WPTZ’s Tom Messner with Chief Don Stevens and Professor Fred Wiseman

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.

Presentation and Celebration: Indigenous Crops and Climatic Resiliency

wabanaki ethnobotany

A free, fun and unique event happening at Vermont Organics Reclamation (VOR), St. Albans, VT on Saturday, Oct. 22:

Starting at 11 a.m., Dr. Wiseman and VOR will host a bicentennial commemoration of the Year Without A Summer — or “1800 and froze to death” — when a volcanic eruption on the other side of the world caused plummeting temperatures worldwide and shrunk New England’s growing season.

The climate-induced crop shortages and ensuing famine forced many Vermonters to leave the state and seek better lands to the south and west. However, many Native American crops, as well as some old Euroamerican varieties, may have survived these terrible conditions. The Seeds of Renewal Project, led by Dr. Fred Wiseman, has just completed a “cold-hardiness” analysis of more than 35 regional, native crops that range from the early 19th century to over 500 years old.

The Oct. 22 event at VOR will explore and feature these fascinating crops, as well as little known facts about the survival and rebirth of ancient Vermont agriculture, agricultural ceremony and cuisine. The program begins at 11 a.m. with a welcome and then a Powerpoint presentation by Dr. Wiseman. (PLEASE NOTE: Seating for Wiseman’s presentation is limited to 50 people. Please RSVP to wisem@vtlink.net, timc@vermontorganics.com, or leont@vermontorganics.com.)

Afterward, there will be a free meal featuring many of these indigenous crops, which are being grown as part of an agroforest on VOR’s 185-acre campus. The agroforest, the crops in it, and an effort to raise pigs humanely and naturally, are all part of VOR’s new Rugg Brook Campus initiative, which is meant to educate the public about the impaired Rugg Brook watershed, its history, and its future.

The free meal will feature native squash and beans, as well as pork products from VOR. There will also be a bean hole supper — a Native American celebration dinner that features a bean dinner cooked from a pot in the ground. Following the dinner, there will be guided tours of VOR’s agroforest. (You will also have a chance to meet Lily and Ethan, two UVM interns who spent the summer building and cultivating VORs agroforest with VOR’s Jim Stiles and others.)

Thank you for your time and attention today. We hope to see you on Oct. 22. I have attached a map with directions to VOR and can provide you with more if necessary. (And please share this with anyone who might be interested within your professional and personal circles.)

vordirections-2

Kik8mkwak: the Garden Fish

kik8mkwak white suckers garden fish

Look in the mid-ground of this photo, taken at noon in mid-September above the shallows of the Kwanitekw/ Connecticut River at the confluence of Kitad8gan Sibo/Whetstone Brook. A squadron of suckers, kik8mkwak, maybe 50 or 60 of them, are all hovering there in the warming sun, facing west and waiting for the next big thing to wash down from the hills. The name “kik8mkwa” in Western Abenaki literally means “field or garden fish,” from their use in traditional planting as fertilizer, specifically kik8n = improved land or garden plus -akw = fish. White suckers will move upstream in May to spawn, traveling in great numbers from their usual haunts in lakes and rivers into the smaller tributary brooks and streams. Rather than using the more valuable anadromous shad, salmon, alewives, and herring for planting, the less desirable and easily procured suckers fit the bill quite well.

A story from Dr. Fred Wiseman illustrates the practice well: “Former Koasek Chief Nancy Millette says that when she was a child, she and her little friends went to the Connecticut River and its tributaries in the spring to catch the sucker fish that ran in huge schools so thick “that your could almost walk upon them.” She says the fish were not for eating, but for the gardens. This was a revelation to me, because I had known that the Abenaki word for sucker fish was “kikômkwa,” and the first syllable was hauntingly similar to “kikôn,” the Abenaki word for field. I had dismissed the connection, but after Chief Nancy’s information sunk in, I discovered from 18th-century Abenaki dictionaries that the word originally meant “the garden fish.” So linguistics from years ago explains an obscure cultural connection between spring fish runs and the gardens that were being prepared at the same time. Today, it is traditional to insert one or more fish or parts of fish “about the size of your open hand” 8 to 18 inches deep in the mound.”

Sources:

Notes on a Lost Flute, Kerry Hardy, 2009.

Sun Dance Season: An Abenaki Summer, Fred Wiseman, 2015.

Last 3 Weeks for Historic Abenaki Clothing at LCMM

lcmm-abenaki-clothing-exhibit

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.

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.

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.

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]