Wednesday, July 29, 1987
North Conway, New Hampshire
Keeping Indian Memories Green
By Erma Perry
Not since the Indians gave away Manhattan for $24 has there been so much for so little as the little Indian Shop in Intervale. If you are a scholar, you can brush right past the trinkets for tourists and pick up rare manuscripts on local Indians.
"This book," said Stephen Laurent, owner of the shop and son of a full-blooded Abenaki Indian, "was printed back in 1859. You could not buy it today for any amount of money."
The book gives the history of the Abenaki Indians, their vocabulary, some information on pronunciation, and the treaties entered into with the British.
Many people ask Stephen if he will sell that book.
"Hell, no," he says, "that is the only one I have, but I'll photocopy it for you."
He did, and now sells the photocopied book in his shop for a modest $3.95.
Books that are hard to find are the ones he copies. For instance, a book on omithology of the Northeastern Indians is very valuable and impossible to obtain. Some of his books are in French, because of his customers are linguists.
"Here is the story of Wonalancet," he says, "I copied that so other scholars could enjoy it."
Stephen's father wrote a book in 1884 called "Abenaki and English Dialogues". Some years ago Stephen recorded the entire book on five reels of tape. These tapes are in the library of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia among their books on the American Indian.
"Someone heard them there," said Stephen, "and asked if I could read a shorter version of my father's book onto cassettes, explaining the pronunciation of the Abenaki words."
These cassettes are now in the shop, plus a ninety-minute one on Masta's "Book of Indian Legends", giving the etomology of the words. For instance, a white ash is called "a snowshoe tree", because Indians make snowshoes from it. A dog is 'one who runs before".
At the Maine Historical Society, Stephen met a man named Charles R. Huntoon.
"When he heard that I was an Abenaki Indian, he told me he was attempting to translate an Abenaki-French dictionary into English, but his French was not good enough."
A few months later Huntoon brought the famous Rasle dictionary to the post office in Jackson, where Steve was working, and slapped it down on the stamp counter. He wanted Steve to translate it.
Steve was elated. He had never had his hands on a copy before. He had only heard of it. Rasle was a Jesuit missionary at an Indian settlement in Maine from around 1691 to 1724, when it was attacked and burned by the British. Father Rasle himself was killed, but the dictionary miraculously escaped the flames.
"That book is in the Harvard Library now, and you cannot get within half a mile of it," said Stephen.
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