Bringing Together Two Sides of Vermont

don stevens drum flynn center vaaa

A preview of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, performing traditional and contemporary Abenaki music, storytelling, and drumming in FlynnSpace on November 14 at 7:30 pm. By KieraHufford, contributor to @flynncenter Tumblr.

The Abenaki people, like many Native Americans, have been living in America since before European settlers arrived. However, the tribes only received state recognition five years ago, in 2012. The Flynn welcomes the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA), giving them a space to share parts of their culture with the public—a performance that would have felt entirely different had it taken place in 2010.

When Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan of the Elnu Abenaki spoke with Vermont Public Radio (VPR) back in 2016, he talked about the importance of state recognition. “Before we had state recognition, whenever we made something—a pipe, a wampum bracelet, whatever—and we sold it, we had to say that we were of ‘Abenaki descent.’ We couldn’t say that we were Abenaki from such-and-such a tribe. That’s a federal law. You could get hit with a $250,000 fine per item.”

It made it difficult for Abenaki people to share their heritage. They couldn’t label their creations as being made by members of the Abenaki tribes, even though that’s who they are. And even now, they have to carry a native card proving that they’re members of the tribes; however, who they are, their culture, and where they come from is in their blood. It’s their identity, and a card shouldn’t be needed to prove that.

One of the biggest problems, according to the Abenaki, is that the Vermont Agency of Education doesn’t have a mandated curriculum surround the Abenaki people and their culture, so many students go through school and never really learn about their history or existence. The Abenaki are hoping to change that in the coming years.

“If we were going to sum up the state of where things are with the Abenaki right now, I would say change,” Eugene Rich, co-chair of the Missisquoi Abenaki Tribal Council, told VPR. “I think we’re trying to change our public persona.”

According to their website, the VAAA “embodies the history, culture, and art of the Abenaki people. While most of our artists and performers preserve and pass on the traditional art of our ancestors, others create contemporary artistic expressions that are informed by tradition.” Their mission is to promote Vermont’s Indigenous arts/artists while providing a place to share ideas and develop professionally as entrepreneurs.

The VAAA wants the Vermont public to be able to find and engage artists like Chief Don Stevens, of the Nulhegan band of the Coosuk Abenaki; Nulhegan Abenaki Drum, who combine traditional Northeastern music with the sound of the big powwow drumming; and Bryan Blanchette, who began singing at powwows 20 years ago and is currently writing/performing new Abenaki language songs, who will be performing at the Flynn.

The Abenaki have a place of belonging in Vermont, a place that should be recognized and unquestioned by the state’s residents. Not every Native American appears the same, but that doesn’t mean they have to prove their culture. The best way to combat this thinking is by learning, by understanding the Abenaki culture and how it, too, has adapted as the years have gone by.

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An Evening with Vermont Abenaki Artists Association: Nov. 14 at the Flynn Center

bryan blanchette flynn center vaaa
“The story is here, but it’s been hidden. The Abenaki people, who were written out of the story, are still here.” —VPR

At the Flynn for the first time, the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association shares a performance of both traditional and contemporary Abenaki music, storytelling, and drumming. Performers include Chief Don Stevens, Chief of the Nulhegan band of the Coosuk Abenaki, Nulhegan Abenaki Drum, who combine traditional Northeastern music with the sound of the big powwow drumming, and Bryan Blanchette, a Berklee alumnus who started singing at powwows over 20 years ago and who is currently writing and performing new Abenaki language songs.

Tomorrow, November 14th, from 7:30-10 pm, at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, 153 main St., Burlington, VT 05401.

Tickets went on sale to Flynn members on Tuesday, July 18 and to the general public on Wednesday, August 2. Flynn membership starts at $50 and is available at any time. To become a member visit http://www.flynncenter.org/support-us/membership.html.

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.

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

UMass Amherst Powwow April 15, 2017

umass powwow 2017 poster

Hosted by UMass Amherst Native American Student Association.

Come join us at Curry Hicks Cage Gym on the UMass Amherst campus. All public welcome, free parking, handicapped accessible, donations welcome, vendors.

Host Drums: Storm Boyz
Guest drums: Iron River, Eastern Suns
Head Man: Dan Shears
Head Lady: Angelina LaRotonda
MC: Justin Beatty
Arena Director: Don Barnaby
Story teller: Larry Spotted Crow Mann

Food by UMass’ own Baby Berk!

If you are interested in becoming a vendor, you may contact jasminerochellegoodspeed@gmail.com.

If you are traveling to the powwow and will need a hotel room, we have arranged with the Howard Johnson in Hadley to have a block of rooms reserved for us. Call and mention you will be in town for the UMass Powwow and they can give you a rate of $93/night!
Howard Johnson Express Inn
413-586-0114 or 1-800-467-4600
401 Russell St.
Hadley, MA 01035

Abenaki Educational Outreach: Lucy Neel at Northfield VT Jr. High School

lucy cannon neel northfield jr high school vt

Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs Chair Lucy Cannon Neel shared this photo from two weeks ago at Northfield (VT) Jr. High, taken during part of their Bridge Program. The course included drumming and Abenaki heritage in four parts: pre-contact, contact, Abenaki people today, and storytelling.

Diversity Day at Derby’s North Country Union Junior High

melody-nunn-nulhegan-abenaki-diversity-day

Members of the Nulhegan Abenaki brought traditional drumming and singing to North Country Union Junior High in Derby, VT  on February 2, 2017, as part of the school’s Diversity Program. Photos by Melody Nunn via Facebook – wliwni!

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