The Wobanadenok

In celebration of the United Nations International Mountain Day with the theme Mountains Matter to Indigenous Peoples, the Indigenous NH Collaborative collective selected several mountains from the rage of the Woban-aden-ok, in the Algonquian language meaning “to the place of the high white or crystal/mica mountains,” or what Euro-American settlers refer to as the “White Mountains” to present an Indigenous view and meaning of the natural landscape. We chose these land formations from N’dakinna (Our Land, the Land of the Rising Sun) or what is known to many Euro-Americans and others as “New England.” Our use of Indigenous descriptions of their long-standing natural landscape challenges dominant colonial narratives about a lack of Indigenous presence in our region and the Euro-American sense of entitlement to the land. By claiming places as Indigenous, these sites bear witness to the on-going presence of Native American communities and their connection to the landscape in meaningful ways.

For instance, the former Stone Face also known as the Old Man of the Mountain on Cannon Mountain represents a site of socio-historical, cultural, and economic contestation between the tourist Euro-American narratives claiming the land, and the Indigenous attempts at counter-geography, which means imbedding landscape as an invaluable source of the peoples’ history and cultural heritage. By using landscape as a story, even if fictional, about relations between Indigenous people and colonial settlers, Chocorua Mountain claims this site as Native American. Mount Washington exemplifies Native Americans’ respect for and reverence of natural landscapes as sites of divine powers and the settler colonial challenge to these beliefs. Mount Passaconaway sheds light on the colonial expansion leading to land-contestation between and within Euro-American settlers and regional Indigenous communities. Mt. Jasper demonstrates Indigenous communities’ creative and extensive use and trade of lithic materials for centuries prior to European colonialism. Hence, the region’s landscape of what is today called New Hampshire flourishes with Indigenous presence. Winnipesaukee, Piscataqua, Nashua, Kangamangus, Amoskeag, Kearsarge, and other such place-names systematically recall this connection; despite the colonial narrative of the Native American erasure, Indigenous peoples first and foremost knew this landscape and its riches. They continue to value and participate in our diverse communities’ daily lives.


Mt. Cannon (above): Mt. Cannon, one of New Hampshire’s White Mountains within Franconia Notch State Park, is a home of a natural wonder. A rock formation formally known as the Old Man of the Mountain was discovered and recorded in 1805 by the Euro-American surveyors Francis Whitcomb and Luke Brooks; it used to be called a “Profile Mountain.” This rock formation created an image of a human person from a distance, which believed to be male. Shaped by the water inside cracks in the granite bedrock, which got frozen and thawed following the retreat of glaciers about 12,000 years ago, this formation collapsed in 2003; at that time, this formation was nearly two hundred years old. The human efforts could not save the Old Man of the Mountain, the New Hampshire’s state symbol since 1945 and an integral part of regional culture (see ).

Despite its deep historical roots, the Old Man was an example of Euro-American settlers claiming the landscape as their own – a trophy of the conquest – whereby all Native American place-associations and meanings have been transformed into a commercial sightseeing and tourism and commodified symbol of the Granite state’s identity. There are several examples of collective efforts to re-claim this landscape’s Indigenous identity through narratives grounding it as Native American cultural heritage. In the late 1700’s, while some colonizers saw the Old Man of the Mountain as a depiction of the settlers’ political leader, Thomas Jefferson, an Indigenous legend of Stone face told a romantic love story. One current Indigenous version of the legend about goes as follows:

“In N’dakinna (our land), Stone Face, a natural rock formation resembling a profile of a face on what is now Cannon Mountain, looks across the lands, searching and watching over our people for centuries. When Stone face fell in 2003, a selfish moment of sadness was soon replaced with happiness and joy that our ancient stories finally had come full circle. The story of Stone Face is a story of an aln8mbak (human being) born during an eclipse and known by the name Nis Kizos (Two Moons) among his relations. Taught to accomplish every task needed to survive and flourish, Nis Kizos became a good provider for and leader of his people; he had proven himself ready to attend the Kchi Mahadin (Great Gathering) to trade, see healers, reconfirm treaties among peoples, and possibly meet someone to start a family of his own. When Nis Kizos returned from the Gathering, Tarlo (Cub of Bear), a beautiful Iroquois woman, came with him. Their love was undeniable; Tarlo fit seamlessly into the village life. They were happy for year until Tarlo had to go back to her birth village to help those stricken with a sickness. Nis Kizos promised Tarlo he would stay at the family’s hunting camp on the mountain, so that she could find her way home. Keeping his promise Nis Kizos stood daily on top of the mountain looking for Tarlo and by night lit a fire to guide her.

“As the Fall was ending and Nis Kizos and Tarlo did not returned and the village Elders became worried. They decided to send Nis Kizos’s brother Gezosa (He Walks Fast) to look for them. When he arrived, Gezosa pleaded with Nis Kizos to return to the village, but Nis Kizos would not leave the mountain until Tarlo joined him. The winter has passed; the cold and sickness have claimed many, including Tarlo and her family. Once the Elders at Nis Kizos village heard the news, they decided what to send Gezosa with Anibisis (a Little Elm) to convince Nis Kizos to return to the village. As Anibisis and Genosa approached the camp, they noticed that the fire was no longer glowing on top of the mountain, as if the winter has erased Nis Kizos’s camp, as if he has never been there. Heartbroken, on their way back to the main village, they looked up to Kchi Niwaskw (the Great Mystery/Creator) and stopped to say a prayer for Nis Kizos and Tarlo. This is when they saw Nis Kizos looking right back at them: his face became a part of the mountain – Stone Face – looking over N’dakinna. Since that day, our ancestors have gathered to pay respect to Stone Face. The day Stone Face fell was the day Nis Kizos has finally re-united with the love of his life, Tarlo, and the Great Circle has been rejoined as his wait was over.”



Mt. Jasper: Mt. Jasper (above) is a site located in Berlin, New Hampshire and is famous for its rich archaeological findings. This is one of the known Native American mining sites before European colonial expansion into North America. This mountain contains a series of geological features with hard, brittle, vitreous and/or glassy rhyolite. Euro Americans found this site in the mid-19th century; it has been recognized as a Native American site since then. Across what we now refer to as the Northeastern United States, Native Americans used lithic materials from Mt. Jasper to make projectile points and stone tools starting more than 9,000 years ago. These stone tools, discovered on site and hundreds of miles away, indicate vibrant trading among Indigenous peoples across a large area. Only the geological sites within Mt. Jasper contained a flow band of rhyolite possessing qualities most desired by Native American stone tool makers, users and traders.


Chocorua (probably had a real descriptive historical place name for Native Americans): Chocorua (above) Mountain is located in Tamworth, Carroll County, New Hampshire. The mountain was named after the Native American Chief Chocorua. There are several folk legends about this mountain and this personage. According to one legend, while leaving on tribal business, Chief Chocorua left his son with the family of a settler, Cornelius Campbell. While staying at Campbells’, Tuamba found and drank a bottle of fox-poison. When the Chief returned, he found his dead son and pledged revenge on Campbell’s family. Campbell accompanied by others pursued the Chief to the top of the mountain, which is now named Mount Chocorua. Once he reached the top of the mountain, the Chief climbed to the highest point of the summit and leapt off; some legends insist that he cursed the colonial settlers.


K8daakwaj or Kawdahkwaj (Mt. Washington, see above): Mt. Washington’s Algonquian Native American name is G8dagwjo or K8daakwaj (Hidden Mountain Always in the Clouds). It could also have been known as Agiocochook (Home of the Great Spirit or Mother Goddess of the Storm), or Waumbik (White Rocks). Mount Washington is the largest mountain in New Hampshire and falls in the northern third of the Appalachian mountain range in a section called “the Presidential Rage.” The first European ascent of the mountain was performed in June of 1642 by Darby Field accompanied by two Native American guides. It is said that Field wanted to prove to the local Abenaki Chief Passaconaway that he was not subject to the same rules as the Indigenous peoples, who did not climb the summit of the mountain believed to be the realm of divine powers. By climbing the mountain Field dismissed these Indigenous beliefs and assisted the colonists’ northern expansion.

Mt. Passaconaway (probably had a real descriptive historical place name for Native Americans): Mount Passaconaway (see above) is located within the Sandwich Range Wilderness of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The mountain was named after the Chief Passaconaway, the 16-17th century Penacook leader. The Native American sakimou (or sagamore or Chief) Passaconaway (Child of the Bear), was widely respected among regional tribes; legends claim that he possessed supernatural powers and lived to be one hundred and twenty years old. His amicable relationships with colonial settlers and missionaries of the time led him to be manipulated and deceived by colonial authorities. This resulted in discord among regional Indigenous peoples. At the end of his life, Passaconaway had to request a plot of land to reside on from the colonial authorities: he had to beg to inhabit the land that was rightfully Indigenous. Some of the legends put him at the last movement of his life in 1679 on the top of the Mt. Washington where he had disappeared in the clouds.

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Pictures unless otherwise referenced are taken by Erik Swenson and Emily Oliver.

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