Native History of Andover’s Open Spaces

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Kevin Porter, the Vice Chairman and Overseer Coordinator for the Andover Conservation Commission, invited me to be the Keynote Speaker for their annual meeting on April 19.  Mr. Porter was looking for someone who could speak to their group about the Native history of the area, and my name had been given to him by Stephanie Aude, a former OWHL librarian who now works at Andover’s Memorial Hall Library.

The reason for his interest in a speaker on Native Americans is that they have begun working on making Retelle Reservation in Andover more accessible to the public, and that includes creating informational panels about the landscape.

map of reservation
Map showing the location of Retelle Reservation

While the volunteers who are managing Retelle Reservation have created panels to highlight the different environments and animals one might encounter while enjoying the area, they want to include one about the Native people who use to live there.

diorama
Image of the Peabody’s diorama of the Shattuck Farm site.

The Overseers and other volunteers recognized the importance of this history and sharing it with visitors because Retelle Reservation is on the western edge of the Shattuck Farm site. This site is very important to understanding the Native history of the Merrimack Valley and was excavated by Warren Moorehead, Alfred Kidder, and others who worked at the Peabody, in addition to Barbara Luedtke’s investigation of the site in the 1980s.

camp
The Camp at the Bend in the River

Since the presentation, Willow Cheeley of the Merrimack River Watershed Council (MRWC) has reached out regarding their property, Pine Island. Pine Island is situated near Retelle Reservation, in the middle of the Merrimack River, and has the potential to be archaeologically important because there was a small camp site located on it. It is believed that the camp was used to monitor those who traveled on the river and to keep them away from the larger village that was on the mainland.

As the MRWC begins to think about ways to preserve and tell the history of Pine Island and the surrounding area, they are also investigating the collaboration possibilities between MRWC, the Town of Andover, and Phillips Academy. Their interest in partnering with PA stems from the records and expertise the staff at the Peabody have and from their previous work with faculty member Mark Cutler.

This timing could not be more perfect since Mark will be taking a sabbatical for the 2018-2019 academic year to work on creating a bilingual experiential curriculum on the cultural history of the Merrimack Valley. This work will be an extension of his class Confluence: Environment, Culture, and Community. Mark also hopes that the materials he creates will be utilized by area schools and institutions, and possibly even adapted as an interdisciplinary class at PA in the future.

And having heard that I was giving the Keynote Lecture, Mark attended the talk, and has already roped me into helping him with the development of the Native history part of his curriculum. This will certainly be an interesting partnership and an amazing way for the Peabody to contribute to both the PA and Andover (and more!) communities. We look forward to keeping you updated as these projects progress!

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