In May 2012, then Vermont governor Peter Shumlin signed into law the state recognition of four of Vermont’s Abenaki tribes: the Elnu, Nulhegan, Koasek and Missisquoi. The victory had more than symbolic significance: Formal recognition meant that many of Vermont’s contemporary indigenous artists could begin legally to label their work as “American Indian.” According to Elnu Abenaki member Vera Longtoe Sheehan, access to this designation has opened many new doors — including, at least indirectly, doors to galleries.
Such fraught politics of visibility and authenticity are very much at the heart of “Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage,” now on view at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery in Burlington. The show offers a chronological survey of Abenaki fashion and adornment, from the pre-Champlain era to the present day, accompanied by both modern and historical photographs.
There’s a twist, though: Almost all of the objects on view are contemporary, regardless of the era they were created to represent. While reproductions are often considered to be lesser facsimiles, in this case, the absence of “traditional” artifacts speaks to the 20-plus artists’ ongoing commitment to making their history and heritage come alive.
Read the full article by Rachel Elizabeth Jones in Seven Days.
A new exhibit at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery highlights the wearable art of the Abenaki population in and around Vermont.
“Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage” opened Saturday with a discussion by co-curators Vera Longtoe Sheehan of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and Eloise Beil of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. The exhibit will be on display through June 17.
Read the full article in the Burlington Free Press.
VPR also picked up the story of the exhibit. See their coverage here.
One woman discovered the power of community radio in 2009, when the indigenous people of Vermont were still not recognized at a state level. Some tribes of the Abenaki nation, the people native to the region now known as Vermont, achieved state recognition as late as 2012, according to the state website.
Deb Reger, host of Moccasin Tracks on 90.1 WRUV, felt conversations about these people were held exclusively at state and professional levels. “As a non-native person, I felt like I needed to know the truth,” she said. “I wanted to hear the truth from the people themselves, not be told by privileged white people.”
Reger created Moccasin Tracks to voice the stories and perspectives of Native Americans.
Read the article by Maddy Pimental about Deb and the Show in UVM’s Vermont Cynic online paper.
For his exhibition, Tim Brookes carved phrases into indigenous wood using disappearing or endangered alphabets from across the globe. Pictured, in Abenaki, the phrase, ‘Language of the grandfathers who went before’ is carved into a plank of walnut. Photo from VPR.
Six years ago, writer and Champlain College professor Tim Brookes carved letters into wooden planks to give to family as holiday gifts. The presents were well received and Brookes enjoyed his new hobby. He added new and different alphabet letters and languages to his hand-carved signs. Then, by chance, Brookes learned just how many of the globe’s writing systems were disappearing and a project was born: The Endangered Alphabets Project.
Brookes talked with VPR about the Endangered Alphabets Project exhibition, up now at Champlain College through March 10. The thirteen carvings each bear the phrase, “Mother Tongue,” written in Abenaki, Balinese, Mandean, Inuktitut and several other cultures whose written word is disappearing.
Full article and podcast at VPR.
Abbie Isaacs of MyNBC5 – carried by WPTZ out of Plattsburgh, NY and Burlington, VT – ran a story last night on the reaction of some Vermonters to the news of President Donald Trump’s move to reactivate the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines. On Tuesday (1/24/17) he signed a presidential memorandum to move the projects ahead, against longstanding and – to this point – successful opposition. Native people have increasingly stood up as Protectors for the land and water, and have found allies in this increasingly contentious struggle against exploitation and disregard for basic rights. Variations on this theme are occurring everywhere, including here in N’dakinna.
Lucy Cannon-Neel travels all over the Green Mountain State to teach Abenaki history and culture to elementary school students. But on Wednesday, she found herself co-leading an Abenaki drumming workshop to a much older audience at Champlain College.
The workshop was the last in a series of events organized by Melody Brook, operations manager of residential life and adjunct professor with the Division of Education and Human Studies at Champlain College, to commemorate Native and Indigenous Heritage Month. Cannon-Neel, a registered nurse, is the chair of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs. Brook is the commission’s vice-chair.
Read the full story at Seven Days.
Four separate video segments:
- Meteorologist Tom Messner of Burlington, Vermont’s WPTZ – NBC Channel 5 talks with Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe about indigenous persistence, traditional crops and wisdom, and educational outreach. Link here.
- In the second segment, he speaks further with Professor Fred Wiseman, featuring artful interpretations of those themes by elementary students. Link here.
- In the third segment, Tom continues to talk with Fed Wiseman about the Seeds of Renewal Project and the return of Abenaki heritage crops and techniques. Link here.
- And in the fourth piece, members of the Nulhegan Abenaki drum group demonstrates their traditional singing and drumming. Link here.
- Filmed November 15, 2016 at the Harvest Celebration with the Seeds of Renewal Project at the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington.
Link to the Facebook event page.