Marge Bruchac: Savage Kin – Indigenous Informants & American Anthropologists

In this provocative new book, Margaret M. Bruchac, an Indigenous anthropologist, turns the word savage on its head. Savage Kin explores the nature of the relationships between Indigenous informants such as Gladys Tantaquidgeon (Mohegan), Jesse Cornplanter (Seneca), and George Hunt (Tlingit), and early twentieth-century anthropological collectors such as Frank Speck, Arthur C. Parker, William N. Fenton, and Franz Boas.

This book reconceptualizes the intimate details of encounters with Native interlocutors who by turns inspired, facilitated, and resisted the anthropological enterprise. Like other texts focused on this era, Savage Kin features some of the elite white men credited with salvaging material that might otherwise have been lost. Unlike other texts, this book highlights the intellectual contributions and cultural strategies of unsung Indigenous informants without whom this research could never have taken place.

These bicultural partnerships transgressed social divides and blurred the roles of anthropologist/informant, relative/stranger, and collector/collected. Yet these stories were obscured by collecting practices that separated people from objects, objects from communities, and communities from stories. Bruchac’s decolonizing efforts include “reverse ethnography”—painstakingly tracking seemingly unidentifiable objects, misconstrued social relations, unpublished correspondence, and unattributed field notes—to recover this evidence. Those early encounters generated foundational knowledges that still affect Indigenous communities today.

This book also contains unexpected narratives of human and other-­than-human encounters—brilliant discoveries, lessons from ancestral spirits, prophetic warnings, powerful gifts, and personal tragedies—that Native and non-Native readers alike will find deeply moving.

Coming out in January 2018. Pre-order here! 

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WNPR and Lisa Brook’s Forthcoming Book: Our Beloved Kin

our beloved kin lisa brooks book
Coming out on January 9, 2018 from Yale University Press – this looks amazing… A compelling and original recovery of Native American resistance and adaptation to colonial America.

With rigorous original scholarship and creative narration, Lisa Brooks recovers a complex picture of war, captivity, and Native resistance during the “First Indian War” (later named King Philip’s War) by relaying the stories of Weetamoo, a female Wampanoag leader, and James Printer, a Nipmuc scholar, whose stories converge in the captivity of Mary Rowlandson. Through both a narrow focus on Weetamoo, Printer, and their network of relations, and a far broader scope that includes vast Indigenous geographies, Brooks leads us to a new understanding of the history of colonial New England and of American origins. Brooks’s pathbreaking scholarship is grounded not just in extensive archival research but also in the land and communities of Native New England, reading the actions of actors during the seventeenth century alongside an analysis of the landscape and interpretations informed by tribal history.

Listen to a NEXT interview by John Dankosky on WNPR with author Professor Lisa Brooks about her compelling new work “Our Beloved Kin” (scroll halfway down).

Pre-order a copy here.

Lisa Brooks is associate professor of English and American studies at Amherst College. She is author of The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast.

Greenfield Recorder: Native American Heritage Day Observed

cheryll-toney-holley-below-great-falls

Indigenous tribes called Franklin County home long before European colonizers landed in North America. Native American Heritage Day, observed since 2008 on the day after Thanksgiving, is an opportunity to recognize and discuss that history.

“We have this single day, Friday, Native American Heritage Day, which was designated by an act of Congress in 2008 — relatively recently,” said Rich Holschuh, who is from the Elnu Abenaki tribe. Abenaki homeland ran north to the St. Lawrence River in Canada, and south to Deerfield, with Turners Falls being “the nexus for all tribes in that area,” according to Holschuh. [note: I (Rich) am not a citizen of Elnu, but I do work extensively with them and others in the contemporary community.]

Holschuh also serves on the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs.

The resolution for Native American Heritage Day, signed by President George W. Bush, acknowledges Native people “for their contributions to the United States as local and national leaders, artists, athletes, and scholars.” Local advocates focus on a darker side of American history.

“It is with great sadness that we look back, just on the last 340 years, since this peaceful area of shared resources was witness to a terrible massacre of refugees from the regional war that was going on over who would control the land,” said David Detmold, representing the Nolumbeka Project, a non-tribal organization advocating for New England’s Native American tribes.

Detmold referred to The Battle of Great Falls, a decisive fight of King Philip’s War that took place on the banks of the Connecticut River between present-day Gill and Montague. He noted the Nolumbeka Project is part of a group studying the battle through a National Parks Service grant.

Read the full article by Andy Castillo in The (Greenfield) Recorder here.

Daniel Paul Still Has a Message to Deliver

daniel paul mikmaq activist author

With the release of two new books, Daniel Paul is adding new material to his decades-long crusade to educate people about Mi’kmaq history.

The Mi’kmaw elder, who is best-known for his seminal history book We Were Not the Savages, recently published his first, and likely his last, novel Chief Lightning Bolt. Paul wrote the novel 20 years ago and then put it aside. He returned to it with a fresh set of eyes, had others read and edit it, and decided it was time to release the book publicly. “I wanted to see it published before I die,” he said in a recent interview.

Paul, who was born on the Indian Brook Reserve (now Sipekne’katik First Nation), turns 79 next month. He had a brush with mortality when he underwent treatment for prostate cancer. Doctors gave him the okay after he completed treatment in November 2016, but the ordeal took its toll on his health.

In his novel, published by Fernwood Publishing, Paul brings to life a contemporary Mi’kmaq legend of a man, who becomes chief and a renowned warrior and peacemaker. In the process he comes to embody Mi’kmaq values of humility, courage, honour, and service to others.

While Paul’s previous non-fiction book told the story of the Mi’kmaq and their fate after the arrival of the Europeans, in his novel he tells the story of the Mi’kmaq prior to the arrival of European colonizers.

“The best way to do it (tell the story) was a fictional novel,” he said.

“Some people accused me of writing fiction when I wrote We Were Not the Savages,” he added with a laugh.

Read the full article by Allison Lawlor in the Chronicle-Herald.

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.

Still Here After 12,000 Years: Honoring the Sites and Cultures of Indigenous New England

Peabody Museum canoe modelsPatricia Harris and David Lyon in the Boston Globe, November 3, 2017

In November, most of us turn our thoughts to big turkey dinners and first-wave English settlers in long stockings and buckle hats. Conventional Thanksgiving lore does give props to Massasoit and Plymouth-area Wampanoag for bringing most of the food to dinner. But the Pilgrims are only one part of the story. The Wampanoag Homesite at Plimoth Plantation depicts Native life vividly, but here are a half dozen museums that focus exclusively on the indigenous side of New England’s heritage. By the way, they are all closed on Thanksgiving, and some will soon close for the winter.

Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor, ME

In May 2016, the Abbe Museum unveiled “People of the First Light.” The new core exhibit takes its name from the term that many indigenous people of the Northeast — including the five nations of the Wabanaki Confederacy — use to describe themselves. They are the people of the sunrise, and the exhibit likewise marks a new day for the Abbe. Originally a small museum in Acadia National Park, the Abbe opened in 1928 to interpret Native artifacts found around Frenchman Bay. The modern downtown facility now tells a more comprehensive story of 12,000 years of indigenous culture in the Wabanaki homeland, and it does so from a Native perspective.

Tribal historians, artists, and educators advised in exhibit development. Gina Brooks, a Maliseet artist from New Brunswick, created dramatic illustrations of legends and tales from the oral tradition that inform many exhibits. The Abbe’s science and ethnography remain as rigorous as ever, but learning about the continuity of indigenous culture in the voices of the people themselves brings an immediacy to the experience. 26 Mt. Desert St., Bar Harbor, Maine. 207-288-3519, abbemuseum.org. Open through April Thurs.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., closed January. Free until Dec. 22. Otherwise, adults $8, seniors $7, ages 11-17 $4, ages 10 and under free.

Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH

Founded by Charles and Nancy Thompson, the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum represents a singular vision of a master collector. Inspired by a school visit from Pequot sachem Silverstar when he was in the second grade, “Bud” Thompson amassed a major collection of artifacts and artwork representing tribes across North America. The museum sits in the homeland of the Abenaki (one of the five peoples of the Wabanaki Confederacy) and about a quarter of the collection represents peoples of the Northeast. Many works chronicle the growth of basketry and beadwork as Native economic mainstays in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The contemporary art gallery features two exhibits each year guest-curated by members of the Native community. 18 Highlawn Road, Warner, N.H. 603-456-2600, indianmuseum.org. Open through Nov. Sat.-Sun. noon-5 p.m. Adults $9, seniors and students $8, ages 6-12 $7, family $26.

Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Museum, Mashpee, MA

Created in 1970, more than three centuries after the establishment of Mashpee as a “praying village,” this compact museum and cultural center occupies a circa-1793 half-Cape home in the historic heart of the Mashpee Wampanoag homeland. (Eighty-five percent of tribal members live within 20 miles.) It sits next to the historic Herring Run, where some Wampanoag still harvest fish in the early spring.

This year the museum has seen a swell of visitors eager to learn more about the Wampanoag. One of the first things they learn is that Wampanoag culture finds many opportunities for thanksgiving throughout the year. The museum focuses principally on the post-1620 era, and on the contributions and achievements of Wampanoag people. A small but fascinating exhibit on Native American whaling is up this fall, but may be coming down next year. Although the museum closes for the winter on Dec. 1, off-season visitors can see a traditional round, bark-covered Wampanoag house on the grounds. 414 Main St., Mashpee. 508-477-9339, MashpeeWampanoagTribe-nsn.gov/museum. Open through Nov. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Adults $5, ages 6-18 $2, seniors and educators $4, family $10.

Tomaquag Museum, Exeter, RI

You’ll meet a lot of indigenous people in the exhibits at this museum in the heart of Narragansett country. One display features two-time Boston Marathon winner Ellison “Tarzan” Brown. Another sketches the achievements of tribal historian Mary Glasko. Known as Princess Red Wing, she served as a delegate to the United Nations and co-founded the museum in 1958. The last living Narragansett sub-chief, 96-year-old Kenneth “Strong Horse” Smith, donated his turkey feather headdress and other ceremonial clothing for another exhibit. Connections span the generations. A beautiful circa-1850 Narragansett bark canoe hanging from the rafters comes from the family of executive director Lorén Spears.

Continuity is omnipresent. Next to historic Narragansett baskets with now-faded stamped vegetable dye designs is a case showing how a contemporary basketmaker constructs a traditional basket. Everything in the museum seems to have a story, often including the name of the person who made it, wore it, used it, or passed it down. Each quarter, the museum showcases a different contemporary Native artist, many of whom sell their work in the museum’s gift shop. 390 Summit Road, Exeter, R.I. 401-491-9063, tomaquagmuseum.org. Open all year Wed. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sat 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Adults $6, seniors and students $5, children $3.

Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, Mashantucket, CT

Filling an airy modern building in the woods near Foxwoods Casino, this museum pulls out all the stops to relate the history and flesh out the cultural nuances of what it means to be Pequot. An archaeological dig on the Mashantucket reservation places the earliest settlement as 9,500 years ago, just as the glaciers receded. But the exhibits quickly move on to more recent eras.

When European colonists arrived, the Pequot were a prosperous nation that held sway over large parts of what is now Connecticut. Moving exhibits detail their near-extinction in the 17th century and their dwindling numbers and influence thereafter. This institution shines at teasing out the palpable resilience of people who clung to their identity through all forms of adversity. The exhibits are so thorough and compelling that it is easy to spend half a day here — a small investment of time to become acquainted with a people. 110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket, Conn. 800-411-9671, pequotmuseum.org. Open through Nov. Tues.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Adults $20, seniors and college students $15, ages 6-17 $12.

Nearby, the Mohegan Tribe operates a small museum with a diverse collection of objects from many Northeastern, Plains, and Southwestern tribes. Call the Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum (1819 Norwich-New London Turnpike, Uncasville, Conn., 860-848-3985, mohegan.nsn.us) ahead as opening hours can vary.

Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington, CT

Located on a wooded 15-acre campus in the Litchfield Hills, this museum has carried out more than 500 archaeological excavations in Connecticut since it was founded in 1975. The outdoor replica of an Algonkian Village is an especially evocative large-scale display of woodland life in the period 350-1000 years ago. The museum also works with all five state-recognized tribes (the Mashantucket Pequot, the Eastern Pequot, the Mohegan, the Schaghticoke, and the Paugussett) for contemporary programs. 38 Curtis Road, Washington, Conn. 860-868-0518, iaismuseum.org. Open all year Weds.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. Adults $10, seniors $8, ages 3-12 $6.