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VT Women: Grandma Lampman

03/27/09 7:55AM By Louise Lampman-Larivee

(HOST) All this week, VPR has been observing Women's History Month - and the Champlain quadricentennial - by honoring Vermont women who contributed to the history and culture of the Champlain Valley. Louise Lampman-Larivee is the greatgranddaughter of the Abenaki woman from Swanton known as Grandma Lampman, who was known for her knowledge of tribal customs and medicinal herbs.

(LAMPMAN-LARIVEE) Missisquoi, or Mazipskoik ("place of flint") has long been a central gathering place for Abenaki families. This ancient Abenaki village is located on the northeast shore of Betowbagw ("the lake between"), or Lake Champlain, where the Missisquoi River flows into one of the largest bodies of water in New England. When colonial settlement took hold in northern Vermont, many of the Missisquoi families remained or retreated into the marshes of the delta, where they lived according to the cycles of subsistence, well into the twentieth century. 

The community leader and healer Martha Morits was born into an old Missisquoi family, married John Lampman, a man from another Abenaki leadership line, and built a small house and barn in the marsh during the late1800's.  Families would come together in this area known as Maquam (named for the active beavers that share this environment) to fish the Bay in the spring, to gather berries and medicinal plants during summer, and to hunt and trap the abundant game animals in the fall and winter.  Often, they would camp the whole summer there, making trips into the village to sell their surplus gatherings.

Always, there was dancing, singing, and storytelling at Grandma Lampman's.  Here, families were sustained. Far into the twentieth century, the Lampmans and their relations lived in and around the marsh, learning and living from the bountiful resources of Maquam. 

In the mid-20th century, life in the Missisquoi marshes was impacted dramatically by the establishment of the Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge, which forced many of Grandma Lampman's descendants and relations from their homes. While families continued to hunt, fish, and gather in the Refuge, they were no longer allowed to live there.

Meanwhile, families' reliance on the area known as "Grandma Lampman's" increased, as development along the lakeshore took hold. In the 1990's, when a developer threatened to turn Maquam into a housing complex, Grandma Lampman's great-grandchildren fought back, asserting their claims to this place as a critical habitat for cultural survival and subsistence. After a long battle in the administrative bureaucracy of the state, the courts, and in the public, Grandma Lampman's was protected and the Lampman family was recognized as its primary caretakers.

My name is Louise Lampman Larivee. I am the daughter of Chief Leonard Lampman and the great granddaughter of Martha Lampman, who was known as Grandma Lampman to the Abenaki community. Grandmother Martha was an Abenaki Herbalist and Medicine-woman who lived on the ancient village of Missisquoi. She raised her children and grandchildren on this land. This area of Missisquoi was always known for the Native values that were taught to the children from one generation to the next. It was and still is deer hunting and herb gathering, and berry picking area for the Abenaki community.

Protecting this land was important, for the land was sacred and spiritual to my family and others.  It took three years to protect this site, from a local to a federal level, but in the end there sits a plaque in memory of one very special Abenaki woman.

(Audio unavailable)

Click here to learn more about the role of women in Vermont History

Click here to learn more about this year's celebration of the Champlain Quadricentennial 

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