Brunswick Junior HS Holds Wabanaki Cultural Day

wabanaki-basket-weaving

The junior high school was abuzz with more than just typical Friday excitement May 11, when seventh-graders broke away from their standard classroom routine for a special reason. The afternoon marked the school’s first-ever Wabanaki Cultural Day, and allowed the students to try their hands at traditional native crafts and activities.

Teachers also got a break from their usual classes, as experts in each area of instruction from the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes led the activities.

Social studies teacher Carla Shaw, one of the organizers of the event, said it was made possible by a $2,500 grant from the Brunswick Community Education Foundation. Shaw and talent development teacher Sharon McCormack applied for the funding. Maine schools are mandated to teach about Wabanaki culture, but Shaw said “there’s not a lot of resources out there,” aside from some pages in the social studies textbook.

Read the article by Elizabeth Clemente in The Forecaster.

Photo by The Forecaster also.

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The Art of the Wabanaki: Indian Market at the Abbe Museum

ransom_basket_cover abbe museum

The inaugural Abbe Museum Indian Market takes place in Bar Harbor May 18-20. The market will support Wabanaki artists and the local community. We’ll discuss the art of the Wabanaki, its effect on the local economy and learn about events taking place to celebrate the inaugural event.

Hear the podcast (47:12) on Maine Public Radio here.

UM Student Art Project Teaches Importance of Community Service

Art-Education

This year, seven art education students found inspiration in Wabanaki folklore for their University of Maine Art Education Student Outreach project. Students enrolled in Professor Constant Albertson’s AED 474: Topics in Art developed original linoleum blocks and used them to print t-shirts intended to be sold on campus and in the community. All of the proceeds will go toward supporting the programs and activities that the Gedakina, Inc. fosters in Native American communities across New England.

“As I was designing the course I researched many Wabanaki issues,” Albertson said. “The students talked it over and did research. We were very excited to work with Gedakina. We didn’t want the product to be another bauble, something that you shove in a junk drawer, and we thought it would be important to use relevant images and symbols.”

In AED 474, Albertson hoped to teach her students skills in collaboration, negotiation and leadership, while showing them how to integrate an art curriculum with community service efficiently.  “Art is critical to creating culture and community,” Rochelle Lawrence, an art education student enrolled in AED 474, said. “It creates awareness of the people, animals, nature and history that have come before you.”

Gedakina, which means “Our world, a way of life” in the Wabanaki language, works to bring like-minded community members and allies together to support and empower Native American and indigenous youth. They also work to challenge racism and continual colonialism and encourage inclusiveness and diversity.

Read the full article by Olivia Shipsey in the Maine Campus.

Mapping the Wabanaki Canoe Routes of Yesteryear

wabanaki-mapping

Since people have lived in New Brunswick, there have been highways, though not all were created equal.

n 2015, the provincial government closed the neglected Jemseg Bridge, leaving a large section of the former Trans-Canada Highway still standing — abandoned and inaccessible.  Part of a so-called “modern highway,” the route has decayed past the point of use just a few decades after it was built.  But underneath it runs another highway, thousands of years old, and still in working condition.

The Jemseg River, along with hundreds of other rivers, creeks, and streams make up the highways used for centuries by First Nations communities for trade and travel using birch-bark canoes. Some of these routes are well-recognized today, their winding routes shared though the oral history of several First Nation communities. Others were thoroughly recorded by famed New Brunswick cartographer and historian William Francis Ganong.

Some are less known, and some may be lost to history, but researchers are working to map those possible routes using a combination of computer software and linguistics study.

Read the full story at CBC. ca.

On VPR: Vera Longtoe Sheehan for Women’s History Month with Molly Ockett

John-and-Vera-Longtoe-Sheehan-with-fiber-bag

Kwai Nedobak! Nd’elewizi Vera Longtoe Sheehan du Elnu Wôbanaki – that translates into English as: Hello my friends! My name is Vera Longtoe Sheehan, and I’m a citizen of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe.

I’m here to honor the countless generations of Wôbanaki women who were fiber artists and to the women that will carry this art form to future generations of our people. Most of their names have been lost to history, but they’re remembered for the textiles they created – and when we’re lucky, through the surviving textiles themselves.

The late Jim Petersen, a professor and Anthropology Department Chair at UVM, documented an extensive legacy of textile fragments dating back thousands of years that have been found in Abenaki archaeological sites. And I’ve personally had the honor of studying some of these surviving 18th-century textile pieces.

The Maine Historical Society has an 18th-century plant fiber object in their collection that was made by an Abenaki woman known as Molly Ockett, a healing woman who took care of people in her community, and who was also a talented fiber artist. As an herbalist, Molly would have been a keeper of extensive knowledge about different types of plants and what they were used for. She would also have known how to harvest plants like the milkweed or dogbane that she used to weave bags such as the fiber object that has come to be known as Molly’s Purse.

My father, John Sheehan, is an eighty-four-year-old Abenaki culture bearer who fondly remembers carts full of milkweed being delivered to his grandmother “Lena” during his childhood. He recalls watching his grandmother and aunties talking and laughing as they made milkweed string – then the hours they spent weaving it into market bags that they sold for less than twenty-five cents apiece. Later “Lena” taught him how to weave and he passed this family knowledge on to me – his daughter.

I’m honored to carry Lena’s fiber arts knowledge and pass it on to my daughter Lina who will carry it on to the next seven generations.

It is important for us to continue teaching weaving and other old-style art forms to revitalize our culture that connects us to our ancestors, our traditions, and n’dakinna – our homeland – now known as Vermont, New Hampshire, Northern Massachusetts, Southern Maine, and Quebec.

Link to the article and audio at Vermont Public Radio.

Community, Friendships Celebrated at Micmac Spring Bear Feast

In the mid-afternoon hours on Saturday, three days before the official start of spring, 21 friends both old and new sat in a circle inside the council chambers of the Aroostook Band of Micmacs Cultural Community Education Center in Presque Isle.

Tribal Elder Norman Bernard passed a tobacco pipe around to those who did not have their own and began a ceremony of storytelling and sharing of knowledge that has been part of the Micmac Spring Bear Feast for many generations.

“As the pipe goes around, if someone has a story to share with the bear, I encourage you to,” Bernard said, as he began the sharing circle part of the ceremony. “Every story has a lesson and we all have something to teach each other.”

Every spring, the Micmacs hold a daylong Spring Bear Feast to honor the coming of spring and the bear that has come out of hibernation. In their culture, the bear represents a reawakening of life after the often long, cold winter as well as strength and endurance gained from elders who have since passed on and become ancestors. They hold a similar ceremony in the fall to honor the bear going into hibernation.

“For us, it’s a way of celebrating the bear, which is very sacred,” said Bernard Jerome, former Micmac cultural director. Jerome traveled from the Native community of Gesqapegiag in Quebec to attend the Spring Bear Feast.

Read the full article by Melissa Lizotte at The County.

Abbe Museum to Exhibit Wabanaki Root Clubs

abbe museum root clubs emergence

A new exhibit will open in the Abbe Museum’s main gallery on Friday, April 6. An opening reception is set for 5-7 p.m.

“Unlike the ball club, which is very well known and very well published, the Penobscot root club has been almost completely ignored in the history books,” said exhibit curator Stan Neptune, Penobscot.“Emergence — Root Clubs of the Penobscot Nation” celebrates a uniquely Wabanaki art form, a centuries-old craft that has frequently been dismissed by museums and academics as not “traditionally” Wabanaki.

“In the late 19th century when anthropologists started collecting Native American objects, they perceived root clubs as just tourist items. They had no idea of the history. The ‘Emergence’ exhibit will tell that full history.”

The exhibit highlights the diversity of past and contemporary themes found in root club carving. Each club is made out of a sapling, with the slender trunk becoming a chip-carved handle, and the complex wood of the root ball’s burl transformed into evocative representations of people and creatures. Some are painted; some have ornaments attached.

Read the full coverage in the Mount Desert Islander.