Michael Moore / Sentinel Staff

An Abenaki blessing and smudging ceremony was part of the groundbreaking for an addition to the Mason Library at Keene State College in May. Keene State students recently researched the history of the Sokoki, a Western Abenaki Native American tribe, in the Keene area.

Long before Keene State College stood on Main Street, the land was home to the Sokoki — a Western Abenaki Native American tribe.

Today, students at the college are exploring that history. This semester, students in economics Professor Marie Duggan‘s independent study course “Recovering Hidden History” examined how native people such as the Sokoki lost their land to colonialism.

Duggan worked with 10 students from five colleges and universities across the country for the online course, each institution a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. Keene State students Jeniffer Afualo-Robinson, a sophomore, and Dorothy Arroyo, a senior, joined students from the University of Maine at Farmington, the State University of New York Geneseo, Sonoma State University in California and Truman State University in Missouri to research the history of land transference on the sites of their institutions.

They found that land was taken over the course of ongoing wars and conflicts — along with a few more surprising factors that affected the Sokoki tribe.

“I thought that I was teaching this course because I was interested in property rights and the different types of colonialisms,” Duggan said. “But it turned out that the way that economics affected the Sokoki here was really through the fur trade,” when a battle to control the trade between the Sokoki and another tribe eventually displaced them.

The Keene State students worked with the Historical Society of Cheshire County to delve into historical texts and learn more about the Sokoki, and compiled their research in a website complete with a timeline of Sokoki history in the area. Afualo-Robinson, a former active-duty service member, said she was drawn to the course because she was interested to learn the “real story” of Native Americans in Keene.

“Because we know modern-day education tells one side of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving and it’s a joyous occasion, but I’m sure, as you know, there’s always two sides to every story,” Afualo-Robinson said. “And I wanted to know the other side to be able to voice that and make that narrative more available.”

For the students, as well as for those who will read about the Sokoki through their website, learning about that narrative is part of creating a sense of place, Afualo-Robinson said.

“I think it goes back to knowing who we are — who we are as a nation or as a people and knowing our true history of our origin about land and how it impacts not just socially but economically and other aspects as well,” Afualo-Robinson said.

To see the students’ research, visit

Two honored as NH Scholar Champions

ConVal Regional High School Dean of Faculty Michelle Voto was honored as a New Hampshire Scholars Champion in a breakfast ceremony at the Manchester Country Club this month. The awards are presented by the New Hampshire College and University Council to recognize community leaders who exemplify outstanding business education partnerships and have a decisive impact on student success.

In partnership with local manufacturers, Voto helped develop a hands-on manufacturing training program at ConVal’s Region 14 Applied Technology Center, as well as a new partnership with Nashua Community College to offer courses at the high school. In March, Voto was named ConVal’s next principal, a role she will step into in summer 2019.

A ConVal alumna, Lara Shook, was also honored at the breakfast. Shook is CEO of Scott-Farrar at Peterborough, a nonprofit retirement community, where she has hosted and mentored high school students for internships.

Students nominated

for service academies

New Hampshire’s two U.S. senators and Congresswoman Ann M. Kuster have announced their nominations for the U.S. service academies. Wyatt Switzer, a Dublin School senior, was nominated by Kuster, as well as Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan. Wyatt, who is from Marlborough, is nominated for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Kuster has also nominated Sean Klaessig of Peterborough, a home-schooled student, to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

What’s going on in your school? Education reporter Meg McIntyre can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or