Category Archives: Education

Decolonizing the History that is Taught in Schools Across the Abenaki Homeland

Vera Longtoe Sheehan, Elnu Abenaki Tribe, Director, Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, and Abenaki Arts & Education Center.

Originaly published by Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum on Jan 23, 2020. View original here.

If your not familiar with the term decolonization you probably recognize the Latin prefix de- meaning to reverse and the word colonization which refers to the process by which the colonial settlers move into and took control of Indigenous lands. Colonization is the brutal process by which one group of people overpowers another group of people, takes control of all of the resources and it generally causes irreparable loss and harm to the original inhabitants. The new government forces new laws and customs upon the group that is being dominated. In theory decolonization would return society in the Americas to its original state before colonization but that process would be nearly impossible and far too complicated because we cannot undo what has been done but we can help mitigate the damages that have been done to the Abenaki communities of the region. For me this work is about reclamation, truth, and education so this article will focus on my work developing decolonized educational resources for schools.

I began developing and presenting Native American programs in classrooms over twenty years ago because I knew there was a gap in what and how our children were being taught about American history and the Native American people of our region. The problem of Abenaki erasure in school curriculum is multi-dimensional. Over the years, there have been very few changes in how Native American culture is taught. Many of us grew up learning the same incorrect history as our children will and that same history is passed from one generation to another. We also rely upon history books that are out-dated and incomplete because they written from a single perspective so long ago . 

Adding to the dilemma is many of us grew up learning many stereotypes and myths about Native American people.

Therefore, with some exceptions, children are still taught that the original Native American inhabitants of N’dakinna (Abenaki for homeland) are no longer here which  was proven false when four Abenaki communities fought for and won state recognition in Vermont in 2011 and 2012. Therefore, it’s disconcerting when I ask children what they know about Native Americans and they always seem to use the past tense because they didn’t realize that Native Americans are still alive. 


After many years of doing programs at schools, museums, and historic sites, I returned to college where my Graduate research focused on “Abenaki Erasure and Continuity of Culture in Their Homeland.” The culmination of my studies is the Abenaki Arts & Education website which is a free resource that teachers and students can use to learn more about the continuity of Abenaki history and culture into the present day. The website includes recommending readings, articles, videos, and study guides to help people better understand our culture. Visitors can be assured that the resources have been vetting by knowledgeable Abenaki educators and culture bearers.

The colonization of the Northeast did not happen overnight, quite to the contrary it is a  long and complicated process, therefore reversing the history of colonization that is taught in our schools is also going to be a complicated process that cannot be done quickly or by one person. It will take all of us working together to make a difference. If your a teacher and homeschooler, consider attending our course “Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom, a 3-day professional development seminar that is taught by Abenaki educators and culture bearers and you can earn a certificate or credit through Castleton University. Teachers, parents, and caregivers can also expose their children to Abenaki culture through Abenaki exhibits, heritage events, and programs that are listed on the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association’s website. 

Vera Longtoe Sheehan with New England teachers during the first annual “Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom.” Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Photo courtesy of Vermont Abenaki Artists Association.

Resources 

Vermont Abenaki Artists Association abenakiart.org/

Abenaki Arts & Education Center: abenaki-edu.org/

About the Author

Vera Longtoe Sheehan is an artist, educator, and activist who serves her community as the Elnu Abenaki Tribal Genealogist and the Director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association where she leads the education team. She has a BA in Museum Studies and 

Native American Studies, MALS, and an Advanced Certificate in Public History from SUNY Empire State College. The combination of her experience and her education allows Vera to bridge the gap between the Abenaki community and mainstream society by creating and delivering educational programs, museum exhibitions, and events that preserve and interpret the vibrant culture of the Abenaki people. Additionally, Vera is a member of the Vermont Coalition for Ethnic Studies and Social Equity Advisory Working Group which is examining how Ethic Studies can be incorporated into K-12 curriculum.

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