BMAC presents Abenaki cooking demo with chef Jessee Lawyer, Aug. 11

Image of Jessee Lawyer giving a cooking demonstration.
Jessee Lawyer giving a cooking demonstration

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. —  The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) presents a free online Abenaki cooking demonstration with chef Jessee Lawyer on Thursday, August 11, at 7 p.m. Register at brattleboromuseum.org or 802-257-0124 x101. This event is presented in connection with “Nebizun: Water Is Life,” an exhibit of artwork by Abenaki artists of the Champlain Valley and Connecticut River Valley regions, on view at BMAC through October 10.

Lawyer is the head chef at Sweetwaters in Burlington, Vermont. As a culinary artist, he creates indigenous specialties using Wabanaki ingredients. For the online demonstration, Lawyer will make moz (moose) fried rice, using moose meat, a blend of wild and white rice, bear fat, and foraged items.

Lawyer descends from a long line of Indigenous artists. In addition to his pursuit of the culinary arts, he continues his family tradition as one of the last two Native families in the Northeast that make miniature horsetail coiled baskets. He also hand-carves traditional soapstone pipes and contemporary soapstone sculptures. He draws inspiration from his father, who taught him how to carve.

Founded in 1972, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center presents rotating exhibits of contemporary art, complemented by lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and other public programs. BMAC is open Wednesday-Sunday, 10-4. Admission is on a “pay-as-you-wish” basis. Located in historic Union Station in downtown Brattleboro, at the intersection of Main Street and Routes 119 and 142, the museum is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit brattleboromuseum.org.

BMAC is supported in part by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by Allen Bros. Oil, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, C&S Wholesale Grocers, the Four Columns Inn, Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, and Whetstone Beer Co.

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Erin Jenkins | she/her

Gallery Manager & Marketing Coordinator

Brattleboro Museum & Art Center

10 Vernon Street 

Brattleboro VT 05301

802-257-0124 x 113

www.brattleboromuseum.org

Vermont Abenaki Artists Association Launches New Storytelling Project to Promote Health and Wellness

Image of Abenaki woman wearing face mask with collage of family members.

Burlington, VT – After months of conversations and a lot of advice from Abenaki community members, the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA) has announced a new arts project aimed at helping the community process their COVID-19 experiences. The Abenaki Storytelling Project is a community-based arts and storytelling project that focuses on Native American strength and resiliency. 

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. 

“Like so many others, the Abenaki community has been greatly affected by the global pandemic,” says VAAA Executive Director Vera Longtoe Sheehan. “We developed this storytelling project to explore this recent period of our collective history in a way that hasn’t been done before.” 

Sheehan says the VAAA uses insights from Native American arts and storytelling to uplift Indigenous peoples’ voices and perspectives. “This project is a unique way for the Abenaki people to process, interpret, and share their own experience about the pandemic and vaccinations,” said Sheehan. “By personalizing the health disparities rooted in historical and social injustices, we are amplifying the voices of the Indigenous peoples in calling for a culture of health equity.”

The 2022-2024 Storytelling Project was inspired by the VAAA’s work with the state early in the pandemic to get PPE (personal protective equipment) items like face masks, disposable gloves, and hand sanitizer for Abenaki artists and Elders. Sheehan said that led to a partnership with the Department of Health to address circumstances that were unique to the Abenaki community. This included a cooperative effort to address vaccination hesitancy among the Abenaki community that was based, in part, on health disparities driven by a history of prejudice and discrimination. The partnership born of months of relationship building through discussions and working together to distribute over 760 Covid-19 Antigen Test Kits, contributed to the development of the Storytelling Project. 

Ruth Steinmetz, a Department of Health communication officer who focuses on health equity said achieving health equity and reducing health disparities a top state 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. This project can help us to support the health and wellbeing of the Abenaki community more effectively.” 

VAAA’s trained facilitators will begin collecting Native American stories and artwork at the Abenaki Heritage Weekend on June 18-19 at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, Vermont. The artwork and stories will inform an online digital exhibition and a traveling museum exhibition.

Abenaki artists will set up a Memory Booth where families can share their stories and artwork at the Heritage event. Memory Booth participants will receive an Abenaki Artists Association t-shirt and can mark the occasion with a photo taken on site. “It’s important for people to see themselves and their communities reflected in exhibitions,” Sheehan said. 

Additional opportunities to participate in the project through focus groups and extended one-on-one storytelling sessions will be announced on the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association’s website and Facebook page

“Abenaki Elders and Artists Struggle in Face of State Reopening”

photo of disposable masks in the shape of x caption shared the same text as title

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

By Lina Longtoe Schulmeisters (@Askawobi), Program Coordinator and juried artist, and
Hawk Longtoe, Intern and juried artist, VAAA

N’DAKINNA (Vermont, USA) – As the country braces and prepares for new waves of Covid-19 cases amidst state reopenings, the Abenaki population remains vulnerable since the early days of the pandemic.

N’dakinna (Abenaki for our homeland),  is beginning to reopen, with Vermont going as far as to allow “travel outside of Vermont to counties across New England and New York that have a similar active COVID-19 caseload to Vermont and return without quarantining if they do so in a personal vehicle”, according to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. But many Abenaki citizens are extremely vulnerable in these times.

Based on recent research by the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA), the Abenaki population is in desperate need of protective gear (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and other materials as Vermont and neighboring states continue their re-opening plans. Disinfectant and cleaning supplies are also highly needed, in order to keep Abenaki families and businesses safe, while personal care/hygiene products have also been requested alongside arts supplies for children and youth performers. “I worry and pray that everyone is checking on the Elders,” remarked one VAAA artist, “I don’t know if our Elders are getting the help that they need. I check in on the Elders at least once a week and ask if they need anything and hope they aren’t too proud to say yes or accept that help.”

For this reason, VAAA’s team is working behind the scenes to gather donations to help fund our Covid-19 relief and response efforts, including sending care packages to Elders and artists who need PPE items such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, or assistance with acquiring basic necessities such as food and medicine. Due to the fact that VAAA is a grassroots organization, our long-time partner Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will be our acting fiscal sponsor. Visit VAAA’s donation page to see how you can help visit www.abenakiart.org/donations.

VAAA was recently awarded a special project grant from the Vermont Arts Council and New England Foundation for the Arts which will provide direct relief and assistance to 17 Abenaki artists. Vermont Humanities Council awarded VAAA a Cultural Relief grant that will partially support virtual programming such as the Abenaki Heritage Weekend later this summer. Contributions like these serve as direct action to assist the Abenaki community in a meaningful way identified by the Abenaki community.

VAAA represents almost 300 individuals who proudly contribute to not only the four Recognized tribes of Vermont (the Elnu, Nulhegan, Koasek, and Missisquoi Abenaki Tribes) but also contribute to the larger Vermont and American societies. We are essential workers, health care workers, EMTs, tradesmen, business owners, teachers, educators, professors, veterans, EMS students, volunteers, adult and youth leadership, Elders, and much, much more. Just like you and your families. The groundbreaking research discussed here is currently being undertaken by key individuals within the VAAA team. Any publications or presentations based on this data will be made by these same Abenaki culture bearers.

References:

  • Agency of Commerce and Community Development, 2020. Cross State Travel Information | Agency Of Commerce And Community Development. [online] Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Available at: <https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/restart/cross-state-travel> [Accessed 14 June 2020].

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:

Lina Longtoe Schulmeisters, Program Coordinator, Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, abenaki@abenakiart.org

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Gov. Scott To Proclaim Oct. 9 As Indigenous Peoples’ Day This Year

by Howard Weiss-Tisman,  September 2, 2017

Gov. Phil Scott says that he will proclaim Oct. 9, 2017 as Indigenous People’s Day in Vermont. This is the same date on which the federal holiday Columbus Day falls this year.

indigenous-vpr-weiss-tisman-20170903
Rich Holschuh, left, of Brattleboro and Roger Longtoe Sheehan, who is the Chief of the Elnu Tribe of the Abenaki, hold Governor Phil Scott’s proclamation naming October 9 Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Vermont.

 

According to his proclamation, Scott says the state will recognize the contributions of Vermont’s first residents.

 

“I’m pleased to recognize the historic and cultural significance of the Indigenous Peoples here in Vermont, with an understanding our state was founded and built upon the lands they first inhabited,” Scott wrote in a prepared statement obtained on Friday. “With this proclamation, we, as a state, aim to acknowledge and celebrate indigenous heritage.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin issued a similar proclamation in 2016 after Brattleboro resident Rich Holschuh suggested the idea. Holschuh, a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, says he reached out to Scott’s office earlier this year to extend the proclamation.

It would take legislative action to formally rename Columbus Day in the state. However at the local level, the Brattleboro select board already passed a resolution this year after town meeting voters passed a nonbinding resolution supporting the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in lieu of Columbus Day.

Read the full article on VPR

Pocumtuck Homelands Festival celebrates Native American culture in Western Mass. (photos)

-841b683e86ab9eacBy Steve Smith, Special to The Republican

August 5, 2017 at 10:00 PM

TURNERS FALLS – The Pocumtuck Homelands Festival celebrated Native American culture with live music, primitive skills demonstrations, storytelling and more Saturday at Unity Park on the historic banks of the Connecticut River.

The festival featured vendors of Native American arts and crafts, and all were eager to share knowledge of their history and culture. Vera Longtoe Sheehan follows in the tradition of her ancestors, making twined baskets and bags. But it in her family, it is known as knotting. One basket of knotted milkweed took her an especially long time. “I stopped counting after 120 hours.”

The festival has attracted as many as 2,000 people in recent years, but occasional rain and the threat of thunderstorms may have discouraged some this year. “Everything is wet,” said Jack Kuehl, who makes canoes and drums. “The drums are wet and they won’t play; but everything will dry.”

Read more

Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom

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Members of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association serve as faculty for this one-day professional development seminar at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM), designed to provide teachers and homeschool educators with new resources and techniques to help elementary students learn about the Abenaki tribe. This program is supported by a grant from the Vermont Humanities Council.

Abenaki culture and history that spans 11,000 years in the Champlain Valley will be introduced by culture bearers with deep understanding of how this vibrant regional culture continues into the 21st century. Some of the topics include: history and stereotypes; new resources being developed for use in classrooms; age-appropriate activities; and learning how you can better support Abenaki and other Native students while presenting American history. The program includes a gallery talk and tour of the traveling exhibition Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage that explores Abenaki identity and continuity through the lens of the clothing we make and wear to express our identity.

When: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 from 9:30am-4pm

Where: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, 4472 Basin Harbor Road, Vergennes, VT

Cost: $15 registration fee includes lunch and program materials.

Register: Eventbrite

Instructors:

Melody Walker Brook is an Adjunct Professor at Champlain College and has taught The Abenakis and Their Neighbors and Abenaki Spirituality at Johnson State College. She serves on the Vermont Commission of Native American Affairs and is a traditional beadworker and finger weaver.

Liz Charlebois, Abenaki culture bearer, is a powwow dancer, traditional bead worker, ash basket maker, and bitten birch bark artist. She cultivates a traditional garden and has organized a seed bank of heirloom seeds grown by the Indigenous people of the Northeast. Liz has served on the New Hampshire Commission of Native American Affairs and as Education Specialist at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner, NH.

Lina Longtoe is certified Project WILD instructor for the Growing Up WILD, Aquatic WILD and Project WILD K – 12 programs, which are sponsored by the EPA, US Fish and Wildlife, and the National Wildlife Federation. Her area of study is environmental science with a concentration in sustainability. She is Tribal Documentarian for the Elnu Abenaki Tribe and maintains a YouTube channel to help preserve Abenaki culture.

Vera Longtoe Sheehan, Director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, has a background in Museum Studies and Native American Studies. She has been designing and implementing educational programs with museums, schools and historic sites for over twenty-five years. Her art is focused on traditional clothing and twined woven plant fiber bags.

For more information, please contact:

Vera Longtoe Sheehan, Vermont Abenaki Artists Association vera.sheehan@abenakiart.org

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