Call to Artists

Image of the word ART with colored background and artist's tools.

Abenaki COVID-19 Storytelling Project

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt all over N’dakinna (our homeland) for over three years. Now we have an opportunity for Native American visual and performing artists to create and share artwork that expresses their response to the pandemic experience. 

We are looking for Abenaki or Native American artists, musicians, and community members who can help to express the impact of this pandemic on ourselves, our families and community, through visual or performing arts, or simply sharing stories of personal experience and perceptions about the the COVID-19 global pandemic, vaccines, disparities, and access.  

We are defining artwork in its broadest form. All artistic mediums are welcome. Paintings, collage, mixed media, carving, sculpture, fiber, weaving, pottery, poetry, photography, music, storytelling, dance, video… 

The stories and artwork will be shared in an online exhibit about our experiences and will be considered for possible inclusion in a museum exhibit and educational materials. 

Eligible Native American artists will submit artwork by December 31, 2022, with an artist statement that explains the artwork, and a brief intake form. 

For more information, email abenaki@abenakiart.org

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Image of Storytelling Blog button and link to Storytelling Blog page.
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Sponsored by the Vermont Department of Health.

Resources for Artists

THE FOLLOWING LINKS WILL REDIRECT YOU TO OTHER WEBSITES

Image of beaded bag by Melody Makin.
Beaded bag by Melody Mackin

ORGANIZATIONS

HOW TO” Help Aids

Image of eagle wampum belt made by Linda Longtoe Sheehan.
Eagle Wampum Belt made by Linda Longtoe Sheehan

Abenaki COVID-19 Storytelling Blog

Check back periodically for updates. Posts are listed chronologically with the most recent at the top of the page.

Links to other Storytelling Project Pages:

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Image of button for About the Abenaki Storytelling Project and link..
Image of memory booth logo and link to Memory Booth Events page..
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October 13, 2022

Image of the word ART with colored background and artists tools.
Call to Artists!

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt all over N’dakinna (our homeland) for over three years. Now we have an opportunity for Native American visual and performing artists to create and share artwork that expresses their response to the pandemic experience. 

We are looking for Abenaki or Native American artists, musicians, and community members who can help to express the impact of this pandemic on ourselves, our families and community, through visual or performing arts, or simply sharing stories of personal experience and perceptions about the the COVID-19 global pandemic, vaccines, disparities, and access. 

Sponsored by the Vermont Department of Health.

September 28, 2022

As we get closer to our project goals of understanding the Abenaki experiences with COVID-19, vaccines, disparities and access in Vermont and the surrounding environs, we can’t help but think about all of the work ahead of us. The stories and artwork we are collecting will be shared publicly through an online exhibit and a traveling museum exhibit in 2023.

With that in mind, we are continuing to collect stories and artwork at Abenaki Storytelling Projects Memory Booth events. More will be announced soon!

September 15, 2022

September was an interesting month for us. With the beginning of the Fall semester, we bid farewll to our summer intern from Middlebury College. Over the summer, Faith provided invaluable support for this project as our Creative Digital Media Intern. I will definitely miss our weekly meetings. The good news is she will stay on with VAAA as a volunteer through the school year.

Picture of people sitting at tables making art. Blond haired woman standing in the background and trees.

Faith interacting with Abenaki Storytelling Project Memory Booth visitors. Nulhegan Gathering in Benson, VT.

September 2, 2022

We will be hosting the Memory Booth at the 3rd Annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day Rocks! in Stowe, VT on October 8, 2022 from 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM. If you haven’t already shared your experiences with us, this is a great opportunity to do so. The event will take place at the Stowe Events Field.

The Memory Booth is a place where Abenaki people can create artwork and tell their stories to promote health and wellness. This year, we are processing our thoughts and feelings about the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines, disparities, and access.

Individuals who participate in the Memory Booth may select their choice of either an I support the Abenaki t-shirt or insulated drink cup. There are monetary incentives available for one-on-one storytelling or focus group storytelling sessions.

August 18, 2022

Today, someone asked me about how the Abenaki Storytelling Project was going and what stage we were in. I described it as being a brand new pile of Legos being poured out of the box. There are so many aspects to this project and individual experiences with COVID-19 and vaccines. We are actively collecting stories and artwork. There are a lot of layers and textures for us to organize as time goes on, but it will be worth it in the end when we create the final exhibit that shares the Abenaki experience through storytelling and art.

Join us on Saturday, in Benson, VT at the Nulhegan Abenaki Gathering. Tell Your Story!

July 11, 2022

Are their incentives for participating in the Abenaki COVID-19 Storytelling Project Memory Booth?

Recently, we were asked if there are any incentives for participating in Abenaki COVID-19 Storytelling Project Memory Booth. Individuals who participate in the Memory Booth may select their choice of either an I support the Abenaki t-shirt or insulated drink cup. There are monetary incentives available for one-on-one storytelling or focus group storytelling sessions.

– incentive for participation in the Abenaki Storytelling Project

T-shirt – incentive for participation in the Abenaki Storytelling Project

June 20, 2022

A crowd gathered around the memory booth at the Abenaki Heritage Weekend.

VAAA’s Executive Director Vera Longtoe Sheehan did a presentation about the Abenaki COVID-19 Storytelling Project at the annual at the Abenaki Heritage Weekend, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, VT. After the presentation people flocked over to the Memory Booth seeking more information. We collected stories and artwork from more than 18 Native American people!

June 13, 2022

Logo for the Abenaki Storytelling Project’s Memory Booth

The VAAA Storytelling Project will be hosting a Memory Booth at various community events around N’Dakinna (our homeland). The Memory Booth is a place where Abenaki people can create artwork and tell their stories to promote health and wellness. This year, we are processing our thoughts and feelings about the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines, disparities, and access.

VAAA will have a Memory Booth set up at our annual Abenaki Heritage Weekend on June 18-19, 2022. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

Look for a Memory Booth near you.

June 5, 2022

Like everyone else in the world, the Abenaki community has been greatly affected by the global pandemic and the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association is no exception. VAAA’s Abenaki Storytelling project will “allow us to explore this period of our history in a way that hasn’t been done before. Abenakis will tell and interpret their own experience about the pandemic and vaccination intake,” says VAAA Executive Director Vera Longtoe Sheehan.

May 15, 2022

What is the Abenaki Storytelling Project?

The Abenaki Storytelling Project is a community-based arts and storytelling project that focuses on Native American strength and resiliency. The project is led by Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA), a Native American arts organization that serves the public by connecting them 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. VAAA uses insights from Native American arts and storytelling to uplift Abenaki voices and perspectives in the interpretation of museum exhibitions, education resources, and in health equity.

AMY HOOK THERRIEN – Acclaimed ABENAKI WATERCOLOR ARTIST – PART 2

Sylvan Linck ‘24.5 – Middlebury College

FYSE 1570: Native Presence and Performance – 13 May 2021

Due to the length of this narrative, it will be introduced in two parts over a period of two weeks. This is part two.

Therrien also illustrated the book My Bring Up, which was a memoir written by her mother Shirly Hook and published in 2019. Therrien worked closely with her mother in order to create from memory the most accurate portrayals of different aspects of Hook’s life, beginning in her early life growing up in Chelsea, Vermont. The book covers some of the ways in which Hook’s Abenaki heritage influenced her family’s life, writing about “the traditions that helped her family put food on the table, the legacy of the eugenics program in Vermont, and the ties of love and respect that bind neighbor to neighbor.” 

Image of book cover for My Bring Up by Shirly Hook.
Book available for purchase on Amazon

Therrien “read her book over and over again” and tried her best to “come up with the right image to accompany each story.” Sometimes she chose to illustrate bigger, more important seeming things, but occasionally chose to illustrate an object from the story that might seem small and insignificant at first. She made this choice to display how some seemingly meaningless things could actually be very important and influential in shaping her mother’s life. She believes that illustrating My Bring Up “was another way to have a conversation with her about our family history.” When creating the illustrations, her process was to sketch images and then report back to her mother for feedback. When they would back together to discuss the illustrations “more stories and information came up,” and the artwork and knowledge behind it would expand. She found this a very insightful project. 

Image of Thorned Blue Bird by Amy Hook-Therrien.
Thorned Blue Bird

Therrien has been involved with the Vermont Abenaki Artist Association (VAAA) for many years. She has been a VAAA Juried Artist since 2014 and is now serving as a council member of the organization. Therrien was honored to receive the title of VAAA Artist of the Year in 2019, and in our interview stated that “as a contemporary artist, it’s nice that there is a place for me among such talented traditional artists.” She believes that being involved with the VAAA has “helped her find her place in the Abenaki community,” through her ability to connect with people through her art. In the words of Linda Tuhiwai Smith in her book Decolonizing Methodologies, “connecting is related to issues of identity and place, to spiritual relationships and community well-being.” Art is one of many ways for individuals to find their place in a community.

Sources Cited

Therrien believes that the goal of the VAAA is to “educate through art,” and that through the traditional and contemporary art created by the members [the VAAA] can educate communities about the Abenaki People.” She believes that communities are often greatly influenced and shaped by art, and that “art shows the identity of people and cultures.” Creating and sharing art is also a powerful way to celebrate Native strength and resilience throughout history, as well as “foster inventions and discoveries, facilitate simple improvements to people’s lives and uplift [peoples] spirits.” The art that Amy Hook Therrien and other Abenaki and Native artists create in ways that connect communities, educate people about Native culture, and through pieces such as An Aerial View of N’dakinna, inspire viewers to explore different perspectives. 

“About.” Therrien, March 29, 2021. https://amyhooktherrien.com/about/. 

Hook-Therrien, Amy. “Illustrating My Bring Up.” Therrien, January 6, 2020. https://amyhooktherrien.com/2020/01/06/illustrating-my-bring-up/. 

Tuhiwai Smith, Linda. “Twenty-Five Indigenous Projects.” Essay. In Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, 143–64. Dunedin, N.Z.: Otago University Press, 2012. 

“Amy Hook Therrien.” Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, 2021. https://abenakiart.org/blog9/amy-hook/. 

Sylvan, Linck. Amy Hook Therrien. Other, 2021. 

“Team Members.” Vermont Abenaki Artist Association, 2019. abenakiart.org/home/team_members. 

Woa. “An Interview with Amy Hook-Therrien, VT Abenaki Artist Association Artist of the Year 2019.” Vimeo, May 4, 2021. https://vimeo.com/467453764. 

Amy Hook Therrien – Acclaimed Abenaki Watercolor Artist – Part 1

Image of magazine cover with Amy Hook-Therrien

Sylvan Linck ‘24.5 – Middlebury College

FYSE 1570: Native Presence and Performance – 13 May 2021

Due to the length of this narrative, it will be introduced in two parts over a period of two weeks. This is part one.

Amy Hook Therrien is a local artist who specializes in watercolor painting and is a citizen of the Koasek Traditional Band of the Koas Abenaki Nation. Therrien grew up with her family in Chelsea, Vermont in a house overlooking the valley, and surrounded by nature. She graduated from Randolph Union High School and, with the support and encouragement of her parents, attended the University of Maine in Orono to study art. She considers herself very lucky to have such a supportive relationship with her family. While at the University of Maine in Orono she majored in fine art and specialized in painting and sculpture. Therrien moved back to Vermont after graduation, and is living in Windsor with her husband Alex, along with their bunny and two dogs. When she isn’t creating art, she loves spending time with family, traveling, and getting outside to do activities such as hiking and gardening. She is also a Traditional Abenaki singer, and for a time participated in an Abenaki singing group. 

Therrien often starts her paintings by drawing lines and details with pen and then going over those drawings with watercolor. When first beginning to incorporate watercolor into her work, the fluidity and uncontrollability of the medium made her nervous. However, with time and practice, she “learned to love the uncontrollable chaos” of it. She often purposefully mixes her paint loosely to allow the paint to separate in a way that creates a more exciting and realistic texture. Therrien believes that “painting in nature is always exciting,” and loves painting things that she finds outdoors. She is passionate about exploring that excitement, and enjoys painting natural things such as landscapes, flowers, leaves, waterfalls, stones, and is “obsessed” with painting birch trees, which she really loves. 

Therrien sometimes enjoys going on walks or hikes either by herself or with family to find inspiration for her paintings. When experiencing some trouble thinking of the next project idea, she enjoys painting leaves. Painting leaves is a way to continue creating while possibly helping to inspire a new project idea. When the objects she is painting are small enough, like leaves, she often brings them back to her studio to paint there. While painting outside sounds romantic and lovely, logistically it is quite difficult, and she prefers to work in her studio. When the subject of her painting cannot be brought into her studio, she often takes pictures of it and brings those back to her studio to work with. 

When choosing what to paint in nature she rarely picks the “perfect” leaf, tree, or other subject. She finds great value in painting “imperfect” subjects, such as a cracked up dead leaf or a flower that is missing a petal. Nothing in nature is perfect, and nothing looks exactly the same. Painting things in nature and painting them realistically and “imperfectly” allows for more freedom in her painting style and her paintings. She believes that “you can fall in love with the imperfect.”  One of Therrien’s pieces titled Aerial View of N’dakinna, appears in a Study Guide that the Vermont Abenaki Artist Association created to educate people about the Abenaki and their dress throughout time. The painting of N’dakinna, meaning homeland, is placed next to a geopolitical map of the same area. The painting contains no place names or borders and shows the very “different perspective that the Native people have of the land.” It is a drastic visual shift from the geopolitical map next to it, and it sometimes takes longer for people to recognize the area when portrayed in this way. Therrien herself says that “I know if I hadn’t painted it would take me a little while to place it.”  Her piece challenges European dominated thinking and inspires a new perspective more inclusive of Native people.

Melody (Walker Brook) Mackin: Weaving Core Values Through Time – Part 2

Image of Melody Walker with hand drum.

In spring 2021, Vera Longtoe Sheehan (Elnu Abenaki) met with the students of “Native Presence and Performance: Reclaiming the Indigenous Narrative,” a first-year seminar offered by Middlebury College. After the meeting, Longtoe Sheehan recommended the students interview and write about VAAA affiliated artists. This blog post is one of a series that were created for that project, respectfully submitted by a student who self-identifies as non-Native.

Due to the length of this narrative, it will be introduced in two parts over a period of two weeks. This is part two.

Annabelle Wyman 24.5 – Middlebury College

Native Presence and Performance – 1 June 2021

Melody also uses cultural weaving to move forward from the injustices of the past. When I asked her about the Abenaki history with colonization, she shared the advice of her Chief, Roger Longtoe Sheehan, on rebuilding traditions through the analogy of a broken puzzle. Their community is still trying to piece the puzzle together today, but the painting is different so you can never piece the original one together. However, the ancestors knew that life was going to change, so it is okay for the picture to change, because some traditions no longer fit into the current native culture. Melody thinks that the important thing to ask is “what do ancestors want me to bring forward and what do I want to bring forward?” She believes that through cultural weaving, she can help bring forward the core values of her ancestors. When we discussed the finger weaving tradition and its value, she explained that she does not think art is the most important part of her culture and heritage. The best aspects of Abenaki culture cannot be dug up at an archaeological site and returned to its Native owners. It is more important to understand the way the ancestors walked in the world and how they worked to make it better. With the help of her Chief, she began to ask herself whether it was more important to honor the material culture or the lessons the ancestors left with you and the fact that you survived. This is another one of Tuhiwai Smith’s indigenous projects in action. Survivance is achieved by Native cultures through teaching and storytelling. Celebrating survival is used to help bring forward indigenous values to the future. Melody celebrates the survival of her culture and uses cultural weaving to pass on the weaving tradition and most importantly, the core values of her ancestors. 

As we began to end our conversation, I asked Melody what she is currently working towards, and she told me about land activism. She explained that one of the most important parts of Abenaki identity is land — N’Dakinna — as it is central to who they are. Without a reservation or land that is designated for Abenaki use, fully reconnecting with her heritage can at times be difficult. Nevertheless, the Abenaki have been on this land for 10,000 years and will be here for another 10,000 years. They are the original inhabitants of this land and know how to take care of it. Their community works very hard to protect spiritual sites and to fight developers who are trying to build on them. The goal of land rights activism is less about having land returned to the Abenaki, and more about protecting it from industrial uses and educating people about how to care for land. Land activism is one of Melody’s ways of envisioning a better future for her community, and more importantly the whole country, as the treatment of land is so important for our survival. Her fight is now about being heard by legislators, particularly in Vermont, and convincing people with power to listen to the wisdom of the Native community. But it is not just a fight for Abenaki people; those of us whose settler-colonist ancestors refused to listen also need to help create a space for Native people to be heard. 

Melody (Walker Brook) Mackin is a truly influential and devoted member of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe who uses her work as an educator and activist to protect the land which holds spiritual significance for her people. Above all, she is a cultural weaver who works to bring the core values of her ancestors forward to the next generations and teach others about the value of Abenaki culture. I am incredibly honored to have interviewed her, and I will carry the wisdom she imparted upon me by using my power as a non-native member of the Vermont community to help elevate Native voices like hers. 

Bibliography: 

Brook, Melody Walker. Interview by Annabelle Wyman. March 21, 2021.

Brook, Melody Walker. Weaving a Thread through the 7 Generations, TEDxStowe, 

2018. YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFSRiQ2h6NY&t=60s.

Tuhiwai Smith, Linda. “Twenty-five Indigenous Projects.” Decolonizing Methodologies: 

Research and Indigenous Peoples, Zed Books, 2012, pp. 143-164.

Vermont Abenaki Artist Association. Melody Mackin: Elnu Abenaki Tribe. 

Melody (Walker Brook) Mackin: Weaving Core Values Through Time – Part 1

Image of Melody Walker with hand drum.

In spring 2021, Vera Longtoe Sheehan (Elnu Abenaki) met with the students of “Native Presence and Performance: Reclaiming the Indigenous Narrative,” a first-year seminar offered by Middlebury College. After the meeting, Longtoe Sheehan recommended the students interview and write about VAAA affiliated artists. This blog post is one of a series that were created for that project, respectfully submitted by a student who self-identifies as non-Native.

Due to the length of this narrative, it will be introduced in two parts over a period of two weeks. This is part one.

Annabelle Wyman 24.5 – Middlebury College

Native Presence and Performance – 1 June 2021

Melody Mackin is a wonderful finger weaver, diligent activist, ardent educator, and devoted member of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe. In March of 2021, I had the privilege of speaking with her about this work and what she believes are the important aspects of Abenaki culture and history. Melody was taught to weave by two of her community members, Linda Longtoe Sheehan and Rose Hartwell, both of whom provided her with information on different facets of weaving. She explains that Linda taught her about the value of deliberate, slow, and methodical work while Rose taught her the intricacies of the craft and helped Melody to develop her own style of finger weaving. In the Abenaki community, finger weaving is deeply interwoven with the personality of the artist. The artist who creates the project incorporates their own techniques and methods to the process that bring their own style to the piece. Weaving has not changed much over the thousands of years it has been in existence, and members of the Abenaki community continue the tradition by using the same patterns, techniques, and materials as their ancestors to create a nearly identical product. However, the projects that are completed today are often very different than the ones of the past. Many products that were originally needed are not necessary today. Instead of ceremonial sashes, modern weavers have created pieces such as cell phone cases; beautifully connecting modern needs with traditional practices. 

When Melody first began learning, there were only a limited number of finger weavers left in the community. She used her new skills to teach others in her family and the community, which then helped the number of weavers to multiply. She also took the time to teach non-native people from outside of her community in schools and at gatherings (most notably the Affirming Traditions Conference) in an effort to raise awareness about indigenous art forms. As Melody began to teach weaving to other members of her community, she came to a realization: her students were creating amazing products their first or second time weaving. She explains that her ancestors showed her that she was meant to be a teacher and should use her skills to educate others about the Abenaki community. 

In her book Decolonizing Methodologies, Linda Tuhiwai Smith introduces twenty-five indigenous projects that serve to help Native communities in their attempts to conduct research and renew their tribal identities and culture. She explains that Protecting is a project used to ensure the continuation of oral and cultural tradition. Melody exemplifies this project by using her knowledge and passion for teaching to share her skills with her community and thus protect the art of finger weaving from extinction. As she began to explore her passion for teaching further, Melody worked at Johnson State College where she taught Abenaki history, culture, and spirituality, and Native American history and culture. After Johnson State College, she taught a class called “Making Connections” at Champlain College. This class was about bringing a community together and building cohesive relationships; which is the ideology that shapes Melody’s current work as an educator and mentor in the Abenaki community. Then she went on to Northern Virginia Community College to teach history of western civilization and U.S. history. Melody also gave a wonderful TedTalk entitled, “Weaving a Thread Through the 7 Generations” in which she explains her process of cultural weaving. Cultural weaving is a way to reconnect with the past in order to move through the world in a way that respects your ancestors from the past and in the future. It is done by bringing the core values of the community –– seeing the spirit in all things and understanding one’s role in the community of creation –– into daily life and using them to make decisions in the present for the seven generations. The seven generations that the Abenaki community focuses on are the generations that you can live with, from your great-grandparents to your great-grandchildren. With every decision Melody makes, she works to honor the past, present, and future of her community. Unlike western civilization, the Abenaki community does not focus on the individual, it focuses on everyone, including the ancestors. Melody explained to me that walking in your ancestors’ shoes is a beautiful exercise that helps with this practice. She says that “the whole point of the seven generations is to understand where you’ve been to understand where you need to go.” This is a beautiful practice that could deeply change the culture of the U.S. In fact, Melody contends that if everyone made decisions based upon respect for their ancestors in the past and present, the world would be a much better place.

An Interview With Jim Taylor – Part 3

Image of Jim Taylor.

In spring 2021, Vera Longtoe Sheehan (Elnu Abenaki) met with the students of “Native Presence and Performance: Reclaiming the Indigenous Narrative,” a first-year seminar offered by Middlebury College. After the meeting, Longtoe Sheehan recommended the students interview and write about VAAA affiliated artists. This blog post is one of a series that were created for that project, respectfully submitted by a student who self-identifies as non-Native.

Due to the length of this narrative, it was introduced in three parts over a period of three weeks. This is Part Three.

Jim Taylor

By Tate Sutter ’24.5
Middlebury College

Native Presence and Performance

1 June 2021  

Image of quillwork by Jim Taylor.
Quillwork by Jim Taylor

On Turtle Island, museums’ histories and relations with Indigenous Americans are fraught with lies, disregard, and theft. Native works can often be found in auction houses and museums; many of these pieces were stolen or coerced from Indigenous peoples. Returning these works to Native peoples allows for proper interactions to take place between them. Wampum belts “are living and breathing.” They do not belong sealed away in museum archives. JT, who regularly checks auction house websites for Native art and traditional pieces, saw two Wampum belts listed on Sotheby’s, a New York based auction house. He sent an image of the belts to a friend who sent it to the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Onondaga “discovered that one of the belts… was stolen from them… by Frank Speck,” a twentieth- century anthropologist. The other belt, they identified as Abenaki. JT joined “a delegation of Abenaki and Haudenosaunee people [to New York City] … We petitioned them to basically give us back the belts and the lawyers for Sotheby’s said they couldn’t.” However, Sotheby’s did refuse to auction the belts. The family selling the belts had purchased them from the Museum of the American Indian which later became the National Museum of the American Indian (NMIA) at “an after dark art auction basically in the basement [of the Museum].” When requested to return the belts to the Abenaki and Haudenosaunee, the family refused. After twelve years of Native pressure, the family finally repatriated the belts to the Haudenosaunee. The Haudenosaunee returned the Abenaki belt to the Odanak Abenaki in Canada. The belt is now safe in the Odanak museum. A coordinated group effort proved necessary for the belts to be returned. JT’s discovery of the auction, and his participation in talks with Sotheby’s, contributed to the collective effort in returning these belts to Indigenous peoples. 

As a council member for the Elnu, JT works to improve the lives of his tribe’s members. Colonial governments often ignore Indigenous leadership or interact with it in patronizing manners. Representation of the Elnu by the Elnu rebuffs these actions. The southernmost recognized Abenaki tribe, the Elnu’s traditional territory ranges from present day Gill, Massachusetts, to near Putney, Vermont. Presently, there are around one hundred tribal members. Abenaki tribes practice differing forms of government. The Elnu choose two council members, a man and a woman, and a chief. Councilmembers do not run for election; however, they are selected by the community. JT spends much of his time working with tribe members; he helps them resolve issues. The Elnu are very communal people, and the pandemic has forced them to adapt. Since elders are key community members and great sources of knowledge, protecting elders has been the Elnu’s primary goal during the pandemic.  

The financial impact of Covid has been felt by Abenaki artists. Many Abenaki practice contemporary and traditional artforms. All across the Northeastern Woodlands, shows and gatherings have been canceled. Grants have helped offset some of the economic struggles that Abenaki artists have faced during the pandemic. However, it appears we are moving towards a time that communal events are possible once more. 

Jim Taylor fills many positions in his community. He creates spectacular quillwork, worked in a multinational effort for the repatriation of wampum belts, and serves his community as a councilmember. While much appears vague in this time of Covid-19, one can be assured that JT will continue creating, teaching, and serving his fellow Abenaki.  

Resources

Bruchac, Margaret M. “Broken Chains of Custody: Possessing, Dispossessing, and Repossessing Lost Wampum Belts.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge 162, no. 1 (March 2018): 56–105. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2018280437&site=e ed-live&scope=site. 

Jim Taylor interviewed by Tate Sutter, March 23, 2021. 

Longtoe Schulmeisters, Lee. “A Brief Introduction to Wampum,” Askawobi Productions, November 19, 2011, video, https://youtu.be/oSrWCkvOFa0. 

Longtoe Schulmeisters, Lina and Hawk Longtoe. “Abenaki Elders and Artists Struggle in
Face of State Reopening” abenakiart.org, Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, June 29, 2020, https://abenakiart.org/blog9/2020/06/29/abenaki-elders-and-artists-struggle-in- face-of-state-reopening/. 

Taylor, Jim, “Meet Native America: Jim Taylor, Elnu Abenaki Tribal Councilman and Elder.” By Dennis Zotigh. National Museum of the American Indian, April 29, 2016
Meet Native America: Jim Taylor, Elnu Abenaki Tribal Councilman and Elder, March 29, 2016. https://blog.nmai.si.edu/main/2016/04/meet-native-america-jim-taylor.html. 

Taylor, Jim. “Quillwork by Swift Fox.” Accessed March 31, 2021. http://quillwork_byswiftfox.tripod.com/index.html. 

Toensing, Gale Courey. “Sotheby’s Wampum Belts ‘a Drop in the Bucket’ of Sacred Items for Sale.” Indian Country Today. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/sothebys-wampum-belts-a-drop-in-the-bucket-of- sacred-items-for-sale. 

Tuhiwai Smith, Linda. Decolonizing Methodologies Research and Indigenous Peoples. London and New York: Zed Books, 1999. 

“Wampum.” Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Accessed March 31, 2021. https://www.haudenosauneeconfederacy.com/wampum/. 

“18th Century Living History Album.” Elnu Abenaki Tribe. Accessed March 31, 2021. http://elnuabenakitribe.org/18LivingHistoryPhotos.html.

Artist of the Year

SOLO EXHIBITION

FEATURING AMY HOOK-THERRIEN

Image of Amy Hook-Therrien
Amy Hook-Therrien

Meet our Artist of the Year – Amy Hook-Therrien – a gifted watercolor artist.  Amy was chosen by her peers for this prestigious award in 2019 to be featured for the year 2020. Due to the pandemic, the VAAA was not able to celebrate Amy’s achievement.  Please join us in celebrating Amy’s artwork now and throughout 2022. 

Amy is a native Vermonter, originally from Chelsea, she grew up nestled on top of a hill overlooking the valleys below. She was surrounded by nature and beauty. She graduated from Randolph Union High School with a passion for art. She went on to college at the University of Maine in Orono majoring in fine art with a focus in sculpture and painting. After graduating with a BFA from UMaine she moved back to Vermont and she and her husband bought a house in Windsor. When she is not creating art Amy loves to travel, hike, garden, and spend time with her family.

I love painting with watercolor. When I first started working with the medium it made me nervous not to be able to control it, but in time I learned to love the uncontrollable chaos of it. I use pen to add fine details, giving my paintings more structure. I mix my paint loosely so that it separates slightly giving the painting texture. I love to paint things from nature, waterfalls, trees, plants, stones, it allows me to be freer in my painting style, nothing ever looks exactly the same in nature. You can fall in love with the imperfect, a flower missing a part of its petal, a tree with a broken branch. Painting in nature is always exciting, and exploring it is my passion. 

These pieces have been sold, but they are great examples of Amy’s incredible talent.

The following paintings are all available. Please contact Amy if you would like to purchase her art.

  • The Cardinal and Tufted Titmouse were painted in 2020 and the others were painted in 2021. 
  • The Birds are all 8″x10″, Spring Birch is 8″x16″ and the View from Little Ascutney is 29″x37″.

These paintings are available at Collective – The Art of Craft in Woodstock, VT through September. These are all for sale through the gallery. They are all watercolor w/ pen & ink. Ascutney and Winter Chill are 8″x16″ and Winter No. 3 is 11″x22″. They were painted in 2020

Collective The Art of Craft

Contact Email: amythehook@yahoo.com
Amy’s Affiliations – 

Image of Amy Hook-Therrien drawing.

  • AVA Gallery Member Artist – Since 2020
  • Vermont Watercolor Society – Since 2019
  • Vermont Hand Crafters – Juried Artist Since 2018
  • Vermont Abenaki Artists Association – Juried Artist Since 2014

For more information about Amy, please click here to visit her page on this website.

An Interview with Jim Taylor – Part 2

Image of detail on bag by Jim Taylor.

In spring 2021, Vera Longtoe Sheehan (Elnu Abenaki) met with the students of “Native Presence and Performance: Reclaiming the Indigenous Narrative,” a first-year seminar offered by Middlebury College. After the meeting, Longtoe Sheehan recommended the students interview and write about VAAA affiliated artists. This blog post is one of a series that were created for that project, respectfully submitted by a student who self-identifies as non-Native.

Due to the length of this narrative, it will be introduced in three parts over a period of three weeks. This is Part Two.

Jim Taylor

By Tate Sutter ’24.5
Middlebury College

Native Presence and Performance

1 June 2021

 

Not limiting himself to a single art form, JT also creates wampum. Wampum belts and strands tell the stories and agreements of the Abenaki and other Eastern Woodland tribes, including the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. According to JT, “my community, the Elnu, we always strongly held to the [wampum laws and traditions.] We still to this day commemorate various events where a belt is woven to record that event.” Wampum forms part of Abenaki history and memory.

Long after I am gone and the other elders are gone, these strands will remain. And you know when we have a council meeting. When the community is there, the strands and the belts are brought out and the stories are recounted so… as you grow up you would see the belts, see these strands, and hear what each one represented and how it came to be. Wampum belts and strands “are living and breathing just like human beings.” Bringing the belts out during meetings and ceremonies nourishes the belts through interactions with the community. When the Elnu gained recognition from the State of Vermont, JT was asked to create wampum strands to record the Elnu’s constitution. JT feels that this is “my legacy to my people.”  

 

Wampum belts and strands “are living and breathing just like human beings.” Bringing the belts out during meetings and ceremonies nourishes the belts through interactions with the community. When the Elnu gained recognition from the State of Vermont, JT was asked to create wampum strands to record the Elnu’s constitution. JT feels that this is “my legacy to my people.”

JT makes wampum from whelk and quahog shells. White beads are made from whelk shells, and purple beads are made from quahog shells. Originally, coastal tribes traded wampum with the Abenaki. While not currency, wampum held value and could be used for trade. Since JT lives as a visitor on Narragansett and Wampanoag land, he never sells the wampum he makes there. He does sell his wampum in other places including on Abenaki land.

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