Resource for Historians, Educators, Students and Visitors since 1997
Long before the arrival of French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1609, the waters of Lake Champlain were traversed by native peoples, inhabitants who had been here for countless generations. The region was known as ndakinna, Our Land. The Iroquois resided mostly to the west of the great lake toward the mountainous region we now know as the Adirondacks, while the Abenaki people lived to the north and east of bitawbágw, our Lake Champlain. The Abenaki traveled through the formidable mountains to the east by following the rivers that flowed west into the lake. Tribal legends tell of the supernatural being who formed this great lake and these rivers- Odzihozo, the Transformer...
Odzihozo created the great lake, the rivers, the mountains and valleys that comprised the Abenaki homeland. This being wasn't "God", he wasn't the Creator himself; he was one of a number of supernatural beings who inhabited the same forests, fields and waterways of the People of the Dawn. Odzihozo did create himself. According to the myths, however, Odzihozo had some trouble completing the task. William A. Haviland and Marjory W. Power, in their excellent The Original Vermonters: Native Inhabitants, Past and Present, tell us that "...he managed only his head, body and arms; the legs came later, growing slowly as do the legs on a tadpole." 1 Yet Odzihozo was impatient, even before he was fully formed, he set out to change the earth. He did so by dragging himself about with his hands, creating the river channels, mountains and valleys in the process. His last great act was the creation of bitawbágw, Lake Champlain.
Odzihozo was pleased with himself and his handiwork. The noted Abenaki ethnographer Gordon M. Day explained just how happy he was with the fruits of his labors— "The last work he made was Lake Champlain. It was his masterpiece. He liked it so much that he climbed onto a rock in Burlington Bay and changed himself into stone so that he could better sit there and enjoy the spectacle through the ages." Day also tells us that the Abenaki would bring offerings of tobacco to Odzihozo right up until the 1940's.2
Odzihozo photo by the
author. Map detail from USGS topogrpahical survey, 1956.
Last revised 01/09/2016
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