadows and the destruction of a critically important site for the Sokoki Abenaki by the construction of the Vernon hydroelectric dam early in the last century.