Free Virtual Valley Talks Continue with Presentation on History of the Blackstone Valley Landscape



WOONSOCKET, R.I. – Valley Talks, a series of biweekly historical lectures by the Museum of Work & Culture, a division of the Rhode Island Historical Society, continues Sunday, February 6 at 1pm on Zoom.

In this talk, retired National Park Ranger Chuck Arning and member of the Nipmuc community Bruce Curliss discuss the Blackstone Valley, and New England as a whole, from the standpoint of how native communities and English settlers used and viewed the landscape.


At the time of English arrival, the New England landscape was not a wilderness; native peoples had been manipulating the landscape for over 1500 years. However, the English saw the landscape as a frightening and mystifying wilderness, while for the Native peoples it was home, and not a wilderness at all.


“Entangled Landscape” will also delve deeply into the complexities of language with regard to indigenous communities.

Individuals can register for the talk by visiting: https://bit.ly/327C9bC 

Chuck Arning, a retired National Park Service Interpretive Ranger, logged 25 years in the service. He produced, wrote, and hosted the award-winning cable television series Along the Blackstone for the National Park Service. Arning was awarded the 1997 National Freemen Tilden Award for Excellence in Interpretation from the National Park Service.


In 2002, with help from a wide variety of partners, Arning was awarded the Freedom Star Award for his work on the Underground Railroad by the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. In 2014, he was awarded the Leadership in Preservation Award by the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce and in 2017, he was awarded the Bay State Legacy Award by the Massachusetts History Conference.


Arning was the project manager for the widely acclaimed book, Landscape of Industry – An Industrial History of the Blackstone Valley, published by the University Press of New England in 2009.


Arning continues his interest in history and non-profit museums and historical sites through his consulting business.


He is a member of the American Antiquarian Society, the National Council for Public History, the New England Historical Association, the American Association of State & Local History, and the American Conference for Irish Studies.

Bruce F. Curliss (aka Star) is a pragmatic lifelong learner, public speaker, lecturer, multimedia artist, and member of the Nipmuc tribe.


Curliss has been steeped in the tradition of the land of his ancestors which includes the Blackstone Valley, finding the common relationship of his eastern woodland traditional lifeways and the history of what has transpired throughout that history.


Curliss has served in several capacities for his community, including as the Chairman of the MA Commission of Indian Affairs, an elected Tribal Councilman, and is referred to by the community as a wisdom keeper.


His professional career, spanning over 30 years, has had him involved in many aspects of tribal communities from youth development, economic development, and governance on a national stage.


Although he values his mainstream learning experiences as giving him opportunities, he has held onto it as only what opens the door. It is the people and relationships that drive the change.


Currently, he is working in the for-profit world and enjoys as much of his free time exploring the waterways of his ancestors on his kayak.

Other Valley Talks will include:

February 20: In anticipation of the Museum of Work & Culture’s 25th anniversary exhibition “Hollywood Comes to Woonsocket,” researcher Kathryn Sos-Hayda and Woonsocket Historical Society President Irene Blais share their research on the city’s heyday as a performing arts destination and home of artistic talent.


March 6: Scholar Patrick Lacroix discusses the history of pre-1860s Quebecois immigration to the United States, revealing the complex tapestry of kinship and infrastructure that led to large-scale French-Canadian mobility before the U.S. Civil War.


About the Rhode Island Historical Society


The Rhode Island Historical Society, the state’s oldest and only state-wide historical organization, is dedicated to honoring, interpreting, and sharing Rhode Island’s past to enrich the present and inspire the future. Founded in 1822, the RIHS is an advocate for history as a means to develop empathy and 21st-century skills, using its historical materials and knowledge to explore topics of timeless relevance and public interest.


As a Smithsonian Affiliate, it is dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible public programming and educational opportunities for all Rhode Islanders through its four sites: the John Brown House Museum, the Museum of Work & Culture, the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center, and the Aldrich House.

The headquarters of the Rhode Island Historical Society are located at 110 Benevolent Street, Providence, RI 02906. Information: (401) 331-8575. Website: rihs.org


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