Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Brighton State Park VT Camping, Day 1

After packing all morning & after some minor issues reading maps in the afternoon (the minimum focal distance for my eyes has recently become greater than the distance between my head and the steering wheel), we arrived late on the 15th & set up camp. Today is day one because packing, driving, and shopping are not camping.


We went to the office before breakfast to find out important information such as how to rent a canoe, but the office opens at 9am, so we walked the nature trail past the Don Eagle museum. After thawing our toes and eating breakfast, we asked for the key to the museum. The museum is small.




Inside, near the door, there are some plaster casts of animal prints, some mounted insects, and a section of a tree demonstrating dendrochronography.




Across the room are some animal skulls and a few posters. In the middle is a selection of local rocks. In the far corner, a broom.




The gems of the museum are on the left wall, which I failed to photograph in its entirety. A collection of photographs and newspaper clippings, framed or mounted behind glass, tell a brief history of Brighton State Park and some native Americans who enjoyed its beauty before it became a park. I expected to be able to find some articles in on-line newspaper archives when I returned home a few days later (now) to write about the museum, but the St. Johnsbury newspaper historical archive is only updated until about 1920 and then the modern archive begins in the 90s, leaving the majority of the last century unarchived. Thus, I cannot find any little local news snippets about Don Eagle, only some big famous stuff that does not pertain to his lakeside camp. Still, I have a few things to share.




β€”by Eric Bouchard, Brighton State Park Manager

“Don Eagle, the son of Chief War Eagle and Kawasadie was born on August 28th, 1924. A Mohawk member of the Iroquois Nation, Don grew up on the Caughnawaga reservation, just outside Montreal. He attended a Catholic school, participating in and excelling in such activities as football, track and lacrosse.

“At age 20, Don found boxing. Professionally, he won 17 of 22 bouts, which ultimately lead to the obtainment of the highly esteemed Golden Gloves in Cleveland, Ohio. A hand injury, unfortunately, ended his boxing career. However, under the advisement of his father (a former wrestling lightweight champoion of the world), Don took to wrestling.

“A wrestling training camp was established in Island Pond in 1945. This camp was created both for himself and other aspiring wrestlers. At the peak of his wrestling career, on May 23, 1950, Don became the wrestling World Champion after beating Don Saxton. The $10,000 diamond studded belt which was in Saxton’s possession for five years was then Don’s.

“While still in possession of the World Heavyweight Title, Don performed in Island Pond at the municipal hall on August 11th, 1951.

“He spent a great deal of time in Island pond, and inspired a whole generation of locals, young and old alike. Youths were taught outdoor skills while teens and adults were granted a role model and friendship that was beyond comparison. Island Pond was more than just a getaway for Don, it was his home. He and his parents resided on Eagle Point during the 1040s. They spent many memorable years there, hunting, fishing, and just enjoying all this wonderful place has to offer. 

“The state of Vermont purchased his Island Pond property in 1956. This purchase resulted in the creation of our beloved Brighton State Park.

“Don passed away in his Caughnawaga Reservation home in 1966, leaving behind a legacy and memory that will continue to inspire for years to come.

“His essence and memory will always remain within the hears and minds of those who knew him and those who love and cherish Brighton State Park. This museum is dedicated to his memory.”


There’s a lot of controversial and conflicting information about Don Eagle to be found on the web, much of which is less thankful and kind than Eric Bouchard’s essay. There are righteous voices on all sides of any argument. I enjoyed this film clip of Don Eagle wrestling Gorgeous George in Chicago in 1950, when Don Eagle was reputedly cheated out of his righteous title by a quick-counting referee. A controversial point, but a great fight!



I also like this little article I found on Don Eagle’s wrestling careerβ€” 


And then there is this poem, written by Don Eagle’s father, chief War Eagleβ€”



When the pale-faced European drove the Red man from his land

drove him from the broad Atlantic to the far Pacific sand

the Great Spirit looking downward grieved to see his children sad

told them they may leave one small thing of all the things they had.

Then they quarreled all and one said, let us leave a thing of war

a tomahawk that they by fighting may exist no more.

But another said, no let us leave an arrow that it’s point

may draw their life’s blood, until these people are dead.

But brother cried a third one, tomahawks and arrows bring death, so

silent swift and painless that it looses all it’s sting.

Rather let us leave this snakeskin that I belt around my waist,

with a silent subtle poison to destroy them not in haste.

Then spoke Assinaboine, he the greatest chief of ALL, from his hut

beside Niagra where the thunder waters fallβ€” brothers, cried 

the aged assinchen, while ye are about to go, leave not hate and

strife behind you. D not treat the Pale face so. Rather let us

answer the Great Spirit asking not for strife and war, but to

scatter peace and plenty o’er this land for ever more. Now ye

thunder-winters listen and ye rolling rivers hear, ye rocks and

trees remember, listen brother all in fearβ€” though the Red

man leaves his wigwam while passing toward the setting sun, though

he takes along his blanket, his tomahawk and gun, let him leave

behind his peace pipe by the ashes of his home, leaving it alight

and burning o’er the land he used to roam. The great spirit heard

the answer and it pleased him from above, for he said, “Between the

Pale-face and the Red man shall be love.”

β€”Chief War Eagle


Upon returning to camp, Iris made a museum. At one point, it had a dead snake, but the dead snake was carried off by an unknown animal. The beetles, which she had named “leather beetle” and “fabric beetle” after the appearance of their exoskeleton under a magnifying glass, were consumed by some animal who left behind some legs and a carapace that Iris then neatly arranged on a piece of bark. The water lily, found picked and floating, refused to re-open. The mosses and lichen were relatively unfazed by being displayed in the museum. Two dragonflies, found dead, apparently have very little worth scavenging and were left relatively intact for a while. Birchbark is displayed as a useful fire starter. The mushroom was kicked up by Akiva during a tantrum and collected by Iris. The white moth was not-quite-dead. The copper rings were found in the box of scrap lumber we brought to burn. It was a beautiful museum.



One Response

  1. Mom says:

    “I want to do that too” is a great way to learn. It’s exciting to see the kids enjoying what you enjoy.

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