Society receives Abenaki collection

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BETHEL – The Bethel Historical Society has received a sizable of collection of books, papers and audio files documenting the American Indian experience – the gift of Charles R. Huntoon of Portland.

Born and raised in the adjoining town of Rumford, Huntoon has been interested in the lifestyles and language of North America’s indigenous people since childhood, when his family chose an Indian name for their summer cottage on Worthley Pond in Peru.

Over the years, Huntoon acquired many volumes about Native Americans and, in particular, works concerned with the “Abenaki,” an eastern Algonquin subgroup whose historic homeland stretched from southern Quebec to the northern Massachusetts border and from eastern Maine to western Vermont.

Huntoon’s collecting and research eventually led him to an unpublished French-Abenaki dictionary compiled by a Jesuit missionary, Father Joseph Aubery (1673-1755); it also brought him to the doorstep of Stephen Laurent (1909-2001) of Intervale, N.H.

The son of Abenaki Chief Joseph Laurent (1839-1917) of Odanak, Quebec, and Intervale, Laurent was a skilled lexicographer who took on the task of augmenting Father Aubery’s dictionary and translating it into English.

After many years of work on this project – which included the addition by Laurent of the etymology of most of Aubery’s words and phrases – the two men published 500 copies of Father Aubery’s Dictionary in 1995.

To preserve the pronunciation of the Abenaki language, Laurent recorded the entire dictionary on tape, and the material (original reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes and CDs) was also included in the Huntoon gift as well as Laurent’s hand-written notes, which from the basis for the 1995 book, are an integral part of the collection.

Selections from the collection will be displayed in the Dr. Moses Mason House Exhibit Hall through May 31, 2008. During the summer, the hours to see this exhibit will be 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

For more information about the society and its activities, call 824-2908 or 800-824-2910, e-mail info@bethelhistorical.org or visit www.bethelhistorical.org.

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