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.

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Durham to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Columbus Day

The town is the first in New Hampshire to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, to be celebrated on Columbus Day, after town councilors approved the idea on Monday. Town Administrator Todd Selig said Tuesday the federal Columbus Day holiday, this year on Oct. 9 cannot be replaced because it is a federal holiday.

Town councilors thought it appropriate to recognize hardships that befell indigenous peoples because of European exploration, and voted to establish the new observance.

The council was considering a resolution put forth by the town’s human rights commission that would add The Age of Exploration and Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the local holiday calendar, but “The Age of Exploration” was dropped during an hour-long council discussion, Selig said.

“Not only is it appropriate to our local history, but also to recognize and value indigenous people everywhere,” Selig said in a statement. “The designation will encourage people to learn more about the legacy of Christopher Columbus and the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ while also recognizing the devastating effects of colonialism on indigenous peoples.”

Read the full article in the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Mural at Durham, NH Post Office May Add Interpretive Text

durham nh post office mural

Interpretive text may soon be added to a controversial mural at the Durham Post Office to give it historical context, but a group representing Native Americans still say that is not enough.

The mural was questioned last year by Rev. Larry Brickner-Wood of the Waysmeet Center at the University of New Hampshire. Brickner-Wood said at the time that he has always felt uneasy about what is depicted in the panel “Cruel Adversity,” which shows a Native American preparing to torch a settler’s home.

According to a decades-old brochure about the 16-panel mural, it was commissioned by the Women’s Club of Durham in 1959 and painted by artist Bernard Chapman. The goal was to reflect the history of the town, and the panel is meant to depict the Oyster River Massacre of 1694, where five garrison-style homes and 15 dwellings were burned. It is believed 100 people were killed or carried off.

Last week, during a meeting with town officials, members of the New Hampshire Commission of Native American Affairs, a representative from the New Hampshire Division of Cultural Affairs and a representative from the United States Postal Service (USPS), the idea of installing interpretive text on the wall was brought up. The USPS has a policy that it does not remove or cover historic artwork, and it does not allow new artwork to be added, according to town administrator Todd Selig.

Full story (and photos) by Kimberly Haas in the NH Union Leader.