The inaugural Abbe Museum Indian Market takes place in Bar Harbor May 18-20. The market will support Wabanaki artists and the local community. We’ll discuss the art of the Wabanaki, its effect on the local economy and learn about events taking place to celebrate the inaugural event.
This year, seven art education students found inspiration in Wabanaki folklore for their University of Maine Art Education Student Outreach project. Students enrolled in Professor Constant Albertson’s AED 474: Topics in Art developed original linoleum blocks and used them to print t-shirts intended to be sold on campus and in the community. All of the proceeds will go toward supporting the programs and activities that the Gedakina, Inc. fosters in Native American communities across New England.
“As I was designing the course I researched many Wabanaki issues,” Albertson said. “The students talked it over and did research. We were very excited to work with Gedakina. We didn’t want the product to be another bauble, something that you shove in a junk drawer, and we thought it would be important to use relevant images and symbols.”
In AED 474, Albertson hoped to teach her students skills in collaboration, negotiation and leadership, while showing them how to integrate an art curriculum with community service efficiently. “Art is critical to creating culture and community,” Rochelle Lawrence, an art education student enrolled in AED 474, said. “It creates awareness of the people, animals, nature and history that have come before you.”
Gedakina, which means “Our world, a way of life” in the Wabanaki language, works to bring like-minded community members and allies together to support and empower Native American and indigenous youth. They also work to challenge racism and continual colonialism and encourage inclusiveness and diversity.
In the mid-afternoon hours on Saturday, three days before the official start of spring, 21 friends both old and new sat in a circle inside the council chambers of the Aroostook Band of Micmacs Cultural Community Education Center in Presque Isle.
Tribal Elder Norman Bernard passed a tobacco pipe around to those who did not have their own and began a ceremony of storytelling and sharing of knowledge that has been part of the Micmac Spring Bear Feast for many generations.
“As the pipe goes around, if someone has a story to share with the bear, I encourage you to,” Bernard said, as he began the sharing circle part of the ceremony. “Every story has a lesson and we all have something to teach each other.”
Every spring, the Micmacs hold a daylong Spring Bear Feast to honor the coming of spring and the bear that has come out of hibernation. In their culture, the bear represents a reawakening of life after the often long, cold winter as well as strength and endurance gained from elders who have since passed on and become ancestors. They hold a similar ceremony in the fall to honor the bear going into hibernation.
“For us, it’s a way of celebrating the bear, which is very sacred,” said Bernard Jerome, former Micmac cultural director. Jerome traveled from the Native community of Gesqapegiag in Quebec to attend the Spring Bear Feast.
A new exhibit will open in the Abbe Museum’s main gallery on Friday, April 6. An opening reception is set for 5-7 p.m.
“Unlike the ball club, which is very well known and very well published, the Penobscot root club has been almost completely ignored in the history books,” said exhibit curator Stan Neptune, Penobscot.“Emergence — Root Clubs of the Penobscot Nation” celebrates a uniquely Wabanaki art form, a centuries-old craft that has frequently been dismissed by museums and academics as not “traditionally” Wabanaki.
“In the late 19th century when anthropologists started collecting Native American objects, they perceived root clubs as just tourist items. They had no idea of the history. The ‘Emergence’ exhibit will tell that full history.”
The exhibit highlights the diversity of past and contemporary themes found in root club carving. Each club is made out of a sapling, with the slender trunk becoming a chip-carved handle, and the complex wood of the root ball’s burl transformed into evocative representations of people and creatures. Some are painted; some have ornaments attached.
Abbe Museum President and CEO Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko will discuss decolonizing museum practice and encouraging collaboration among indigenous peoples and the museum field at College of the Atlantic’s Human Ecology Forum in McCormick Lecture Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 4:10 p.m.
The Abbe Museum’s mission is to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit. In August 2015, the museum completed its most ambitious strategic plan to date, committing to develop and implement decolonizing practices in a museum setting.
During her talk, Catlin-Legutko will discuss that nature of decolonizing museum practice and how it offers opportunities for Wabanaki people to feel connected to the Abbe, promote cultural authority, and encourage collaboration and involvement with and between tribal community members and the museum field. Also, she will discuss the role of the leader in a decolonizing framework, which requires power-sharing skills and a commitment to developing group and personal cultural competencies.
Gabriel Frey separates each layer of ash as if he is peeling an onion. He removes one thin layer after another until he reduces what had been a formidable stick of wood into a small bundle of flexible ribbons. He then narrows each with a hand-held, handmade splitting tool, and weaves the strips seamlessly into one of his ash baskets.
Frey, a Passamaquoddy who works in the basement studio of his Orono home, is busy preparing baskets for seasonal markets in Maine and elsewhere, including several for the Smithsonian Institution, which commissioned him to make baskets for its New York gift shop. He is among a large group of American Indian artists from Maine whose reputations are growing nationally, enhanced by their successes at juried American Indian art markets across the country. For six years, Wabanaki artists from Maine have won top honors at the Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico, the largest indigenous art fair in the world. Frey was among three Wabanaki artists to win ribbons at the most recent market in August, snagging a first-place award and an honorable mention.
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is announcing the winning entries in the 2017 Maine Native American History and Culture Essay Contest today, and congratulates all of the participating students on their accomplishments.
“The goal of this contest is to give students an outlet to show what they’ve learned about the rich history of the Wabanaki peoples of Maine,” said Secretary Dunlap. “We are thankful to the teachers who share this opportunity with their students, and hopeful that our participants will continue to build upon the knowledge they have gained through their Maine Native American history studies.”
Open to students statewide, the annual contest requires participants to explore at least one aspect of Maine Native American history and to write an essay describing what they have learned.
This year’s top contestant in the high school division is Ella Raymond, a freshman at Casco Bay High School in Portland, for her essay titled, “Authenticity, Equity, and Connectedness in Wabanaki Communities.”
At the middle school level, top honors go to Saber Hanington, a seventh-grade student at Windsor Elementary School, for his entry, “Farming of the Dawnsmen.” Second-place is awarded to Collin Joyce, a seventh-grade student at Scarborough Middle School, for his untitled essay depicting Native American resourcefulness.
Secretary Dunlap invites the first-place essayists in each category to be his guests for a day in Augusta. Students will tour the State House complex, including the Maine State Archives, where they will be able to view Maine’s original treaties with native peoples and original field books of early Maine land surveyors.
Maine law Title 20-A s4706 at http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/20-A/title20-Asec4706.html requires schools to teach Maine Native American history. This contest provides Maine students with a unique opportunity to share what they have learned in their studies. The public can view the essays online at http://www.maine.gov/sos/kids/nativeamerican/winners.htm . To learn more about this contest and other student programs offered by the Office of the Secretary of State, visit http://www.maine.gov/sos/kids/index.htm .