Abenakis Gather for Traditional Snow Snake Game in West Barnet

nulhegan abenaki snow snake kymelya sari

Last Saturday, about two dozen people gathered in West Barnet to play the traditional Native American winter game of snow snake. The games also coincided with the official opening of the Nulhegan Abenaki Cultural Center.

“This is an ancient Native game,” explained Donald Stevens, chief of the Nulhegan band of the Abenaki nation. “You slide a stick down the track. Whoever goes the farthest wins.”

The competition is generally friendly. But sometimes, the winner takes all the sticks, said Stevens. “If you’re playing against another nation, be prepared to lose your sticks.”

The games were held in Derby Line for the last three years.

Read the full account by Kymelya Sari in Seven Days.

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Local Radio Show Broadcasts Native Perspectives

deb reger moccasin tracks seven days

When Deb Reger began her weekly radio show, “Moccasin Tracks,” on WRUV 90.1 FM last Tuesday at noon, she reminded her listeners where she was. “We recognize this area where we broadcast from as N’Dakinna, the ancestral homeland of the Abenaki nation,” she said from the radio station’s studio in the University of Vermont’s Davis Center in Burlington.

As the song “Grandmother” by Navajo artist Radmilla Cody played in the background, Reger told listeners that her guest for the week was Grandmother Nancy Andry, an elder who lives in Connecticut and is of Algonquin and Metis heritage. It took a couple of tries before Reger got through on the phone to her guest. So the seasoned radio host adjusted her playlist to include longer songs. She wasn’t too frazzled, though. “It happens,” she explained.

Reger started “Moccasin Tracks” in 2009 because she wanted to produce a show that featured the voices and music of native peoples. “You just didn’t hear [from them] that much,” Reger said.

Reger, who doesn’t claim any native ancestry, stresses she doesn’t seek to speak for the native peoples. Her goal is to let them represent themselves and tell their stories.  “I hold this space, this broadcast time, for the people who are underserved,” the radio host said.

Read the full article by Kymelya Sari in Seven Days.

Art Review of Aln8bak: Wearing Our Heritage, at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery

vera longtoe sheehan twined textiles

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.

Step Back, Step Up: Avi Salloway Talks Standing Rock

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Recently, some 40 Vermonters and New Englanders, many affiliated with the local grassroots environmental advocacy organization 350 Vermont, traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to join the ongoing protests there against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Vermont contingent to Standing Rock arrived on November 20 and spent six days at Oceti Sakowin. Among these was musician and Burlington expat Avi Salloway. He’s a University of Vermont graduate and formerly one half of noted local folk duo Avi & Celia — later reimagined as the Boston rock band Hey Mama. More recently, Salloway has toured with Tuareg guitarist Bombino, and worked as an ambassador with Heartbeat, a nonprofit organization that works to bridge cultural divides in Israel and Palestine through music.

Seven Days recently spoke with Salloway  by phone from his home in Cambridge, Mass. We asked him about his experience at Standing Rock, what life is like at the camp and how those who can’t travel there can get involved.

Read the interview at Seven Days VT.

Indigenous Vermonters Form Abenaki First Group: Seven Days Humor

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Emotions ran high at the Swanton Public Library last week during the inaugural meeting of the newly formed anti-settlement group, Abenaki First.

“Enough is enough,” exclaimed group leader Don Edchute. “There are now more than 600,000 non-indigenous Vermonters living on this land. It’s about time we put our foot down and finally put an end to this reckless immigration.”

Get the full story in Seven Days, the Parmelee Post.