Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Literal Meanings of the word "Nonnewaug"

Nonnewaug is a Native American Place-Name. Those Indian names are like "tiny imagist poems," according to a certain expert in the field, and literally describe the place from a point of view of the Native People living in the area around 1659, in the case of Nonnewaug. Could be a physical description or related to a historic or ancient event - or almost anything else that was important to them. The "w'aug" part means a fresh water fishing place. Often these are fish weirs, like Boyleston Sreet in Boston and made of wooden stakes, or sometimes they are made of stones like the Fairlawn in Paterson NJ. The "Nonne" part I think implies "in the middle," judging from other Algonquian place names.

Above photo: Nonnewaug Fish Weir June 1997.

In the middle of the river - or in the middle of ancient corn fields - or in the middle of the valley that once was a glacial lake with two ancient rockshelters on opposite shores- are all possibilities of what middle the Indians were thinking about. There is a line of stones across the river, four foot long and two foot wide boulders that probably is the stone fish weir that gives the name to the area of land - and the river, the high school, and our street address. The Sachem Nonnewaug, or the "Keeper of the Peace at the Fresh water fishing place in the middle," got attached to this name because the English thought it was his name rather than his title - as if his name was "mayor" or "burgermiester," and so now people attach the word to the man rather than this slowly dissappearing ancient Indian structure.

My blog  Waking Up On Turtle Island has some photos (all right, alot of photos) of the weir - which really should be on the National Historic Register rather than being totally ignored by the archeologists I've contacted about doing so, starting back in the summer of 1997 when "I Woke Up" about the Nonnewaug Fish Weir.

 Some Blog Posts: 
Correspondence from the author of a book where I'm a footnote
 A Video
fishweir blues
A Long One with all kinds of photos.

No comments:

Post a Comment