Native American Heritage on Display at Annual Festival

Wabanaki Basketmaking

Folks in Bar Harbor got to experience a little taste of history. The annual Native American Festival and Basketmakers market brought music, dance, and a lesson in culture to Downeast Maine.

“You know Maine a lot of times doesn’t really know much about indigenous population so it’s a wonderful gathering of artisans and drummers and sharing.”

Each handcrafted item represents the beauty and culture of the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot people. For many visitors it’s a chance to meet artists and learn about contemporary Wabanaki art from the Maritimes.

“It’s a wonderful thing to see each other and share our music with them. We are a strong part of Maine history and we would like to bring that back.”

See the full article by Alyssa Thurlow on WABI 5.

4th Annual Pocumtuck Homelands Festival on August 5

pocumtuck homelands festival 2017

The 4th  Annual Pocumtuck Homelands Festival, a celebration of Native American Art, Music, and Culture,  takes place on Saturday, August  5, 2017,  from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Unity Park Waterfront in Turners Falls, MA.  The event is free, family friendly, fun, educational, accessible, and of interest to all ages.

Performances include live traditional, original, and fusion music, a story teller, and three drum groups. There will be outstanding  Native American artists, and games, activities and crafts for children. Also featured will be primitive skills demonstrations, a books and authors section, and condensed history lessons about Great Falls. The Mashantucket-Pequot archaeology team will be on site for the second time to analyze early contact period artifacts people bring to them. And Tim MacSweeney, keeper of the website Waking Up On Turtle Island, can help explain the significance of threatened sites considered sacred to the tribes such as in Shutesbury and Sandisfield. Food will be available, including Native American fare.

Performers will be Hawk Henries, Nipmuc flute player and flute maker;  the Kingfisher Singers and Dancers, Wampanoag from the  Mashpee, Aquinnah, and Herring Pond communities;  story teller Larry Spotted Crow Mann,  Nipmuc; the Medicine Mammals Singers;  and Lee Mixashawn Rozie,  who uses instrumental virtuosity and stories to illuminate the indigenous and African roots of “American” music.  Be energized by the presence of three drums: Chief Don Stevens and the Nulhegan-Coosuk Band of the Abenaki Singers, plus returning favorites, the Black Hawk Singers (Abenaki),  and the Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle Intertribal Coalition Singers.

Donations appreciated. Find more information and the schedule the week before the event at www.nolumbekaproject.org. and/or turnersfallsriverculture.org.

Mural at Durham, NH Post Office May Add Interpretive Text

durham nh post office mural

Interpretive text may soon be added to a controversial mural at the Durham Post Office to give it historical context, but a group representing Native Americans still say that is not enough.

The mural was questioned last year by Rev. Larry Brickner-Wood of the Waysmeet Center at the University of New Hampshire. Brickner-Wood said at the time that he has always felt uneasy about what is depicted in the panel “Cruel Adversity,” which shows a Native American preparing to torch a settler’s home.

According to a decades-old brochure about the 16-panel mural, it was commissioned by the Women’s Club of Durham in 1959 and painted by artist Bernard Chapman. The goal was to reflect the history of the town, and the panel is meant to depict the Oyster River Massacre of 1694, where five garrison-style homes and 15 dwellings were burned. It is believed 100 people were killed or carried off.

Last week, during a meeting with town officials, members of the New Hampshire Commission of Native American Affairs, a representative from the New Hampshire Division of Cultural Affairs and a representative from the United States Postal Service (USPS), the idea of installing interpretive text on the wall was brought up. The USPS has a policy that it does not remove or cover historic artwork, and it does not allow new artwork to be added, according to town administrator Todd Selig.

Full story (and photos) by Kimberly Haas in the NH Union Leader.

Adirondack Museum Dispels Myths With Native Exhibit

Diane-Cubit-Jennifer-Coler-Adirondack-Experience

For millennia, the ancestors of today’s Mohawk, Abenaki and other Native tribes have called the Adirondack Mountains home. Yet much of that history, not to mention present experience, has gone unrecognized. A new exhibit aims to change all that.

“We have not tackled the story of Native Americans in the Adirondacks in the past,” said David Kahn, executive director of The Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake, formerly the Adirondack Museum. “The institution has been influenced by the sort of general perception that Native Americans didn’t really live here full time, this hasn’t been Native territory. But it’s not true.”

Read the full article by Theresa Braine on the new exhibit in Indian Country Today.

Dartmouth Senior Fellowship Project: Saving the Potawatomi Language

corinne kaspar dartmouth potawatomi eli burakian

Corinne Kasper ’17, who belongs to the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi tribe in southwestern Michigan, has been studying her native language since she was 13 years old. But fluent speakers and teachers of Potawatomi have been dwindling as English has become dominant. Kasper, a linguistics major, is developing teaching tools to help people learn or re-learn an endangered language that she sees as a cornerstone of her culture.

“This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” says Kasper, who holds a Mellon Mays Fellowship. She’s one of five senior fellows who, recognized for academic excellence, are freed from classes in their final year to concentrate on a single project. The projects conducted by the senior fellows are funded by the Kaminsky Family Fund. Gerry Kaminsky ’61, who established the fund, was himself a senior fellow at Dartmouth.

For her thesis, Kasper is studying three similar languages: Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Odawa. She’s doing something she says has not been done before: making a study guide about the formation and function of verbs. Potawatomi’s verb system is difficult for language learners to master, and she wants to make it easier.

Read this encouraging story by Charlotte Albright in the Dartmouth News. Photo by Eli Burakian.

William Brotherton, Indian Mascots, and a Backstory

Members of the Turners Falls High School community were able to hear from William Brotherton, a lawyer and Native American who advocates for schools to keep Indian mascots. Brotherton, who is from Texas but is a member of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi in Vermont, was in the area and stopped in Montague Wednesday night to answer questions and discuss the Turners Falls High School situation at Hubie’s Tavern.

The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee voted in February to discontinue use of the Indian as a nickname and logo for the high school sports teams. The vote came to the disappointment of some members of the community who said they felt unheard in the decision-making process. Brotherton said there is a larger, cultural issue of political correctness in America, where people no longer feel comfortable discussing difficult issues.

Read the full story by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder.

*****

Another side of the story:

Yesterday I met William Brotherton in person for the first time. He’s a friendly, self-assured guy, and has been pro-active with me in opening up personal and intra-tribal communications. We had spoken on the phone and emailed a couple times; that afternoon, we both joined a tour of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant (VY) in Vernon, Vermont and were able to get to know each other a little. The tour was offered to participants in VT Public Service Board (PSB, now known as the Vermont  Public Utility Commission, PUC) Docket #8880. This is the State review process for the proposed sale of VY by owner Entergy Corp. to NorthStar Group Services, for purposes of decommissioning and site restoration. I had filed in May for intervenor status on behalf of Elnu Abenaki, with the backing of the Nulhegan and Koasek bands. Brotherton, who serves on the Tribal Council  for the St. Francis Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi, followed suit for their group shortly thereafter. The PUC process is now getting well underway with dozens of discovery and response documents going back and forth. By way of helping to inform the parties involved, the petitioners (Entergy and NorthStar) coordinated this tour within the plant’s security zone for an inside look at the scope of the project.

While on the tour of  the strongly-secured and highly industrialized site (we’re talking guards with machine guns), I asked many questions of our hosts regarding ground disturbance and oversight protocol. While I didn’t get many direct answers, Scott State (CEO of NorthStar) assured me that he understood and respected tribal concerns about cultural heritage and and wanted to be sensitive to them.  I believe he has become much more aware of these aspects than was the case previously, and while we must take any such proclamation with a grain of salt, I am guardedly optimistic that there may be some constructive dialogue going forward.

I noted that William Brotherton did not ask any questions about cultural resources. At one point, I gestured across the Kwenitekw (Connecticut River), to the eastern bank in New Hampshire, and mentioned to him about a fortified Sokoki village site there. It had been attacked in December 1663 by a  large force of Mohawk, Oneida, and Seneca warriors and successfully defended, although with a great loss of life; the land here holds many spirits, many at rest but others disquiet, whether from war or forced displacement or simply blatant disregard by modern development. William expressed surprise at what I had said. I began to understand the degree to which he was unfamiliar, indeed almost completely separated, from nearly all cultural understanding of Sokwakik. I am not sure that he knows what “Sokoki” signifies, much less represents  – if I am wrong, I welcome the conversation.

Afterward, we went down the river a half-mile and sat on a cottonwood log below the Vernon Dam, built in 1909 atop an ancient fishing site there at Great Bend. We spoke together for over an hour. I wanted to use the opportunity to talk with him about the significance of the landscape here to its people, past and present, and why we had filed as intervenors in PUC Docket #8880. I wanted to understand what he, on behalf of Missisquoi, had in mind as well. He didn’t really have an answer. I also wanted to talk to him about his endorsement, as a Tribal Council member, of the Indians team mascot/logo in Turners Falls, where he was going immediately afterward to speak to a group of supporters. I knew where he was coming from, ideologically, since I have read his articles and perused his CV.

I started by saying that I (and others) fully endorse the incorporation of a regular curriculum segment devoted to indigenous culture and the effects of colonization, not only in Turners Falls High School but all educational forums. This would probably be the best thing coming out of the entire mascot controversy, because it will help to displace the ignorance – the “not-knowing” – that brought us to this juncture and the benightedness – the “not-caring” – which follows. I pointed out to him that the contemporary indigenous people in the immediate area, Nipmuk and Abenaki, had clearly expressed their opposition to the continued use of the Indians mascot, and why this was the case. I don’t think he heard, or grasped the significance, what I was saying.

To borrow his own words, from Miranda Davis’s Recorder article: “Brotherton said there is a larger, cultural issue of political correctness in America, where people no longer feel comfortable discussing difficult issues,” this is exactly the case here. This initiative is not an erasure of history or a sanitizing campaign. Yes, this is very uncomfortable situation. It is hard to take a clear look at what has brought us all to this challenging place, recognizing that we can do much better and that everyone in the community will benefit. To NOT do so is continuing the illusion of propriety and the normalizing of disenfranchisement. This IS that difficult discussion which we are having, and to which Brotherton alludes. But first of all we need to know what we are talking about. I hope I can continue this exploration with William – I told him that as we parted on Wednesday afternoon. And I hope we can share this story with many others, in hopes for a healthier, more inclusive life for all in this beautiful place.