Eons before European settlers ventured north up the Connecticut River in the mid-Eighteenth, native American peoples revered and visited a location below the “Great Falls” in what today is Walpole. People like the Iroquoian tribes of Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida and Algonquian people such as the Penacook and Massachusetts may have ventured this far east and north, respectively, to engage the salmon and shad running in the thousands up the river to the Falls and beyond. There was time to plant corn, beans and squash for the summer sojourn before the return west, south and, for the more recent Abenaki, north. Both the land and the waters were of the Connecticut were considered sacred in their bounty, including the miraculous springs named for the Abenaki. Interment of deceased persons in this sacred area was considered an honor.
Fast-forward to the twenty-first century. Early this spring concerns were raised by regional descendants of those native peoples about conditions at the Great Falls. Members of an inter-tribal group, known as the Raven/Wolf Clan, approached Paul Colburn, manager of the Walpole Recycling Center, to inquire if assistance might be available to engage and improve the situation with a spring cleanup. The Clan sought solutions in a collaboration with local people. Paul engaged other town officials and citizens as to how this might go forward. A planning meeting was held at town hall on April 2 and the effort was “on”.
May 7 was the date chosen by the collaborative team, led by Anashownee DeMar of the Clan and Paul Colburn. A dozen people were present, representing both the Clan and townspeople. At the end of the day 483 pounds of flotsam and waste were collected in 49 trash bags. Bob Martyr, filling in for vacationing Paul Colburn, coordinated the pickup and separation of the waste materials into recyclables back at the Recycling Center with staff.
Concerns continue about the use of and care for the area. Investigations with other interested parties–such as Trans-Canada Corporation, the local utility which care takes the shoreline, Town of Walpole, and the Connecticut River Watershed Council, a non-profit organization based in Greenfield, MA, will continue. Topics to be pursued are those such as access to the area, improved signage, safety issues and the like.