The special exhibition Parley & Protocol: Abenaki Diplomacy, Past & Present was developed for the Fort Necessity National Battlefield, U. S. National Park Servicesite by the Elnu Abenaki Tribe in partnership with the Vermont Abenaki Artists Associationand Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.
“Since Abenaki warriors fought at Fort Necessity during the French and Indian War it was important for us to find a way to connect our past and present,” explains exhibit curator Vera Longtoe Sheehan, Director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association. “The theme of Parley and Protocol was inspired by historic political interactions between the Abenaki and their neighbors, the etiquette and procedures that were involved in treaty making.”
Recreations of 18th century objects that would be carries by an Abenaki Warrior: Powder Horn with wampum strap, soapstone pipe, quilled split belly shot bag and gourd canteen,
Sôgemô (Chief) Roger Longtoe Sheehan of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe explains how those diplomatic procedures are still in use today. “Upon gaining state recognition in Vermont, our chiefs presented the state with a wampum belt and wampum strands representing each tribe, together with a pipe and traditional ceremonial tobacco. Each wampum strand had seven purple quahog beads mixed with white beads in a different pattern.” Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation goes on to explain, “There were two belts produced. One was presented to the State of Vermont along with our wampum strings, and a duplicate belt for the Abenaki people. Ours has wampum disks and white shell strands that are connected together at the bottom to signify our alliance. As groups are added or break from the alliance, their white string is supposed to be freed from the others. The belts embody the "recognition" between the State of Vermont and the Abenaki tribes that both our governments exist; the secondary meaning is that each tribe recognizes the others.”
“Receiving recognition was significant to us because it validated our existence and it allows Abenaki artists to legally label and sell their art as Native American made, in compliance with the Indian Arts and Crafts Law of 1990. As soon as all four tribes in the Alliance received recognition we formed the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association to promote our artists,” explains Vera Longtoe Sheehan. “Parley & Protocol is an important exhibit because it shows that we know our history, we follow our customs, and we are still here. Our entire exhibit team is Abenaki. We created, selected, and are interpreting the objects in Parley & Protocol. We have a voice and we are able to give a decolonized presentation of our culture.”
Wabanaki wampum belts, created by Johnson State College students under the direction of Abenaki Wampum Keeper, Frederick M. Wiseman PhD.
Although the exhibit presents work by living Abenaki artists the pieces are inspired by historic research and connections to their ancestors. Parley & Protocol will include 18th century Abenaki style clothing made from trade cloth, and a collection of items that were and still are used in ceremonial and diplomatic occasions in the past and in the present. Some of the items include a calumet pipe, quilled split belly bag and wampum belts, each encoded with a message, as well as photographs and interpretive panels to help people understand how wampum is used in treaties and politics. Sôgemô Longtoe adds, “It is important to note that these objects are replicas of ceremonial items. They have never been brought to life and used in ceremony.”
The Elnu Abenaki Tribe and the Vermont Abenaki Artist Association are grateful to Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for giving us this opportunity to show Parley & Protocol in our home state before it moves to Fort Necessity National Battlefield from June 2016 to March 2017.
June 23 through October 15 2015 Lake Champlain MAritime Museum, Vergennes, VT.
June 26 through March 15, 2016 Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Visitor Center, Farmington, PA
Vera Longtoe Sheehan is an Abenaki teaching artist, activist and Director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association.
Vera Longtoe Sheehan, Director VAAA and Exhibit Curator (802) 579-0049
Roger Longtoe Sheehan, Elnu Abenaki Tribe (802) 874-4737
Eloise Beil, Collections Manager and Manager of Public Relation, LCMM (802) 475-2022
Brian S. Reedy, Chief of Interpretation & Visitor Services, Fort Necessity National Battlefield & Friendship Hill NHS (724)329-5470
Elnu Abenaki Tribe
Elnu is an Abenaki Tribe based in Southern Vermont. We work to continue our cultural heritage though 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 limit ourselves in inter-tribal politics; however we will not be forgotten. We are traditionalists trying to maintain our culture in a modern society. Learning from the past creates a better future for all. For more information about visit
Fort Necessity National Battlefield
Fort Necessity National Battlefield protects the site of the opening battle of the French & Indian War (1754-1763). On July 3, 1754, a young George Washington commanding British provincial and regular troops was defeat by the French and their Native allies. It was Washington's first defeat and only military surrender. The event set off a global war which ended with British victory and set the stage for the American Revolution.
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Founded in 1985, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) has always respected the Native people as experts in their own history with an important perspective on the management of the region’s cultural resources. In anticipation of the Champlain Quadricentennial, LCMM partnered with the Abenaki community to honor Lake Champlain’s First Navigators. Since 2007, members of the Abenaki community have gathered annually at LCMM for an intertribal event, and have worked with LCMM staff to create and enhance the Museum’s interpretation of Indigenous history and culture.
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 us on Facebook or Twitter.
Watie J Akins
Francine Poitras Jones
Jeanne Morningstar Kent
Linda Longtoe Sheehan
Vera Longtoe Sheehan
Roger Longtoe Sheehan
Amy Hook Therrien
Melody Walker Brook
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