Abenaki Clothing Wears a Rich History

vera longtoe sheehan alnobak heritage mount kearsarge

Next time you see a person wearing a denim jacket or beaded earrings or bracelet, you might do well to take a closer look.

“This is sort of everyday wear that Native people would wear now, and it includes some kinds of things that non-Native people would wear too, but there’s just something about it that shows their native identity,” said Nancy Jo Chabot, curator of the Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner.

Chabot is the co-curator of a new exhibit at the museum “Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage” that documents the way in which garments and accessories that reflect Abenaki heritage have been – and still are – made and used to express Native identity, according to museum officials.

“You start to see that in little elements in modern clothing,” she said of the portion of the exhibit depicting the current era, “things that wouldn’t look out of place for any modern person walking down the road, but for a Native person have these very distinctively heavy Northeast design elements.

“That’s a crucial, important part of anything we do here at the museum: (showing) that Abenaki people are here, are living, and creating wonderful things. And this exhibit in particular is to show that the Abenaki people that were here, where we are on this land right now, are still here.”

Vera Longtoe Sheehan, an Abenaki teaching artist, activist and director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association curated the exhibit with Chabot. This exhibit was unique, Sheehan said, in that it is the first traveling exhibit about Abenaki culture co-curated by an Abenaki person and that has been accepted in mainstream galleries such as the Amy Tarrant Gallery at the Flynn Performing Arts Center in Burlington, Vt., in addition to museums.

Read the full story by Melanie Plenda in the Union Leader.

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Tech Helps Abenaki Spread Understanding of Native Culture

dustin lapierre vaaa phone app

“Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage,” a traveling exhibit, brings a group of objects and images to audiences in New England that explore Native American identity in modern culture, by asking, “What does it mean to be an Abenaki person in the modern world? What does it mean to be an indigenous artist?”

The exhibit documents the way in which garments and accessories that reflect Abenaki heritage express native identity.

The traveling exhibit, developed through a partnership of the Vermont Abenaki Arts Association and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, is enhanced by a newly available app that delivers additional content about the exhibit. The Google Play store has released the new Android app, available for Android devices only, called Vermont Abenaki Artists Association.

Read the full article by Sarah Galbraith in the Rutland Herald.

Annual Abenaki Heritage Weekend at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Next weekend, June 24 &25, 2017, at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, Vermont. This is a wonderful, friendly, and positive gathering. A schedule of the planned activities is below:

abenaki heritage weekend schedule

Art Review of Aln8bak: Wearing Our Heritage, at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery

vera longtoe sheehan twined textiles

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.

Aln8bak: Wearing Our Heritage, at the Flynn Center

alnobak wearing our heritage flynn

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.

abenaki-heritage-examples

Last 3 Weeks for Historic Abenaki Clothing at LCMM

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The special exhibit “Wearing Our Heritage” offers rare opportunity to see clothing worn by Abenaki men and women of earlier generations. Abenaki scholar and activist Frederick M. Wiseman has gathered original garments and accessories to assemble representative outfits like those worn by Abenaki men and women before 1850 as well as outfits for a man and a woman during in the 1900s through 1920s. The exhibit also includes examples of accessories such as moccasin tops, collars, head bands, needle cases and pouches.

Read the full description on the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum blog.

Always in Fashion: 10,000 Years of Wabanaki Attire

wabanaki attire wiseman missisquoi

Photo credit: Donald Soctomah

Visit the Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge next weekend to join a presentation by Dr. Fred Wiseman examining 10,000 years of Wabanaki clothing and accessories, the first in the 2016 Abenaki Life Program Series.

When: January 29 2016, 6-8 pm

Where: Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge, 29 Tabor Road, Swanton VT 05488 Phone 802-868-4781

Last fall, Dr. Fred Wiseman of Swanton Vermont, as well as the Wapohnaki Museum Cultural Center and the Passamaquoddy Cultural Heritage Museum, co-produced an historic fashion show in Maine.  It featured 24 of Dr. Wiseman’s original and re-created clothing outfits, based on over 25 years of study of historic and ancient Abenaki clothing, headgear, jewelry and fashion accessories.  Anyone interested in learning about a little-known facet of Vermont’s fascinating fashion history will want to join Dr. Wiseman to hear how the event went — and most importantly, how the wearing of ancestral clothing affected the young Native people who wore the attire.  This deeply moving cultural experience has much to teach indigenous people in Vermont about tribal revitalization, and points the way, perhaps, to new directions in Abenaki arts.  Dr Wiseman will share a rich slide show of reconstructed and original prehistoric and historic clothing, including that of an Ice-Age mariner on the Champlain Sea, 1600’s warriors defending their homeland, and 1920’s basket sellers at Highgate Springs.  In addition, he will share some rare examples of historic Abenaki, Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy clothing that have survived until this day.  Dr. Wiseman will also preview the “Alnobak” clothing exhibit that is planned to open in June at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes.  Following the presentation there will be time for questions as well as time to view the original Abenaki clothing from Wiseman’s collection.