In 2011 and 2012, the state of Vermont officially recognized four Abenaki tribes: Elnu, Nulhegan, Koasek and Missisquoi.
“History books, museums, and schools in New England often present Native culture as if the Abenaki disappeared in the 18th century,” says Vera Longtoe Sheehan, director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association. “After we received Vermont state recognition the Abenaki people created the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association as a forum to showcase our artists and our vibrant culture. Now we are trying to bridge the gap between the Native and Non-Native communities through the “Wearing Our Heritage” project. Our goals are to reclaim our place in New England history, to make connections between our shared past and the present, and for our art to be accepted on the same terms as art from other cultures of the world.”
Although there is little mention of the Abenaki in 19th century history books, Abenaki people continued to live in their homelands, and maintain strong oral histories and traditions from earlier times. In the latter half of the twentieth century, Abenaki people undertook a systematic cultural revitalization that involves a return to traditional lifeways and skills. Ironically, for many years they were not recognized by federal or state government because they had never entered into a treaty that surrendered their territory to the United States.
Read this comprehensive article by Vera Longtoe Sheehan and Eloise Beil, for the Burlington Free Press.
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:
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.