Category Archives: Exhibition

Sen. Bernie Sanders Exhibits Abenaki Art in Office

For more information Contact: Vera Longtoe Sheehan, vera.sheehan@abenakiart.org

Image Courtesy of Diane Stevens Photography.

July 26, 2019 – Burlington, VT. – Abenaki art will be on display for the public in Sen. Bernie Sanders Washington DC office from now until November 2019.

Last January, Julia Santos from Senator Sanders office reached out to the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, and the senator’s representative requested that VAAA loan Abenaki artwork to be displayed in the senator’s office as part of an on-going exhibit dedicated to Vermont artists. When asked whether the senator was interested in displaying traditional or contemporary art, Santos suggested that the art represent the beauty of Abenaki culture.

“As the discussion continued, it became clear that the Abenaki people should exhibit a small collection of both traditional and contemporary artists so the art could tell the story of Abenaki continuity of culture in our homeland,” explained Vera Longtoe Sheehan who is the Director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association. “It was also important for the Abenaki language to be incorporated into the exhibit title yet for the exhibit name to be understood by a broader audience.”

As visitors enter Sen. Sanders office they are greeted by the exhibit “Askwa n’daoldibna iodaliWe are Still Here” which features artwork by well-known artists from three out four of Vermont’s recognized tribes. Some of the highlights include: Amy Hook-Therrien’s, of the Koasek Abenaki Tribe, watercolor painting “An Aerial View of N’Dakinna” depicting the tribal homeland without borders; Jeanne Morningstar of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe’s wood-burned gourd, which tells the story of Gluskape shooting an arrow into the Ash tree and bringing humans into existence; a beaded Chief’s medallion by Lori Lambert, of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe bearing her tribal flag; Vera Longtoe Sheehan, of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe, honoring all Abenaki veterans past and present with a woven bag in the colors of the “Red and Blue Men;” and the photograph Nature’s Palette by Diane Stevens’s of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe. This image won the Best in Color award in the Arts Alive Open Photography Contest.

Sheehan goes on to explain how Abenaki designs carry special meanings, especially when woven into wampum belts that are used in ceremonies. Linda Longtoe Sheehan, also of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe, explains the images on the “Marriage Equality Wampum Belt” which bears the images of “two men together, a man and a woman together, and two women together.”

Last but not least, the acrylic painting 18th Century Abenaki Couple that was created by Francine Poitras Jones. This particular artwork was created by referencing an original 18th century watercolor painting of an Abenaki couple which is in the collection of the Montreal Archives.

“It is important that Abenaki artistry is displayed in the Capitol City of the United States of America. We are part of the original fabric that makes up this country.  We continue our governmental relationships with the US Congress delegations as did our ancestors. In this spirit, we must thank Senator Bernie Sanders for hosting our Western Abenaki display and recognizing the importance of indigenous people who still live and thrive in his home state of Vermont,” said Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe.

If you are unable to travel to Washington DC, VAAA has another exhibit is on display at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, VT.  “Nebizun: Water is Life” draws its inspiration from Wabanaki (Native American) Grandmothers that have been doing Water Walks to pray for the water. Grandmother Dorene Bernard and others are currently traveling over 600 kilometers through the traditional territories of the Wabanaki Confederacy tribes (Abenaki, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, and Malecite). Their journey will take them from Nova Scotia to Nebizun, Maine in “a 53-day ceremony where we’re going to walk with the water, to pray for the water and pray for Mother Earth,” Bernard said.

As fellow citizens of the Wabanaki Confederacy, the Abenaki share their concerns for life bringing waters. “We want to show the Abenaki relationship to water and draw attention to water as a fundamental element that is necessary for all life and acknowledge how pollution can change our traditional lifeways and health,” said Vera Longtoe Sheehan who curated both exhibits.

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:

Vera Longtoe Sheehan, Director Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (802) 579-0049

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Upcoming Events

April 19 th, 2018, 7:00 pm – Wearing Our Heritage – 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. 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. Charlotte Library, Shelburne, VT. Admission is free.

May 7, 2018 – Abenaki Woman’s Panel Discussion- Native American women are perhaps the most marginalized group of people in Vermont. Discussion by a panel of Native women will address their struggles coming to terms with the dichotomy between the respected position of Abenaki women in our past and how society has lost respect for women; their roles as culture bearers, leaders and mothers; and how cultural traditions suggest possibilities for change in the future.  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. Fletcher Free, Burlington, VT. Admission is free.

June 23 & 24 – Abenaki Heritage Weekend  – This special weekend organized by Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and presented at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum gives visitors an Abenaki perspective on life in the Champlain Valley. Dancing, drumming, storytelling, craft and cooking demonstrations are presented by members of Vermont’s Abenaki Tribes. The Native Arts Marketplace and exhibit opening celebration provide opportunities to meet some of the artists featured in the special exhibition Abenaki Ornamaentation: From Trade Beads to Sead Beads. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum 4472 Basin Harbor Rd. Vergennes, VT 05491 · (802) 475-2022. More information

August 3 & 4 – Teaching Abenaki History and Culture.  Two day and a half professional development seminar for teachers, museum educators, and home schoolers. Certificate provided upon sucessful completion of 20-hour program. More information

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.”
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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

Abenaki cultural artifacts on view at lake museum

 

Abenaki Art at LCMM Alnobak babyCONTEMPORARY ABENAKI ARTISTS share their artwork and family photographs in the special exhibit “Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage,” which is on display at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Ferrisburgh through Aug. 12. Photo courtesy Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will host “Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom,” a summer workshop for educators, this Wednesday, Aug. 2. Members of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association will serve as faculty for this all-day seminar, and for a series of panel discussions for young adults and adults to be offered in the fall and spring at area libraries.

Read the full article on the Addison Independent website.