Tobacco Burning at Otter Creek
(left to right) Kanaretiio (Bear Clan representative), Shariwate (Metis), Rarahkwisere (Wolf Clan representative) following tobacco burning ceremony at the Otter Creek Falls on October 27, 2012. (Photos courtesy of the Kanienkehaka Kaianerehkowa Kanonhsesne clan representative Men’s Council.)
Otter Creek Falls - On Saturday October 27, 2012, the Kanienkehaka Kaianerehkowa Kanonhsesne clan representative Men’s Council conducted a tobacco-burning ceremony at the Otter Creek Falls near Vergennes, Vermont.
Akwesasne Wolf Clan representative Rarahkwisere and Bear Clan representative Kanaretiio were joined by local Onkwehonweh Darrell Shariwate Tucker (Metis) in the traditional offering of tobacco, which took place at the foot of Mechanic Street in Vergennes.
A small group of onlookers watched as thanks were given for the long history of Onkwehonweh (original people) settlement on Otter Creek, preceding the founding of the Republic of Vermont by thousands of years. A special honorary tribute was made to longtime Otter Creek subsistence trapper Frank Wade (Metis), who died in 1996 after a lifetime of running trap lines throughout the region. Wade and Tucker family friend Master Matthew Rivait attended the tobacco-burning ceremony. Frank Wade was the maternal grandfather of Shariwate and was well-known in the Middlebury region.
(left to right) Kanaretiio (Bear Clan representative) and Rarahkwisere (Wolf Clan representative) kindling a fire to burn tobacco on October 27, 2012. The Kanienkehaka Kaianerehkowa Kanonhsesne recognizes Otter Creek as a point in Kanienkeh, the Kanienkehaka homeland.
Wolf Clan representative Rarahkwisere commented on the beauty of the Vergennes area and the connection to Turtle Island. “We are here to show our respect to the traditional Kanienkehaka homeland of Kanienkeh that Otter Creek is located in, and to honor the ancestors who have been buried throughout this area.”
Bear Clan representative Kanaretiio noted the significance of Otter Creek for Onkwehonweh and colonial settlers alike. “This is not the first time, nor the last time that tobacco will be burned on these shores of Otter Creek in appreciation of the natural way that exists here. Onkwehonweh will continue to come here as they have from the earliest days. Nothing has changed the connection between the land and the unborn title holders.”
Metis representative Shariwate spoke at the ceremony about the significant contributions that Onkwehonweh played in military victories in the region, including the commercial history of the Otter Creek towpath and the circumvention of the towpath (“dugout”) to aid United States naval hero Thomas Macdonough against the British in May 1814.