“Abenaki Elders and Artists Struggle in Face of State Reopening”

photo of disposable masks in the shape of x caption shared the same text as title

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

By Lina Longtoe Schulmeisters (@Askawobi), Program Coordinator and juried artist, and
Hawk Longtoe, Intern and juried artist, VAAA

N’DAKINNA (Vermont, USA) – As the country braces and prepares for new waves of Covid-19 cases amidst state reopenings, the Abenaki population remains vulnerable since the early days of the pandemic.

N’dakinna (Abenaki for our homeland),  is beginning to reopen, with Vermont going as far as to allow “travel outside of Vermont to counties across New England and New York that have a similar active COVID-19 caseload to Vermont and return without quarantining if they do so in a personal vehicle”, according to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. But many Abenaki citizens are extremely vulnerable in these times.

Based on recent research by the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA), the Abenaki population is in desperate need of protective gear (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and other materials as Vermont and neighboring states continue their re-opening plans. Disinfectant and cleaning supplies are also highly needed, in order to keep Abenaki families and businesses safe, while personal care/hygiene products have also been requested alongside arts supplies for children and youth performers. “I worry and pray that everyone is checking on the Elders,” remarked one VAAA artist, “I don’t know if our Elders are getting the help that they need. I check in on the Elders at least once a week and ask if they need anything and hope they aren’t too proud to say yes or accept that help.”

For this reason, VAAA’s team is working behind the scenes to gather donations to help fund our Covid-19 relief and response efforts, including sending care packages to Elders and artists who need PPE items such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, or assistance with acquiring basic necessities such as food and medicine. Due to the fact that VAAA is a grassroots organization, our long-time partner Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will be our acting fiscal sponsor. Visit VAAA’s donation page to see how you can help visit www.abenakiart.org/donations.

VAAA was recently awarded a special project grant from the Vermont Arts Council and New England Foundation for the Arts which will provide direct relief and assistance to 17 Abenaki artists. Vermont Humanities Council awarded VAAA a Cultural Relief grant that will partially support virtual programming such as the Abenaki Heritage Weekend later this summer. Contributions like these serve as direct action to assist the Abenaki community in a meaningful way identified by the Abenaki community.

VAAA represents almost 300 individuals who proudly contribute to not only the four Recognized tribes of Vermont (the Elnu, Nulhegan, Koasek, and Missisquoi Abenaki Tribes) but also contribute to the larger Vermont and American societies. We are essential workers, health care workers, EMTs, tradesmen, business owners, teachers, educators, professors, veterans, EMS students, volunteers, adult and youth leadership, Elders, and much, much more. Just like you and your families. The groundbreaking research discussed here is currently being undertaken by key individuals within the VAAA team. Any publications or presentations based on this data will be made by these same Abenaki culture bearers.

References:

  • Agency of Commerce and Community Development, 2020. Cross State Travel Information | Agency Of Commerce And Community Development. [online] Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Available at: <https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/restart/cross-state-travel> [Accessed 14 June 2020].

About the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA)

Our mission is to promote Vermont’s Indigenous arts and artists, to provide an organized central place to share creative ideas and professional development as entrepreneurs, and to have a method for the public to find and engage our artists. For more information about VAAA, please visit http://abenakiart.org or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

For more information, contact:

Lina Longtoe Schulmeisters, Program Coordinator, Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, abenaki@abenakiart.org

###

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.