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Environmental activist presents summer workshop in Vermont

CHARLESTOWN, Vt. - The site of the oldest carbonated remains of corn, beans and squash found by Vermont archaeologists on a field near Charlestown will be one of the destinations participants can leisurely stroll to during an all-day seminar presented by Michael Caduto Aug. 18.

''If you spend time getting to know a place, both cultural and geographical events will collide. For instance, the hill above the site we will visit was once an ancient sea, and corals from 400 million years ago have been found there. So you can stand on a hill where Aln8bak [Abenaki] lived and look up and see one of the only places in Vermont where fossils are found.''

The summer workshop for educators, naturalists and the general public is not for collecting artifacts, but rather ''a journey immersed in the natural and cultural histories of New Hampshire and Vermont.'' Stories, slides, discussion, music and the outdoors will help explain 12,000 years of Aln8bak traditions such as land stewardship and plant use from the distant past to the present that followed extraordinary geologic events.

People attending the event include individuals with interest in their Native heritage, herbalists and teachers who want to draw more deeply from the history of the area, as well as visitors to the area who want to learn more about Vermont and New Hampshire. The Student Conservation Association Center for Conservation Service, which has its national offices in Charlestown, N.H., is the organizational host for the event.

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The well-studied geology of Vermont and New Hampshire matches the fascinating original peoples' stories and culture. ''You can stand in Brattleboro and look across [the Connecticut River] and you are looking at the edge of three major geological terrains'' (a result of a process well-described in Caduto's book, ''A Time before New Hampshire''). ''In addition, it was previously understood that the oldest known rock in North America was from the Adirondacks [at 1 billion years of age], but recently samples were taken from Reading, Vermont [30 minutes from the presentation], and they were found to be 1.5 billion years old.''

Other studies have shown that stone used for local spear points was traded from the Ohio Valley; some shells found at Vermont sites came from the seashore. ''Therefore, a lot of trade movement has been surmised from the 'mineralogical fingerprint' of the area.''

The program is offered by PEACE, Caduto's Programs for Environmental Awareness and Cultural Exchange. A presenter of the highest caliber, Caduto is an award-winning author, ecologist, musician and storyteller. His most recent book is ''Everyday Herbs and Spiritual Life,'' which includes not only Native edible and medicinal plants, but also herb and spirit from all major religious groups, an interest Caduto has had for many years.

Educators in Indian country may recognize Caduto most by his world-acclaimed series ''Keepers of the Animals'' and ''Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children,'' written with Joseph Bruchac, Aln8bak/Slavak/English, and with illustrations by John Kahionhes Fadden (Mohawk, Turtle Clan), Carol Wood and Melody Lightfeather. American Indian earth stewardship is carefully integrated with environmental studies; for instance, the subtle and touching Inuit and Inupiaq story ''The Gift of the Whale'' story supports chapters on modern whaling, conservation of marine mammals and activism.

Caduto will be the keynote speaker at the Sept. 5 annual meeting of the Libby Museum in Wolfeboro, N.H., discussing the history of the land and the Native people of that area; he will be at Strawberry Banke's fall harvest events in Portsmouth, N.H., Sept 15 - 16 for a talk and walk on Native and colonial herbalism. Visit his Web site at www.p-e-a-c-e.net.