Indigenous Peoples and the Merrimack River

Whether we are aware of it or not, the Merrimack River—quietly and forcefully—runs through all our lives in ways far beyond the water we drink. What did the rivers and wetlands mean to Abenaki people, and what is their cultural importance today? What does the archaeological record tell us about the importance of rivers to Native Americans?

Nebizun: Water is Life”
Painting by Francine Poitras Jones,
Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe

On display as part of the traveling exhibit “Nebizun: Water is Life,” curated by Vera Longtoe Sheehan.

Nebizun is the Abenaki word for medicine and the root word Nebi is the Abenaki word for water. The rivers and tributaries of N’Dakinna (our homeland) were our highways for traveling and the water itself is important to the species of fish and other wildlife that is necessary to our way of life.

In November, the “Indigenous Peoples and the Merrimack River” event was about the indigenous life on and around the lands where St. Anselm College now stands, and the past and present realities of indigenous life in N’Dakinna, the Western Abenaki homeland where we now live and work.

Presented by Sherry Gould, enrolled member and Tribal Genealogist in the Nulhegan Band of Coosuk Abenaki and Co-founder of Nulhegan’s Abenaki Trails Project, and Dr. Robert Goodby, Professor of Anthropology at Franklin Pierce University.

This event was part of the Gregory J. Grappone ’04 Humanities Institute’s BIG THOUGHT Series: A RIVER RUNS THROUGH US. This event was brought to you in partnership with the Goffstown Public Library and Saint Anselm College, with funding from the Goffstown Rotary Club.