The Abenaki Storytelling Project, a community-based arts and storytelling project that focuses on Native American strength and resiliency, will host a Memory Booth at the Nulhegan Abenaki Gathering in Benson, VT on Saturday August 20, from 10-5. The Storytelling Project’s Memory Booth, developed by Abenaki community members to help process their COVID-19 experiences, will be gathering input from Native Americans in Vermont. The Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe welcomes the public to attend the Gathering, which features Abenaki vendors, drumming, singing, dancing, and activities such as storytelling and games. The event is held rain or shine.
“Abenaki artists will set up a Memory Booth where families can share their stories and artwork at the Nulhegan Abenaki Gathering,” says Vera Sheehan, VAAA Executive Director. “Working over the past several months with Abenaki community members, we developed the Abenaki Storytelling Project to explore this recent period of our collective history in a way that hasn’t been done before.” Memory Booth participants will receive an Abenaki Artists Association t- shirt. They can also mark the occasion with a photo taken on site. Sheehan went on to explain, “For this project, VAAA’s team of trained artist facilitators are collecting stories and process drawings using Abenaki methodology and worldviews. Interpretation of the artwork and stories will inform an upcoming online digital exhibition and a traveling museum exhibition. It’s important for Native American people to see themselves and their communities reflected in exhibitions.”
VAAA began collecting Native American stories and artwork in June at the Abenaki Heritage Weekend in Vergennes, VT. The project continues at the Nulhegan Abenaki Gathering when community members can stop by the Storytelling Project’s Memory Booth to learn more about the project or to share stories and artwork.
Memory Booth participants will receive an Abenaki Artists Association t-shirt. They can bring and share a digital photograph of themselves wearing protective masks or mark the occasion with a photo taken on site. Additional opportunities to participate in the project through focus groups and extended one-on-one storytelling sessions will be posted on the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association’s website and on Facebook.
Visual artists interested in submitting work to be considered for the online and traveling exhibition can contact Abenaki@abenakiart.org for more information. Additional opportunities to participate in the project through focus groups and extended one-on-one storytelling sessions will be posted on the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association’s website and on Facebook. The Vermont Abenaki Artists Association is a Native American arts organization that works to connect Vermont communities to Abenaki educators and artists from the visual, performing, and literary arts. VAAA has special expertise in working with Abenaki artists and incorporating their arts and storytelling into public programs, cultural events, and museum exhibitions.
Sheehan says the VAAA uses insights from Native American arts and storytelling to uplift Indigenous peoples’ voices and perspectives. “Like other populations in Vermont, health disparities and social and historical injustices have taken a very real toll on our lives,” said Sheehan. “This project is a unique way for the Abenaki people to process, interpret, and share their own experience about the pandemic and vaccinations, and health access and other disparities – experiences that we hope will have a strong influence on the state’s efforts to build a culture of health equity.”
Ruth Steinmetz, a Health Department communication officer who focuses on health equity, said her agency has made achieving health equity a top priority. “Key to reducing persistent negative
health outcomes is building trust-based community partnerships,” said Steinmetz. “The Storytelling Project is an important opportunity for us to gain more understanding of the experiences of Indigenous communities in culturally affirming ways. We can then tap into this
information to help us to more effectively support the health and wellbeing of the Abenaki community, and all people in Vermont.”
To learn more about the Storytelling Project, please visit
To learn more about the Nulhegan Gathering, please visit
Find out more about Health Equity in Vermont at