Tag Archives: abenaki culture

Organizations

The four state-recognized tribes of Vermont are very active. It is important to note that, though the tribes are recognized in Vermont, our land was not divided by borders. We, the Abenaki, call our homeland N’dakinna. The citizens of the four tribes do not live in only Vermont – they live in many places throughout N’dakinna, such as New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York. Some of the People even live in states other than the northeast. So, you will find that some of the organizations listed below are far-reaching. 

Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing the links to various organizations that you may find of interest. Please take some time and click on the links to learn more about each of these organizations. We have put a description for each organization to help you identify whether they may meet some of your needs or interests. 

Abenaki Arts & Education Center

The Abenaki Arts & Education Center (AAEC) was created because Abenaki history and culture are not included in the regional curriculum, it is difficult for teachers to find Abenaki educators and authentic curriculum resources. In addition to the free resources listed on this website, they also offer many educational programs, and a YouTube channel with videos. Following is the mission of the AAEC:

“Our mission is to support American Abenaki sovereignty through education and sharing Abenaki history and cultural resources with people of all ages so Abenaki living culture can be taught across N’Dakinna (our homeland).”

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

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

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.

Champlain College Student Develops App for Abenaki Artists

Dustin - Low res

Burlington, VT., August 30, 2017 – The Google Play store has released a new Android app called Vermont Abenaki Artists Association which was designed by Dustin Lapierre, a senior at Champlain College.

It all began two months ago when Lapierre’s professor, Melody Walker Brook, sent an email to the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA) stating she had “a student very well versed in computer application” and inquired if VAAA might need an intern with those skills. Although Lapierre had previously worked with desktop apps, he accepted the challenge to develop a phone app.

Lapierre, a Computer Science and Innovation major with a minor in foreign languages said, “I was very excited to get a chance to work with the Abenaki tribe of Vermont in creating a new avenue for them to introduce their culture to the public. Between my skills and my interests, this project was a perfect fit for me, and I hope I was able to help in some way.”

Vera Longtoe Sheehan, Director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, explains that the app, which is entitled Vermont Abenaki Artists Association app “will be used to deliver additional content about our current and future exhibits to the public.” The app contains photos and descriptions of current Abenaki exhibitions, works of art, important regalia and related videos.

Vermont Abenaki Artists Association App - Low resCurrently featured on the app, the traveling exhibit Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage brings before audiences in New England a group of objects and images that document the way in which garments and accessories that reflect Abenaki heritage have been – and still are – made and used to express Native identity. Wearing Our Heritage was curated by Longtoe Sheehan and Eloise Beil of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) in Vergennes. The exhibit is currently on view at LCMM until September 3, and then it will move to Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner, NH and the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, CT.

VAAA is happy with the new app that Lapierre developed and is excited for the opportunity to expand interpretation of the exhibition through digital technology.  The Wearing Our Heritage exhibit opened the door for VAAA needing the app. The exhibit and app are among the most recent outcomes of a longstanding partnership between VAAA and LCMM. “For the past decade, as a maritime museum dedicated to Lake Champlain, LCMM has been on the cutting edge of the museum field by working with community stakeholders whose ancestors lived and died in the Champlain Valley for over 10,000 years,” explained Longtoe Sheehan.

As for Lapierre’s future plans, he says “I definitely prefer Desktop programming due to familiarity, but I’m open to mobile development as a career path. Ideally, I would like to work in any field where I can communicate or interact with an international audience.”

Download the app from the Google Play Store today. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=dustin.exhibitapp2

For information contact:

Vera Longtoe Sheehan, Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, vera.sheehan@abenakiart.org or 802 579-0049.

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 Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

LCMM is an all-year hub for maritime education that uses the discovery and stewardship of Lake Champlain’s underwater cultural heritage and environment to inspire life-long learning. LCMM brings Lake Champlain’s storied past to life through replica ships, active boat building, on-water ecology programs, nautical archaeology, collections and exhibits, and cultural heritage events. From late-May through mid-October visitors explore LCMM’s 4-acre campus, antique boats, lake history, shipwreck discoveries, step aboard a 1776 gunboat replica and enjoy hands-on and on-water opportunities. 4472 Basin Harbor Road, 7 scenic miles from Vergennes. Find Museum dates, hours of operation, events & reservations, and the Schooner Lois McClure tour itinerary at www.lcmm.org or call 802 475-2022.

 

 

 

Hartford Historical Society to Honor Abenaki Tribe

historic-french-depiction-abenaki-couple

After a year’s hiatus, Abenaki and Indigenous Peoples Day is returning to White River Junction. The celebration, hosted by the Hartford Historical Society, aims to honor Vermont’s earliest known residents who lived in the area well before Vermont, or the United States for that matter, was ever thought of. It will take place on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction. Admission is free.

Among the attendees will be Jeanne Brink, whom Martha Knapp, director of the Hartford Historical Society Museum, described as “a respected elder,” of the Abenaki tribe. Brink also teaches the Abenaki language. “The language is really getting big now that the Abenaki are starting to come out and get recognized,” Knapp said. Brink also teaches basket-making, and three of her students, Emily, Megan and Valerie Boles, will be there with her to demonstrate their skills.

Read the full story by Liz Sauchelli in the Valley News.

Abenaki cultural artifacts on view at lake museum

 

Abenaki Art at LCMM Alnobak babyCONTEMPORARY ABENAKI ARTISTS share their artwork and family photographs in the special exhibit “Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage,” which is on display at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Ferrisburgh through Aug. 12. Photo courtesy Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will host “Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom,” a summer workshop for educators, this Wednesday, Aug. 2. Members of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association will serve as faculty for this all-day seminar, and for a series of panel discussions for young adults and adults to be offered in the fall and spring at area libraries.

Read the full article on the Addison Independent website.

Pocumtuck Homelands Festival

The 4th Annual Pocumtuck Homelands Festival, a celebration of Native American Art, Music, and Culture, takes place on Saturday, August 5 from 10am to 7pm at the Unity Park Waterfront in Turners Falls, MA. The event features live traditional, original and fusion music, Native American crafts, story telling ,drumming, games and activities for kids, primitive skills demonstrations, and an impressive selection of books.

The Mashantucket-Pequot archaeology team will be on site to analyze early contact period artifacts brought to the festival. Festival food will be available, including Native American fare. The Pocumtuck Homelands Festival is free, family friendly, educational, accessible and fun for all ages!
This event is sponsored by The Nolumbeka Project, with support by Turners Falls RuverCulture.

Read the full text and schedule on Facebook.

 

Sessions for Teacher Training

Presenting Abenaki History in the Classroom Promo

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

Session Descriptions

Walk Through Western Abenaki History with Melody Walker Brook 

From creation to the present day, Brook will touch upon key events in Abenaki history to highlight their unique story in the Northeast.

Introduction to VAAA Educational Resources with Vera and Lina 

Explore VAAA educational tools, study guides, activity sheets and possible classroom visits by Abenaki culture bearers. Followed by a sample screening of some of our documentary short that teachers can show their students in their classrooms.

Using the Land, River, Forest, and Animals to Survive with Roger Longtoe Sheehan 

When talking about hunting, spirituality, and land use, it’s important to understand how they are all connected. Sheehan will guide us through seasonal lifeways from hunting moose, ice fishing, harvesting materials for survival. There will also be a display of equipment and other items from his private collection.

Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage Exhibition Tour with Vera Longtoe Sheehan 

Teachers will have the opportunity to further their knowledge of the intertwining historical and cultural concepts that they have been learning throughout the day, and to become more familiar with some of the materials available to the Abenaki people. The tour will explore how culture bearers express their identity through wearing regalia that shows their connections to the world, their community and their ancestors.

Coming Home: the Significance of Local Knowledge and Stewardship by Lina Longtoe 

Across Native American communities, what is the principle of the Next Seven Generations and how have Abenaki families communicated it to their children? Learn how to connect students to local plant life, then utilize them to create children’s toys and activities.

 Gardening and Foodways with Liz Charlebois

Liz’s discussion will focus on Northeast indigenous food varieties. She will talk about food sovereignty, growing practices and Three Sisters gardening. She will also discuss her seed keeping efforts.

Vermont Humanities grant funds Abenaki Exhibition

News Release — Vermont Humanities
July 10, 2017

Contact:
info@vermonthumanities.org

Vermont Humanities Council has awarded the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum a $2,000 grant to support programming for a traveling Abenaki exhibition, Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage, one of twelve projects that received awards in VHC’s Spring 2017 grant cycle.

A partnership between the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vermont Abenaki artists, and the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage presents Abenaki garments and accessories as traditional and contemporary art and reflections of culture, history, and identity. The exhibit was featured at the LCMM’s Abenaki Heritage Weekend June 24-25. The VHC grant will support panel discussions at area libraries relating to the exhibit.

VHC’s Grants program supports nonprofit organizations that conduct humanities-related projects. The Council recently awarded $21,900 to twelve Vermont non-profit organizations.

https://vtdigger.org/2017/07/11/vermont-humanities-grant-funds-abenaki-exhibition/

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