In 2011 and 2012, the state of Vermont officially recognized four Abenaki tribes: Elnu, Nulhegan, Koasek and Missisquoi.
“History books, museums, and schools in New England often present Native culture as if the Abenaki disappeared in the 18th century,” says Vera Longtoe Sheehan, director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association. “After we received Vermont state recognition the Abenaki people created the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association as a forum to showcase our artists and our vibrant culture. Now we are trying to bridge the gap between the Native and Non-Native communities through the “Wearing Our Heritage” project. Our goals are to reclaim our place in New England history, to make connections between our shared past and the present, and for our art to be accepted on the same terms as art from other cultures of the world.”
Although there is little mention of the Abenaki in 19th century history books, Abenaki people continued to live in their homelands, and maintain strong oral histories and traditions from earlier times. In the latter half of the twentieth century, Abenaki people undertook a systematic cultural revitalization that involves a return to traditional lifeways and skills. Ironically, for many years they were not recognized by federal or state government because they had never entered into a treaty that surrendered their territory to the United States.
Read this comprehensive article by Vera Longtoe Sheehan and Eloise Beil, for the Burlington Free Press.
From Lisa Wheeler at The Conway Daily Sun:
Please join members of the the Freedom Historical Society at Camp Calumet Lakeside Facility on Wednesday, June 13, for a program at 7 p.m. entitled “Abenaki Who, When, Where and some Whys” presented by Paul W. Pouliot, grand council chief and principal speaker of the Pennacook-Abenaki People (Cowasuck Band). A graduate of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Pouliot is also a religious elder of the tribe, lecturer, Tribal Historian and Tribal Historical Protection Officer.
Pouliot’s grandparents were from mixed Wabanaki (Abenaki) and colonial French blood lines dating back into the early 1600s. His family migrated back and forth from Quebec to New England through the generations. As a youth, his father taught him of the ancestral roots of his grandmother and grandfather, both of whom were indigenous, and also taught him the ways of the woods and waters. Among his many accomplishments, Pouliot was a founding member of the New Hampshire Commission of Native American Affairs. The presentation is free and open to the public. For more information, call (603) 539-5799.
Contemporary Abenaki artists and tribal members talk about the meaning of garments, accessories, and regalia in their own lives and in the expression of community and tribal identity. Some of the topics will include: The Indian Arts and Crafts Law of 1990; art informed by tradition and what it means to be a Native American artist in the 21st century; honoring the past through art, and how artists walk the Red Road recognizing our ancestors. The panel will include [Elnu Abenaki] S8gm8 (Chief) Roger Longtoe Sheehan and Willow Greene, moderated by Vera Longtoe Sheehan.
This program was created by the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association in partnership with Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and Flynn Center for the Arts, supported in part by a grant from the Vermont Humanities Council. Find out more about the event and panel at http://brookslibraryvt.org or (802) 254-5290.
Wednesday, November 8 at 7 PM – 9 PM
Brooks Memorial Library
224 Main St, Brattleboro, Vermont 02645
Men, women and children — many of them wearing their colorful tribal regalia — danced to the beating drums Saturday at the 20th annual Wabanaki Spring Social.
There also were prayers and blessings from elders, most in the traditional tongues of the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet tribes, as well as fry bread and hull corn soup, and Native American crafts and other products.
An estimated 700 members of the region’s Wabanaki Confederacy and other tribes were expected to gather at the Anah Shrine for the event, Susan Romero of Wabanaki Health and Wellness, a key organizer of the social.
Read the full report by Dawn Gagnon in the Bangor Daily News.
A new exhibit at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery highlights the wearable art of the Abenaki population in and around Vermont.
“Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage” opened Saturday with a discussion by co-curators Vera Longtoe Sheehan of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and Eloise Beil of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. The exhibit will be on display through June 17.
Read the full article in the Burlington Free Press.
VPR also picked up the story of the exhibit. See their coverage here.
The Retreat Farm’s makeover-in-progress is mostly likely observed if you’re driving in or out of Brattleboro via Route 30. The Windham Foundation donated the property to Retreat Farm LTD and grants have propelled the nonprofit to this point. “We’re just about to kick off additional fundraising,” said Arthur “Buzz” Schmidt, Retreat Farm president. Close to $1 million has already been spent on planning, groundwork and renovation of the farmhouse, according to Schmidt’s estimate.
Retreat Farm was transferred to his group on Aug. 19, a little later than originally anticipated due to issues with subdividing the land. The Grafton Cheese Factory had to be separated from the parcel. The business is owned and operated by the Windham Foundation. Last winter, the state approved an Act 250 permit so some development on the property could begin. A master plan application will still be needed for Act 250 review.
Altogether, there are 600 acres that Schmidt’s group is responsible for maintaining, including Retreat Meadows, trails, woodland and a farmstead. “It’s an expansive complex property,” Schmidt said. “There’s an underlying easement with the Vermont Land Trust that restricts the development on the property really to one 25-acre farmstead. That’s where all the development has to occur. We can develop farm resources on the other lands and we’re doing that.”
Note: The land at and near the Retreat Farm is highly sensitive for indigenous heritage and cultural lifeways, in more ways than one. Discussions have been initiated with the team (specifically Buzz and Lu, at this point); they are aware of this aspect and intend to incorporate awareness and respect into their long-range plans.
Full story by Chris Mays in the Brattleboro Reformer.
More information can be found at retreatfarm.org and on Facebook.
Late in the autumn of 1931, a half-blind, crutch-bound Mohegan tribesman hatched an ambitious plan: to establish a museum to display and preserve his tribe’s cultural artifacts for future generations. Wednesday, the Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum celebrated 85 years of fulfilling that mission – a milestone tribe members say makes it the oldest and most influential Native American museum in the world.
“John Tantaquidgeon and his two children, Gladys and Harold, were really the dreamers behind this whole thing,” Mohegan Medicine Woman Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel, Gladys Tantaquidgeon’s great-niece and once-pupil, said. “They had this philosophy that it’s hard to hate someone who you know a lot about, and by doing this as a labor of love they were able to share their language, their history and their culture with people.”
Full coverage at the Norwich Bulletin.
More background toward understanding the story behind “How did we all end up in this situation?” – as I often repeat, it’s all connected.
Thank you to Joe Rivers and Reggie Martell at the Brattleboro Historical Society, for your interest, commitment, and technical skills, in putting this together. It is an honor to work with you toward restoration for the indigenous people, the Abenaki and their ancestors, to their rightful and relevant place. In Aln8ba8dwaw8gan: Askwa n’daoldibna iodali – we are still here.
I appreciate this photo (by Reggie), with our guardian mountain Wantastiquet behind and the provincial flag of Quebec on my shirt, repping for my grandfather, both aspects of the motivation behind this journey of understanding.
The Art Encompassed blog takes a look at the cultural and material treasures carefully maintained and displayed at this singular regional institution, with special emphasis on Abenaki basketmaking. The panoply of exhibits honor not only the heritage of the past but the creation of the future by contemporary Native American artists.