The Nonotuck Biome—a definition

I use the term “Nonotuck biome” to describe where I live, but what does it mean?

According to the deed 0f 1653 that transferred title to this land from Native to Colonist hands, “Nonotuck” described the real estate being exchanged. As Margaret Bruchac explains in Historical Erasure and Cultural Recovery: Indigenous People in the Connecticut River Valley (image, top right)

The deed contained language that ensured the land sellers, thence known as the “Nonotuck” people, retained “use rights for the lands“: including the right to farm fields, hunt and gather, build wigwams and collect firewood. These rights were exceedingly, and finally, disrespected.

Into this definition derived from “cultural history,” I weave another from “natural history”: biome.

A biome is a home of life (bio-home), and one can sense its reality by thinking of desert and rainforest. Comparing such drastically different places, we recognize biomes are composed of distinct geologies and climates. The type of soil and the type of weather defines what kind of life can live there.

Defining the biome that is Nonotuck involves defining the character of soils and climate we have, and to do that we can use the watershed perspective. Watersheds are basins that rain collects in; at the bottoms of basins are wetlands, streams and rivers.

Watersheds are see-able; the long crest of Continental Divide can be imagined as the right side of a bathtub basin; all the showers coming in from the Pacific fall to the western side of crest, giving us the forested Sierras; on the outside of the bathtub, no showers fall and we get Sierra Nevada and Death Valley.

The watershed basin is also easy to see in the Nonotuck biome, especially when we’re near the Ct River. We see the tops of the hills, and they are rims of bathtub. Or cradle, if you’d like to play w/a humanized metonymy.

Here’s a map of the Nonotuck biome I’ll leave you with until I return to this subject; because they are nearly impassable walls that severely constrict the character and diversity of life in middle of the CT River watershed, the Holyoke and Turner’s Falls dams define the lower and upper biome boundaries. (image, bottom right)