This Centuries-Old Canoe Was a Critical Element of Wabanaki Life

wabanaki canoe brunswick maine press herald

One of the oldest-known examples of a Native American birch-bark canoe is on display at a museum in Maine, where indigenous tribes have used them for thousands of years.

The canoe put on display Thursday dates to the mid-1700s, said members of the Pejepscot Historical Society. It’s an example of the type of canoe that was critically important to the history and culture of the Wabanaki, the first people of parts of northern New England and Atlantic Canada.

This type of canoe was “extremely important for your family’s survival” for the Wabanaki people, said the Penobscot Nation’s tribal historian James E. Francis Sr. The Penobscot, one of four Wabanaki tribes still existing in Maine, still builds them today.
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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.

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.

Maine Museum Preserves Wabanaki Birchbark Canoe

brunswick maine wabanaki birchbark canoe

One of the oldest-known Native American birch-bark canoes will go on display at a Maine historical society museum, possibly as early as this fall, after spending three decades in a barn. Carbon dating by the Pejepscot Historical Society in Brunswick shows the Wabanaki canoe was likely made sometime between 1729 and 1789. Museum records date the canoe to the mid-1700s.

The Wabanaki Confederacy is a group of Native American nations who lived primarily in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and parts of Atlantic Canada.

Larissa Vigue Picard, the historical society’s executive director, says the Wabanaki artifact is “priceless” and could be the oldest birch-bark canoe in existence. Native Americans have been making these canoes for 3,000 years. But only a few of the earliest ones still exist because birch bark is so fragile, says Laurie LaBar, chief curator of history and decorative arts at the Maine State Museum in Augusta.

The Pejepscot Historical Society came in possession of the 16-foot-long canoe in 1889. Museum officials say it was donated to the organization after being passed down through generations in the family of William Barnes, a sea captain from Harpswell, who received the canoe as a gift from a tribe. It’s spent the last three decades in a barn behind the museum, exposed to extreme temperatures and humidity, but is in relatively good shape.

Built by standards of the 1700s, it was held together with wooden pegs instead of nails or other modern fasteners brought to America by Europeans, according to the historical society’s Stephanie Ruddock. The canoes were popular with early explorers because they were much lighter than dugout canoes made from tree trunks, and could be carried.

A craftsman in Wellington will restore the 18th century vessel before it goes on display, situated in a specially crafted cradle.

Read the original article in The Maine Edge.

LCMM Hosts “Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom” Aug 2, 2017

Abenaki Art at LCMM Alnobak baby

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will host “Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom,” a summer workshop for educators, this Wednesday, Aug. 2. Members of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association will serve as faculty for this all-day seminar, and for a series of panel discussions for young adults and adults to be offered in the fall and spring at area libraries.

(in conjunction with the current exhibit “Aln8bak: Wearing Our Heritage”)

Link to the article in the Addison County Independent.

The Past Comes to Life in South Berwick

unting house museum exhibit

Read the article by ColinWoodward in the Portland Press Herald. 

…Relations with native inhabitants were relatively cordial in the first half-century after colonization, but the situation deteriorated after Massachusetts annexed the region in the 1640s and 1650s, triggering a series of brutal wars between the 1670s and the 1760s, during which many of the colonists’ homesteads and settlements were repeatedly destroyed.

“We associate this place with resilience and stubbornness and independence, and that all has its roots in the 17th century,” said the exhibit’s curator, Nina Maurer. “When you’ve seen your parents’ generation decimated and building a home is an uncertain undertaking, it can mark a place in ways we think you can still see.”

The Old Berwick Historical Society, which runs the Counting House Museum and raised over $100,000 to launch the exhibit, is hosting a related lecture series and history hikes this fall.

On Sept. 28, Dr. Linford Fisher of Brown University will speak on the complex interactions between Native Americans, northern New England settlers and the Atlantic slave trade at 7:30 p.m. at Berwick Academy.

Wabanaki scholar Lisa Brooks of Amherst College will take up the meaning of one of the most brutal of the Anglo-Wabanaki Wars on Oct. 26 at the same time and venue. (More information at oldberwick.org.)

The exhibit will be on display throughout the museum’s 2018 season as well.

“The 17th century tells us something about the struggle for dominance and control and the destiny of a landscape, one where people had to make choices,” Maurer said. “Those are challenges we still have today.”

Adirondack Museum Dispels Myths With Native Exhibit

Diane-Cubit-Jennifer-Coler-Adirondack-Experience

For millennia, the ancestors of today’s Mohawk, Abenaki and other Native tribes have called the Adirondack Mountains home. Yet much of that history, not to mention present experience, has gone unrecognized. A new exhibit aims to change all that.

“We have not tackled the story of Native Americans in the Adirondacks in the past,” said David Kahn, executive director of The Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake, formerly the Adirondack Museum. “The institution has been influenced by the sort of general perception that Native Americans didn’t really live here full time, this hasn’t been Native territory. But it’s not true.”

Read the full article by Theresa Braine on the new exhibit in Indian Country Today.