Category Archives: Abenaki

“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

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Abenaki Fulbright Scholar Returns to Homeland for Dissertation Research

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Inline imageJoin us in congratulating Vermont Abenaki Artists Association educator and artist, Lina Longtoe Schulmeisters on the successful completion of her J. William Fulbright grant! Last year, Lina was selected to join the 2018-2019 US-UK Fulbright Commission Postgraduate Cohort and used the grant to fund her studies at the University of Reading where she is currently an MSc Environment and Development candidate. Lina notes that her academic interests and goals exist, “at the intersection of sustainability, food security and sovereignty, and social justice. I want to ensure that marginalized communities, particularly indigenous ones, are not excluded from decision making in the future.”

Lina Longtoe Schulmeisters graduated from Eckerd College with a BA in Environmental Studies and a concentration in sustainability. She was a 2017 The Udall Foundation Tribal Policy Scholar. Her other accomplishments include being elected onto the University of Reading’s School of Agriculture, Policy and Development’s Student-Staff Committee, as well as Reading University Student Union as the Environment and Development Postgraduate Representative. Notably, she was also awarded one of the Graduate Institute of International Development, Agriculture and Economics ( GIIDAE ) International Scholarships by her University, of which there is only one awardee per continent. She remains proud to serve her Abenaki community by acting as the newly appointed Program Coordinator for the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and as the Elnu Abenaki Tribe’s official documentarian.

She has recently returned to N’dakinna (our homeland) to complete her dissertation on Abenaki food sovereignty. According to Lina, she wishes not only to fill gaps in the literature about contemporary Abenaki lifestyles but also hopes to remedy some of the damaging ways research has been conducted in Indian Country. As for near future plans, Lina is excited to return to her role as one of the guest lecturers for this year’s Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom where she will be speaking about ethnoscience and our traditional agricultural. Teachers and educators interested in signing up for the professional development, Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom, may do so through the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum at http://tinyurl.com/AbenakiEdu

Available for certification or credit from Castleton University.

Photo courtesy of Lina Longtoe Schulmeisters via Askawobi Productions.

About Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA)
The VAAA 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 Abenaki artists. For more information about VAAA, please visit http://abenakiart.org or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

About the Elnu Abenaki Tribe
In 2011, Governor Peter Shumlin granted state recognition to the Elnu Abenaki Tribe based in Southern Vermont. Elnu citizens work to continue our cultural heritage through historical research, lectures and school programs, oral story-telling, singing, dancing and traditional craft making. Our main focus is insuring that our traditions carry on to our children. We are traditionalists trying to maintain our culture in a modern society. For more information about visit http://elnuabenakitribe.org.

Contact
Vera Longtoe Sheehan
Director, Vermont Abenaki Artists Association
vera.sheehan@abenakiart.org
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VAAA Report to the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs 1-7-2019

Kwai (hello/greetings) everyone,

As we have just retired 2018 and look forward to 2019, I would like to let you know what a successful year 2018 was. VAAA partnered with Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Flynn Performing Arts Center, and local libraries to present many programs.

School children from throughout Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut went to see our traveling exhibit Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage and they used the curriculum materials that we developed in their classrooms. Additionally, we had 28 teachers attend our second annual professional development seminar Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom.

Education is a crucial part of VAAA’s mission to reach the public. This year’s annual Abenaki Heritage Weekend, on June 22-23rd will focus on reaching young people and their families through activities. Additionally, we are excited to officially announce our third annual Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom teacher training will take place from August 8-10. Both of these events will take place at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

If you are unfamiliar with Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom, it is a three-day course that teacher can take to fulfill their professional development needs. After successful completion, teachers can either choose a certificate of completion or academic credit at Castleton College.

We also developed an Abenaki case study for the State University of New York. The case study will be used in a second course at SUNY this Spring semester.

2019, will be another exciting year! Our education team is busy developing new K12 curriculum materials and resources for K12 classrooms and beyond. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge VAAA’s education team whom I work closely with Melody Walker, Lina Longtoe, Francine Poitras Jones, and other culture bearers who have dedicated themselves to teaching our culture. Our level of success in the community is made possible through their dedication.

In 2019, we look forward to new partnerships. Institutions and school who are interested in working with Vermont Abenaki Artists Association can visit our website abenakiart.org for more information contact us at abenaki@abenakiart.org, and their emails will be forwarded to the correct artist or department.

Kci wliwni (great thanks) for your support and confidence as we move onto the new year.

Waolowzi (be well),

Vera Longtoe Sheehan

 

Abenaki clothing wears a rich history

By Melanie Plenda, Union Leader, September 22. 2017 5:47PM

Vera_ Tolba Jacket_lowres
Vera Longtoe Sheehan, co-curator of the exhibit Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage, with her painted tolba (turtle) jacket. (Courtesy of Diane Stevens Photography)

WARNER – 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.

The new exhibit at the museum, “Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage”, 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 Eloise Beil of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. 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.

Among other things, the exhibit aims to answer the questions of what it means to be an Abenaki person in the modern world. The exhibit, which is composed of artifact clothing as well as clothing representative of an early time made by contemporary local artists,is the product of a decade-long collaboration among Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and Vermont’s Abenaki artists, community members and tribal leaders.

Like all native tribes, Chabot said, the challenges of understanding their tradition and culture and then making that work in the modern world are huge.

“For Abenaki in particular,” she said, “because there was a time in the early part of the 20th century that being identified as Abenaki Indian was dangerous. Speaking your language was dangerous. So families made conscientious efforts to hide that identity.”

A 17th-century style buckskin dress by Melody Walker Brook, part of the new exhibit of Abenaki clothing traditions at the Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum. (Courtesy of Diane Stevens Photography)

What she’s talking about is the time period from 1931 to 1963, when the Abenaki among others were targets of a government-sanctioned sterilization program in New Hampshire and Vermont. Some Abenaki fled. The ones that stayed, hid in plain sight, requiringd them to abandon openly practicing traditions that could identify them as Abenaki. To this day, many tribal elders refuse to admit publically they are Abenaki. As a result, some people believe the Abenaki no longer exist and it is one of the reason the Abenaki – while recognized in Maine and Vermont – are not recognized federally or in New Hampshire. According to government documents the Abenaki can’t prove they’ve consistently existed as a tribe.

“Now we’re in a generation, two generations after that,” Chabot said. “And a lot of people know they have an Indian heritage that are from New Hampshire and Vermont and are in that very challenging place where they want to learn more and are starting to understand some things that their parents or grandparents would do that they wouldn’t have explained years ago.

“So people go about that in many different ways. This is sort of reclaiming their culture. This particular exhibit does that through clothing. . Finding ways to find those cultural threads is very important.”

“In addition to relaying the message that we are still here, the exhibit should show people that we know our history and still practice our culture,” said Longtoe Sheeham. “However, artists don’t need to choose between being a traditional or contemporary artist. Many of us practice both. For instance, I made the Tolba (turtle) Jean Jacket that was designed with traditional designs but I also made the twined woven dress that connects my family tradition to thousands of years of our history.”
– – – – –
The Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum, Education and Cultural Center, 18 Highlawn Road, is open daily May 1 – Oct. 31, Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday noon – 5 p.m. In November, the museum is open on weekends from noon to 5 p.m.

The exhibit will be on view in Warner until Oct. 29 and then it will be moving to The Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, Conn.

For more information, visit the museum’s Facebook page, visit www.indianmuseum.org, call 456-2600 or emailinfo@indianmuseum.org.

Read the full story on the Union Leader website

Sessions for Teacher Training

Presenting Abenaki History in the Classroom Promo

When: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 from 9:30am-4pm

Where: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, 4472 Basin Harbor Road, Vergennes, VT

Cost: $15 registration fee includes lunch and program materials.

Register: Eventbrite

Session Descriptions

Walk Through Western Abenaki History with Melody Walker Brook 

From creation to the present day, Brook will touch upon key events in Abenaki history to highlight their unique story in the Northeast.

Introduction to VAAA Educational Resources with Vera and Lina 

Explore VAAA educational tools, study guides, activity sheets and possible classroom visits by Abenaki culture bearers. Followed by a sample screening of some of our documentary short that teachers can show their students in their classrooms.

Using the Land, River, Forest, and Animals to Survive with Roger Longtoe Sheehan 

When talking about hunting, spirituality, and land use, it’s important to understand how they are all connected. Sheehan will guide us through seasonal lifeways from hunting moose, ice fishing, harvesting materials for survival. There will also be a display of equipment and other items from his private collection.

Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage Exhibition Tour with Vera Longtoe Sheehan 

Teachers will have the opportunity to further their knowledge of the intertwining historical and cultural concepts that they have been learning throughout the day, and to become more familiar with some of the materials available to the Abenaki people. The tour will explore how culture bearers express their identity through wearing regalia that shows their connections to the world, their community and their ancestors.

Coming Home: the Significance of Local Knowledge and Stewardship by Lina Longtoe 

Across Native American communities, what is the principle of the Next Seven Generations and how have Abenaki families communicated it to their children? Learn how to connect students to local plant life, then utilize them to create children’s toys and activities.

 Gardening and Foodways with Liz Charlebois

Liz’s discussion will focus on Northeast indigenous food varieties. She will talk about food sovereignty, growing practices and Three Sisters gardening. She will also discuss her seed keeping efforts.

2017 Abenaki Heritage Weekend Schedule

 

Abenaki Heritage Weekend at the  Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Saturday, June 24 – 10:00am to 5pm

Ongoing Activities

  • Living History Encampment (Pine Grove)
  • Arts Marketplace (Boat Shed)
  • Children’s Make and Take (Boat Shed)
  • Cooking Demonstration (on the Green)
  • Learn about traditional gardening (on the Green)
  • Plant Sale (on the Green)

10:30 – Greeting Song and Opening remarks (Pine Grove)

11:00 – Enjoy ongoing activities

11:30 – Children’s Gourd Rattle making workshop. Space is limited to first come first served (on the Green near cooking demonstration)

12:00 – My Grandfather Was Right: a $50,000 Lesson in Ethnoscience,

Lina Longtoe, (Auditorium in Gateway)

1:00 – Storytelling drum music and dancing, Chief Don Stevens and the Nulhegan Abenaki Drum Group (on the Green)

2:00 – The Light Behind Our Eyes – A Perspective On Abenaki Identity,
Melody Walker-Brook (Auditorium in Gateway)

3:00 – Bryan Blanchette, Contemporary Native American Music (on the Green)

4:00 – Gallery Talk about the special exhibit Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage (Stone Schoolhouse)

Sunday, June 25 – 10:00am to 5:00pm

Ongoing Activities until 3:00pm

  • Living History Encampment (Pine Grove)
  • Arts Marketplace (Boat Shed)
  • Children’s Make and Take (Boat Shed)

10:30 – Greeting Song and Opening remarks (Pine Grove)

11:00 – Storytelling drum music and dancing, Chief Don Stevens and the Nulhegan Abenaki Drum Group (on the Green)

11:30 – Enjoy ongoing activities

1:00 – Storytelling drum music and dancing, Chief Don Stevens and the Nulhegan Abenaki Drum Group (on the Green)

2:00 – Decolonizing Native American Art Marketplace, Vera Longtoe Sheehan (Auditorium in Gateway)

3:00 – Enjoy ongoing activities

4:00 – Walking With Our Sisters (Film) (Auditorium in Gateway

 Art Demonstrations in the Native American Arts Marketplace (In the Boat Shed)

Ash Basketry with Kerry Royce Wood

Porcupine Quillwork with Jim Taylor

Twined Bag Making with Vera Longtoe Sheehan

Wampum weaving with Linda Longtoe Sheehan