West River Petroglyphs

Play Audio

  • Student Podcast - The Flooding of the Retreat Meadows

  • Student Podcast - The West River Petroglyphs Diver

  • Wabanaki, language, and heritage with Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan

  • Abenaki Heritage at Retreat Farm

About

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 in 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). 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 Student Podcasts: Listen to these podcasts (produced by Joe Rivers and his Brattleboro Area Middle School) as 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.

Tour Stop Location

Brattleboro, Vermont, United States

Research & Production

Producer/Audio Editor: Donna Blackney
Voices: Rich Hoschuh, Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan, Buzz Schmidt, VT State Senator Becca Balint, VT Rep Sara Coffey
Student Podcasts: Produced by Joe Rivers and his Brattleboro Area Middle School students

Ongoing Development and Involvement:
As a community-created project, we encourage ongoing dialogue, questions, and engagement. If you would like to be involved in future developments, have information or a perspective that could deepen others' understanding of this topic, please contact us.

Photos & Video

  • Words on the Water Full Video for BCTV