Abenaki Storytelling

By Sophia St. Jacques (Business Administration ‘22)

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of blog posts written by students in Professor Martin’s NAIS 400: Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies at the University of New Hampshire. To learn more about the Native American and Indigenous Studies minor, visit https://cola.unh.edu/interdisciplinary-studies/program/minor/native-american-indigenous-studies

The Abenaki people in the state of New Hampshire have persevered as people throughout centuries of physical and cultural erasure. Indigenous people occupied and stewarded this land and waterways for over 12,000 years. There are many Tribal stories about the land and waterways referred to today as New Hampshire. The Abenaki people have carried their beliefs, knowledge, ideas, and history through storytelling. These stories reflect the idea that Mother Earth nourishes aln8bak (human beings). The stories tell us that every being has an awareness and purpose on this planet, and reflect on the importance of interaction with others and interdependence of beings.

The story of the Stone Face (who might be known to some locals as the Man of the Mountain) helps bring Abenaki ideas and values to life, while explaining the origin of one of New Hampshire’s oldest landmarks.

iStock by Getty Images photo

The story, as told by Denise Pouliot in 2018 (currently being revised in 2021), centers on Nis Kizos, who met a woman named Tarlo. They fell in love and were happy together. A year later, Tarlo had to leave their summer hunting camp to go back to her village to help those who are sick. So, Nis Kizos waited for Tarlo through the fall at their hunting camp on top of the mountain, with a fire lit to guide her home. As winter approached Nis Kizos still waited for Tarlo to come home. Unfortunately, Tarlo and her family had become ill. When Nis Kizos and Tarlo did not return to their village, Nis Kizos’ brother, Gezosa, came looking for him on top of the mountain. The fire was dead and it seemed as if no one was there anymore. As Gezosa arrived back home, he looked toward the mountain where his brother used to be to say a prayer, and saw a Stone Face looking back at him. It was the face of his brother, Nis Kizos, who had become a part of the mountain. 

This story demonstrates some key concepts that help to highlight and preserve Abenaki people’s values. The interactions among Nis Kizos, Tarlo, Gezosa, and the villagers paint a picture of the closeness and shared responsibility among the shared relations (a phrase that local Indigenous storytellers use to refer to their relatives, tribal members, and other significant beings). Niz Kizos’ relations invited Tarlo with open arms and she became one of them. Gezosa looked for his brother multiple times because he and the villagers were worried. When he could not find Nis Kizos, he noticed that he had become a part of the land, a part of the Mountain and Mother Earth. Nis Kizos was now the face of the mountain, and he could guide his relations during travel and look over them. This story highlights the importance of Mother Earth always taking care of her past, present, and future beings.


Indigenous New Hampshire Collaborative Collective. “The Wobanadenok.” https://indigenousnh.com/2018/12/06/the-wobanadenok/

Indigenous New Hampshire Collaborative Collective. “Story Map Journal.” https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=693c9b595c5847cfb07d100935e423ef