close window when done

Amiskwôlowôkoiak - the People of the Beaver-tail Hill

Wequamps or Mount Sugarloaf
Wequamps (Mt. Sugarloaf) today. Photo by Marge Bruchac.

Aho. Listen. The story goes, long ago, one of the animal people, one of the awaasak, came traveling down that long river, the Quinneticook, until it came to a place where the land opened out, and was wide and flat. And it walked around that place, and began to build a wigwam, a lodge. Now that creature walked in among the forest, among the abaziak, and brought, not one, not two, but many of those tall standing ones down to the water, and shaped them together into a large, rounded lodge. And then that creature brought the bodies of those tall standing ones, and stacked them along the river until the water flowed behind that place, and filled the land, and flooded over that valley.

beaverNow they say one of the Pocumtuck people, a woman who was working in the fields, saw the water flooding into the fields and looked to the east and saw this great creature building a lodge, and saw how the water of the Quinneticook was flooding into the fields, and she walked to that place to speak to that creature.

"Amiskw," she said, "you have built this lodge, but the lodge is flooding the land, you will have to move." "Nda," said that creature, "I will move for no one, I have done this work." And with his tail he pushed that woman aside.

The woman went back to the village to find someone to speak to this giant creature. And all she could find was one old man, smoking his pipe. "You, you must go and speak to this creature." "Who am I to speak to animals?" "Perhaps he will listen, because you are a man." And at that, the old man smiled. "I will go. I will speak to this one."

And so the man walked to the place where that giant creature was building his lodge. He walked all around that lodge. He admired it from every angle. "This is a fine lodge, but you know, it would look better if you were to take a few of those logs out, and let the water flow through..." And Amiskw said, "You are like the other one. You watch me do this work and now you want me to move. Nda! I will move for no one!" And with his tail he pushed that man aside.

The man walked back to the village. He and the woman, they councilled. They called on the one they call "Obbamakwa," the shaper, the one who moves the earth around. Obbamakwa agreed to speak to Amiskw. Obbamakwa came to that place, walked around that lodge, and said, "Amiskw, you have come to this place, you have built your lodge, but you have moved the Quinneticook out of its course. You must put this back the way it was." Amiskw glared at Obbamakwa, said, "All of you want me to move. I will not move!"

He lashed out with his tail, but Obbamakwa stepped aside, walked into the forest, among the abaziak, the tall standing ones. He walked among those trees, and they say one of them, an oak tree, offered his body, for a great club. And with that club, Obbamakw went to speak to Amiskw.

Obbamakw and Amiskw, they did battle, and this battle was a terrible thing. Rocks and earth were pushed aside in all directions. When that battle was done, Amiskw lay dead. His neck had been broken by Obbamakw's club. His body was stretched out along the landscape, and that dam and that lodge were broken apart. And the Quinneticook River flowed through, as it does, even today.

Now if you need to know the truth of this story, you have only to stand in that place where the Pocumtuck plant their corn. You have only to look to the east, and you will see the body of that great beaver. You will see the head, "Wequamps" -- the English call it "Mount Sugarloaf." You will see where the neck has been broken. You will see the body of that beaver stretching along the landscape as that mountain reaches to the north, and as the tail of that beaver points to the north, from where that creature began its journey down the long river. And then you will know this story, of the people who call themselves the "Amiskwôlowôkoiak," the people of the beaver-tail hill.


"Amiskw˘low˘koiak - the People of the Beaver-tail Hill" was recounted by Marge Bruchac (Abenaki). Audio Production was provided by Bob Paquette at WFCR, Amherst, MA and Tony Jillson of Ratite Studios.

top | close window | print