Dr. Marge Bruchac in Northampton, On the Wampum Trail

marge-bruchac-wampum-trail

A talk was given by Dr. Margaret Bruchac on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 at Historic Northampton, 46 Bridge Street, Northampton, MA, entitled “The Wampum Trail: Restorative Research in Native American Collections”

A pdf of the flyer for the presentation can be seen here.

The “Wampum Trail” research project examines the use of northeastern Native American quahog and whelk shell beads for adornment, ritual, and diplomacy. During the early 1600s, wampum beads were widely used in trading exchanges throughout the Connecticut River Valley, but wampum’s significance was more than merely monetary. Native artisans used distinctive weaving techniques (with sinew, leather, and hemp), bead selections (including glass, stone, and other anomalous beads), and patterns (both abstract and figurative) to construct belts that recorded important material and diplomatic relationships.
By re-visiting archival sources and analyzing the construction of beads and belts in museum collections, Dr. Bruchac has recovered many previously overlooked material details. She also consults with present-day Native American wampum-keepers to develop effective strategies for recovering other hidden Native American object histories in museum collections. For more information, see her research blog, “On the Wampum Trail,” and her articles on the Penn Museum Blog, “Beyond the Gallery Walls.”

Dr. Margaret M. Bruchac is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Associate Professor of Cultural Heritage, and Coordinator of Native American and Indigenous Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. From 2003-2010, she served as the Five College Repatriation Research Liaison, and from 1998-2010, she served as a Trustee of Historic Northampton. Her publications include “Native Presence in Nonotuck and Northampton,” in A Place Called Paradise: Culture and Community in Northampton, Massachusetts, 1654-2004 (Kerry Buckley, ed., University of Massachusetts Press 2004), and “Lost and Found: NAGPRA, Scattered Relics and Restorative Methodologies” (Museum Anthropology 2010).

Let the Light Flow

brook ledge opening stoned up

Hidden behind a mountain high above Wantastegok, a small brook drains a forgotten swamp lush with high-bush cranberry, chickadees, and sphagnum moss. Secreted beyond the forested ridgeline, hemmed with mountain laurel and hemlocks, the clear amber water seeps through the roots and fallen leaves, and gathers into a narrow crease as it seeks a way to the Kwanitekw below. Dikes of schist ledge rise in its downward path, nudging it here and there, slow and now fast, as the pull of gravity leads it toward the great river in the valley. One such ledge offered an opportune notch toward the goal of confluence, but someone, long ago, saw a better moment nearby. Stones were laid into the gap, diverting the flow a few feet further south toward another opening, where a vein of pure white quartz crossed the bedrock.

brook white quartz flow

The water coursed over the bright light of the stone, continuing on its journey, the same flow but now infused with caring and energy. Still it moves down the mountain, many hundreds of lives later, following its destiny and carrying the intentions of an ancient heart and sharing the gift with all of its relations.

#ReclaimingWantastegok #2

Wabanaki Ethnobotany: Food and Medicine

wabanaki ethnobotanyA year-long course at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism (VCIH): one Monday a month, February through November, 2016, 6-9 pm. Instructor: Dr. Fred Wiseman. Full information here (as pdf), here (on the VCIH site), and below :

$135 (classes can be taken individually at $17 per class). Call 802-224-7100 for more information or to register.

Introduction

This course of study is designed to acquaint the student with historic and contemporary herbal medicines and foods of the Vermont/New Hampshire Abenakis and their Wabanaki neighbors. Using the academic discipline of Ethnobotany, counterbalanced with a Native American perspective, we will explore many facets of the relation of our region’s Indigenous communities to their plant world. We will use lecture/slide-show experiences, demonstrations, music, performance and video to consider the nuts and bolts of Indigenous agriculture and wild plant use, but also focus on the cultural, ceremonial and spiritual issues involved with Indigenous foods and healing.

Such a course as this cannot be taught simply as an academic or intellectual exercise. The legacy of the continual transfer of Indigenous lands, resources, children, material goods, crops and ideas through 18th century conquest, early 20th century genocide and late 20th century appropriation of intellectual property, demands an Indigenous perspective and a balance.

There are no prerequisites for the course other than an interest in Indigenous peoples, the relation of people to the plant world. Students who take the course as a year-long Center for Integrative Herbalism certificate program will, in addition to attendance, be expected to keep a journal, show mastery of the lecture material and outside readings, and complete a final ethnobotanical project to be chosen in conjunction with the instructor. The final project, which forms a considerable portion of the final evaluation; must “give back” to regional Indigenous communities in a concrete way, such as assistance with tribal gardens, forests, or programming that is aligned to the material in the course.

Note: each monthly class can also be attended individually for personal interest and enlightenment.

The Instructor, Dr. Frederick M. Wiseman was trained as a paleo-ethnobotanist at the University of Arizona. He taught and did research at Louisiana State, MIT’s Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology, and Johnson State College in Vermont, where he retired as Department Chair in 2014. He has published extensively on tropical fieldwork in Belize, Honduras, Yucatan and arid-lands research in Arizona and Sonora Mexico. Over the last twenty years he has focused on the culture and ecology of the Wabanaki people of northern New England, Quebec and the Canadian Maritimes, completing books and films, scholarly and popular articles and presented papers on Wabanaki culture & ecology.

SYLLABUS

Introduction to Indigenous ethnobotany

2/22/2016

The first program in the series introduces the discipline of Ethnobotany and its relation to the mission of the Center for Integrative Herbalism, including Ethnobotany’s intellectual focus, history, methodologies and techniques. It then considers modern cross-cultural issues such as Indigenous intellectual rights, proper tribal consultation, the ethics involved with publication and decolonization/sovereignty issues. We then introduce the main regional focus of the course: the peoples and ecology of the Wabanaki area of Maine New Hampshire and Vermont and adjacent Canada.

The Abenaki Seed Catalog

3/7/2016

Early spring is an exciting time; when we await our seed catalogues to see what new crops, medicinals and ornamentals are available. Now there is an opportunity to explore and select seed that is fundamentally local, and thus provides us on many levels, an unsurpassed source for food as medicine. Join Dr. Fred Wiseman as he goes over this comprehensive seed catalog, including stories of chasing down the seeds, how they turned out in cultivation, their taste and nutrition and tips on how to properly grow them together. As a handout — a listing of 2015/16 seed suppliers that can provide many seeds identical or very similar to those raised by the Indigenous partners of the Seeds of Renewal Project.

Demonstration: The Indigenous seeds that make up the catalog.

Field-making Season: Designing the Abenaki garden

4/25/2016

Mid spring is the time for opening or expanding your gardens, medicine plots and fields. Learn how the Wabanaki people of Vermont and New Hampshire developed and practiced a simple and elegant horticultural system based upon a suite of well-adapted herbaceous crops. These were and are planted carefully in sustainably fertilized mound and ridged field “geo-intensive” systems that intimately interact with soils and hydrology, as well as the social and family structure of the Wabanaki community. Learn how to create these fields and crop mixes that support and enhance each other — to produce larger crops of more nutritious foods. Dr Wiseman will explore the role of minor agricultural ritual such as anchoring and singing the crops to germination, growth and ripeness.

Demonstration: Examples of archaeological and historic land-clearing and field preparation tools.

Performance: The Wabanaki Calling-in/four directions protocol.

Sun Dance Season: An Introduction to Indigenous North American healing; botanical materials and world view.

5/9/2016

Using his extensive experience with healers and gardeners in Guatemala, Belize, Northern Mexico, the American Southwest, Louisiana and the Northeast, Prof. Fred Wiseman will discuss the basics of ethnobotanical (and allied) Native healing arts; from the doctrine of animism and metaconnection; to syncretic Roman Catholic/Native healing. He will also give methodological insight into the treatment of crop plants as well as wild-collected plants as relatives or allies in the pursuit of health, and the idea of place-based healing using the botanical and geomorphic strength/power inherent in specific areas such as cornfields or the “monte.”

Demonstration: Examples of the healing tools from the Wabanaki area and

Yaqui/Mayo region of Sonora, Mexico.

Performance: Storytelling about the Sierra Madre I

Shooting Fire Season: Wabanaki Ethnobotany and Spirituality

6/26/2016

The Solstice is the time of the Shooting Fire, a mix of ancient Wabanaki belief in messaging the Giver of Life, infused with 17th century French politics and mysticism. The Wabanaki Peoples, which include the Abenakis, Penobscots, Passamaquoddies, Maliseets and Micmaqs, consider personal and community well-being intimately tied together. Prof. Frederick Wiseman will share Indigenous stories, songs, foods and medicines as insights into health and wellbeing. He will discuss the three types of medicine people. Agricultural Ritual (one facet of which is the Shooting Fire) not only reminds people of the passage of the agricultural clock, but also informs and structures the types and availability of healing and wellbeing options available, as well as the role of ceremony.

Demonstration: The healing stories and their material accoutrements

Video: “The Sun Dance,””The Rain Dance.”

Performance: Storytelling about the Sierra Madre II

The Wabanaki Agroforest

7/25/2016

Much of Vermont’s Northern Hardwood Forest has been converted into specially selected stands of trees that maximize the fuelwood, timber, aesthetic/recreational use, or maple sap collection. This conversion seems to have deep local roots. Professor Fred Wiseman developed the concept of a “Northern” permacultural system. This workshop will focus on the types of edible/ medicinal trees (plums, etc.), shrubs (hazelnuts, etc.), subshrubs (sweetfern, etc.), vines (grapes, etc.) and herbaceous perennials (Jerusalem artichokes, etc.) and herbs (white sage, etc.) organized by canopy stratum by light, water and nutrient requirements — to optimize production.

Demonstration: Examples of forest products.

Green Corn Season: The role of story, music, dance and food in community well being.

9/26/2016

The most important ceremony of the Abenaki Horticultural/Ritual Calendar is the Green Corn Ceremony. Join Prof. Wiseman as he shares his studies into the origins of the ceremony that seem embedded in half-forgotten legends of the Abenaki Creation Time, and encoded in the controversial Corn Song. He will then discuss the revival of the Green Corn Ceremony by the Abenaki Koasek Tribe in the Newbury VT/Haverhill, NH area. It includes learning the music, making the regalia and ceremonial accouterments and practicing the choreography and oratory. However, the Green Corn Feast, and its taboos and protocols as well as its socio-nutritional characteristics are the “food as medicine” focus of the day’s activities.   Lastly he will share music and videos of the Green Corn Ceremony as it is up and running today and how it contributes to community healing and well-being.

Demonstration: Examples of Harvest crops

Video/music: The Wabanaki Green Corn Ceremony.

Harvest Season and Orthorexia nervosa: The Ethnobotany of Indigenous foodways/cuisine in eating and medicating one’s identity

10/24/2016

Ethnobotanists have studied the culture and environmental psychology that lies behind food (and medicine) choice. These researches had led to the development of some important theory regarding how, when, where and why we eat — of which nutrition forms but a small component! Prof. Wiseman will look at Indigenous food choice/cuisine and what we may consider drugs from a scientific “optimization” perspective as well as an Indigenous community-based perspective. Using examples from modern Anglo-American life, as well as Southwestern and Wabanaki cuisine and food service, he will explain the unstated rules for eating and how that reinforces individual, family and community identity.

Demonstration: Examples of Indigenous Wabanaki crops widely available in Vermont stores

Decolonizing Thanksgiving: The politics of Native foods and medicine

11/21/2016

November, is designated “Native American Month” by various presidents, but never seems to “stick” in the consciousness as does “Black History Month” or “Woman’s History Month.” Native advocates have tried for years, but without much success, to turn Columbus Day and Thanksgiving into opportunities for opening a serious dialogue on Native history and culture. Using the “Decolonizing Thanksgiving” movement as a rubric to understand Native concerns about decolonized diet, food sovereignty, food justice and food security, Prof. Wiseman will show how food is a quintessential political statement, and how it should be treated by both Native and Non-natives alike, especially in the fall.

Demonstration: Examples of Indigenous Wabanaki beverages and condiments widely available in Vermont stores.

A New Year

Notably amongst the northeastern Algonquian tribal territorialities, the W8banakiak have been described as a riverine people. The various band’s homelands are centered on watersheds – a river and its dependent streams, lakes, marshes, and floodplains.  Whereas many other tribes would reckon their lands in terms of primarily terrestrial landmarks such as mountains, rivers, lakes, and perhaps a certain forest or clump of trees, denoting borders within which they circulated, the Abenaki centered themselves within the waters, ranging out through a branching, interconnected bowl [sources: Speck, Snow]. As an example, in this place I dwell, known today as Brattleboro – near where the states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts converge – the annual cycles of life revolve around the gathering of the Kwanitekw, Wantastekw, and Azewalad Sibo (Connecticut, West, and Ashuelot Rivers), with their respective tributary brooks, lakes, and ponds pitching down from the valleys and ranges .

A family’s hunting territories, above the plantings flourishing upon the floodplains and river terraces (the wolhanak), were bounded by these watery, connecting sinews, and stretched up into the hills and mountains to the next ridge top division. A person would describe their homeland as n’sibo, my river, allying with that flowing, veined world as a part of their own identity, a unity, all the same. Intimately familiar with the land, and its fellow dwellers – whether animate or inanimate – a person saw themselves as a continuous part of the spirits there, with roles to play and responsibilities to honor, inconceivably separable.

This merging may perhaps be seen in the phrase n’dai, which can mean “I am” – describing oneself – as well as “I live” – in a certain place. An understanding of this can help to inform the depth of the relationship between the homeland and its people, one so profound they merged into a single entity. The people are the land, and the land is the people. To separate them, as recent history has so graphically inscribed, is to assault the meaning of life itself, leaving it broken and futile. Healing can be found only in a restoration of relationship, a re-balancing through reciprocity among the community of beings. Note the prefix “re-” occurring in all of these words, meaning “again” and speaking of cycles, and the Great Hoop of Life.

This healing comes through an awareness of what is lacking, or what is interfering, with the flowing continuity of the river of life, and then addressing that lack, or obstruction. At the beginning of the New Year –  Alamikos – with the winter solstice and the return of the sun, the Abenaki have a custom of asking for forgiveness, and a fresh start in the new season. As elder Joseph Elie Joubert tells us: “The new year’s forgiveness time is called Anhaldamawadin = The act of forgiving. We would go to the house of the people we offended during the past year and say the following: “Anhaldamawi kassi plilawawlan”. It is basically saying “Forgive me for the many wrongs I did you.”

wantastegok n'dakinna my river

N’sibo, my river, is Wantastekw, where it meets Kwanitekw. N’dai Wantastegok, Sokwakik, known today as Brattleboro. And so I say, to all my relatives here:

N’didam n’dal8gom8mek Wantastegok: Anhaldamawi kasi palilawalian.

Please forgive any wrong I may have done to you in the past.

It is a new year. Alosada, mina ta mina. Let us walk together, again and again.

Project Revives Abenaki Crops, One Seed At A Time

fred wiseman abenaki crops VPR

Vermont Public Radio has given the Seeds of Renewal Project a nice bit of coverage recently:

“Almost a decade ago, Abenaki scholar and paleoethnobotanist Fred Wiseman started working with Abenaki communities as part of the documentation process for federal tribal recognition. While he was in these communities, Wiseman noticed crops that had long been thought to have disappeared growing on the hillsides. It led him to start the Seeds of Renewal Project.” [full story]

Msaskek: Plainfield, Vermont Brook Naming Ceremony

plainfield mskaskek ceremony brink

A photo essay on the very enjoyable blog Fotogosaurus gives us a participant’s viewpoint on the recent brook-naming celebration in Plainfield, Vermont. Elder and linguist Jeanne Brink, with her husband Doug and many other townspeople and officials, offered sweetgrass as part of their acknowledgement during the naming ceremony. You can join this momentous occasion by visiting the post