Race-based attacks and harmful stereotypes are putting Vermont’s Abenaki communities in jeopardy and it needs to stop. This week is Abenaki Recognition and Heritage Week, yet international special-interest groups are threatening state-recognized Abenaki tribes with cultural erasure in an effort to position themselves for recognition and rights within the United States.
Using their Canadian status as recognized First Nations, Odanak and Wôlinak in Quebec are using state and federally-funded universities and media organizations to promote their propaganda — threatening to rewrite 12,000 years of Native heritage in the Abenaki homelands now known as the State of Vermont.
Race-based attacks and harmful stereotypes are putting Vermont’s Abenaki communities in jeopardy and it needs to stop. This week is Abenaki Recognition and Heritage Week, yet international special-interest groups are threatening state-recognized Abenaki tribes with cultural erasure in an effort to position themselves for recognition and rights within the United States. Click here to read the entire letter to the editor.
SWANTON — For the fifth consecutive year, Gov. Phil Scott has recognized May 1-7 as Abenaki Recognition and Heritage Week.
The State of Vermont recognizes four Western Abenaki tribes: the Elnu Abenaki, the Koasek Traditional Band of the Koas Abenaki Nation, the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, and the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi St. Francis-Sokoki Band.
“This week we celebrate andhonor the heritage and culture of the Abenaki people in Vermont,” Scott said in a press release. “Vermont is stronger for the contributions of Indigenous people.” Click here to read the full article.
“It is with great honor and respect that we come together to celebrate Abenaki Recognition and Heritage Week, the centuries-old culture and rich heritage of the Abenaki people, and the descendants of the Western Abenaki Tribes that originally inhabited the land we now call Vermont. We owe the Abenaki people of Vermont, and Indigenous tribes across this country, an enormous debt, one that can never fully be repaid. Today we are incredibly fortunate that the four bands of Vermont – the Elnu Abenaki tribe; the Nulhegan band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation; the Koasek Abenaki of the Koas; and the Missisquoi, St. Francis-Sokoki band – have preserved and continue to share their traditions, from their art and music to their dedicated stewardship of their traditional homeland. During this week of recognition and celebration, and every day, we are honored to stand with the Abenaki Tribes of Vermont and Indigenous peoples all across the country.” Click here to visit Senator Sanders’ website.
Vermont Business Magazine Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Senator Peter Welch (D-Vermont), and Representative Becca Balint (D-Vermont) today issued the following delegation statement in commemoration of Abenaki Recognition and Heritage Week which begins Monday, May 1 – Click here to read more …….
Publication from thethe Indigenous Vermont Series 2012:9, published courtesy of Wôbanakik Heritage Center.
EXCERPT FROM INTRODUCTION
“The prime directive of Haven is to reclaim lost, fragmented or otherwise damaged cultural practice and belief from Indigenous Vermont, and to a certain extent, applicable forms of documentation from neighboring areas. A second important principle is the repair of fragmented or damaged cultural practice by using all available reconstructive/healing tools. The third function of Haven is to make the repaired information available to those Indigenous Vermonters and their neighbors, who have any interest in reviving lapsed culture. The fourth reason; and the one that gives Haven its name, is to safely archive this information in a format that will be of use to future Indigenous generations, if the current one is uninterested.
Probably the one craft that is universally recognized as giving Indian Identity is the ash splint basket. Although probably not made before the 18th century, Indigenous Vermonters, as well as other regional tribes became masters of the craft. Much of the early history of Indigenous Vermont Baskets are to be found in other Haven publications.”
Late Period (1870-1970) Indian Baskets In Vermont – Part 1. 11 pages.
Part1: Basket History and Technology & Preparing the materials for the Fancy Basket
Late Period (1870-1970) Indian Baskets In Vermont – Part 1A. 11 pages.
Decorative overweave, or “Cowiss”
Basket Handles and Hinges
Late Period (1870-1970) Indian Baskets In Vermont. Part 2. 11 pages.
Part Two: Baket Types Represented in Vermont
Multi-purpose work and arm baskets
Late Period (1870-1970) Indian Baskets In Vermont. Part 2A. 13 pages
Knitting and Tatting baskets
Baskets for the Hall Table
Baskets for the Dining Room
An unclassified basket
Hampers. goose down baskets and other large, “fancy” baskets
Basket for the Field and Lake
Back to THE HISTORIC INDIGENOUS ARTS OF VERMONT and NEW HAMPSHIRE
Publication from the Great Council Fire Project presented courtesy of Wôbanakik Heritage Center.
EXCERPT FROM INTRODUCTION
“This document, a preliminary classification of antique Wabanaki beadwork, has been prepared to assist Wabanaki groups and individuals in understanding the beadwork designs once practiced by their ancestors. The time may be coming when modern or future craftspeople will need these data to resurrect the ancestral styles, and then move beyond the traditional to developing new designs and interpretations. Unfortunately, except for early “double scroll” beadwork there is little Wabanaki Beadwork on display or in publication. Indeed, some of it, especially the mid 20th century “pan-Indian” styles are being scorned and even discarded by their owners as this is written. Wabanaki Beadwork 1850-2000 is meant to showcase heretofore unpublished examples from an admittedly small collection of beaded items and imagery of beadwork being worn. It also attempts to organize these collections in a meaningful way that offers a preliminary stylistic and, to a certain extent, temporal (dating), classification.”
Wabanaki Beadwork 1850 – 2000. Part 1, 13 pages
Introduction Post 1850 Wabanaki Beadwork,: Classification, History of research into Wabanaki Beadwork, Iroquoianism, Current Research, Stylistic typology,
Double Scroll Beadwork: Early/mid 19th century
Geometric Beadwork: Early/mid century.
Wabanaki Beadwork 1850 – 2000. Part 2, 15 pages
The Nested Circ;e style: Maliseet / Passamaquaddy Mid late 19th Century,
The Miniature floral style: Penobscot (/Passamaquoddy) Mid late 19th century
The Radiant Leaf style: Wabanaki Mid late 19th century
The Sunflower Style. Wabanaki and Kahnewake (rare) Mid late 19th Century
In February and March, Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA) is pleased to present the 2023 Two-Eyed Seeing Speaker Series. The term “Two-Eyed seeing,” coined by Mi’kmaw Nation Elder Albert Marshall, describes the experience of seeing the strength of Indigenous knowledge with one eye and the strength of Western knowledge with the other. Series speakers will share perspectives on community relationships to regional waterways, including archaeology, ecology, advocacy, Western and Indigenous science, and more. Admission is free, and donations are welcome.
All programs in the Two-Eyed Seeing Speaker Series are presented on Zoom, thanks to support from the Vermont Humanities and Vermont Arts Council.
February 21, 7pm. Frederick M. Wiseman, Ph. D. presented Heritage Forensics: Rethinking Indigenous Ways of Knowing in an Increasingly Dangerous World. Since the 1990s, Indigenous research has moved toward awareness of many different truths, each depending on one’s cultural or political perspective. “Politicized rewriting of Native history poses a distinct threat to such emerging Indigenous ways of exploring the world,” says Dr. Wiseman. “Indigenous and scientific ways of knowing can work together to preserve a legitimate American Abenaki biocultural history and worldview.” Registration Closed
Image: This ancestral American Abenaki beadwork from Waterville, Vermont, created about 1845, was identified by Dr. Wiseman. Vermont Indigenous Heritage Center Collection
March 7, 7pm. A Deep Presence and a More Inclusive History. Rep. Sherry Gould (Nulhegan Abenaki), member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, and Dr. Robert Goodby of Monadnock Archaeological Consulting are long-time friends and collaborators. As charter members of the New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs, Sherry served as Chair and Bob was the representative appointed by the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. Their work together includes educational projects funded by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the Abenaki Trails Project that seeks to honor and share a more inclusive history of the Abenaki people and to highlight historical Abenaki sites. Registration closed
March 22, 7pm. Kwanitekw (Connecticut River): The Sustainer of Life. In honor of World Water Day, a panel of Indigenous citizens and environmental scientists share multiple perspectives on living in relationship with the Connecticut River watershed. Panelists include Darlene Kascak (Schaghticoke Tribal Nation) Education Director of the Institute for American Indian Studies (IAIS) and Traditional Native American Storyteller; Vera Sheehan (Elnu Abenaki Tribe) and Director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and Abenaki Arts & Education Center; Kathy Urffer, River Steward with the Connecticut River Conservancy; and Matt Devine, Fisheries Biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Gabriel Benjamin, Public Historian and IAIS Museum Educator serves as Moderator. Register in advance for this meeting: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwtcuGvpj0rHNSwpRzRKqYc05cw7RmeL4ix
Most recently, Vera Longtoe Sheehan (Elnu Abenaki Tribe) curated the exhibit Nebizun: Water is Life, which is touring New England 2022-2024.
As a traditional Native American storyteller, Darlene Kascak (Schaghticoke Tribal Nation) understands the importance of educating both young and old about the many misconceptions and stereotypes about her ancestors, providing children and adults the opportunity to have a new understanding of Connecticut’s Indigenous Peoples both in the past and in the present.
Matt Devine is a Fisheries Biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
As a River Steward, Kathy Urffer works to protect and restore the Connecticut River and its tributaries. She enjoys re-learning about the natural world through the eyes of her two children.
VAAA is grateful for the support for this Speaker Series from the Vermont Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed do not necessarily represent those of the Vermont Humanities.
Program partners for the Two-Eyed Seeing Speaker Series include Abenaki Arts and Education Center (AAEC), Abenaki Trails Project, the Connecticut River Conservancy, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CDEEP), Institute for American Indian Studies (IAIS), and Monadnock Archaeological Consulting LLC.
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
The Historic Indigenous Arts of Vermont and New Hampshire
By Frederick M. Wiseman Ph.D.
When we think of indigenous American craft arts, we immediately think of Navajo rugs and Tahono o’odam (Papago) basketry. Or perhaps the woodcarvings of the Northwest Coast of North America. Possibly one of the least recognized historical Native American crafts regions of North America is the Far Northeast, only a few books will mention baskets made by Maine or Canadian Maritime tribes. However, Vermont and New Hampshire have a vibrant but little known artistic tradition stretching back over 10,000 years. The oldest artistic works are made of stone, chipped or ground into beautiful but useful tools such as the clean, almost Art Deco-looking lines of Vermont Middle Archaic Period gouges, the tight design of Late Archaic lapidary jewelry, or the evocative rock-carved human face petroglyphs at Bellows Falls. However, except for stone, and a few pieces of shell, there is little that remains, underground of this rich artistic tradition. During the So-Called Colonial Era (1609-ca. 1800) the Indigenous Arts of our region are still little understood and seem to resemble those of neighboring tribes. There are occasional pieces of 18th century quillwork-decorated leather craft or twined basketry residing in museums and private collections illustrating the precise work and artistic flair of the People. Unfortunately, they are so similar to items made by our Penobscot, Huron and Iroquois neighbors that there has been little effort by art historians to find out what is specific to our region.
Below, are a few examples of older art traditions that have good ties to the VT/NH region and its immediate environs of southern Quebec. These show a careful choice of material, excellent plotting out the eventual form, and meticulous care in decoration — evidence of a well developed craft tradition that its practitioners were very comfortable with. Many of our 19th and early 20th-century craft arts seem to have its closest ties to the great multiethnic Indian Village of Kahnawake, south of Montreal, but other traditions especially basketry shows early artistic similarity to Southern New England, while cloth seems more similar to our Wabanaki brethren, showing that our area was a great crossroads of artistic ideas flowing throughout the region.
Most Indigenous Vermont and New Hampshire wood craft is very utilitarian, and probably would not be classed as fine or decorative art. However, some particular forms, such as crooked knives and root clubs have become accepted as valuable craft arts by art historians and critics. We do see nice examples of these tools that have come from our area, but have a distinct stylistic look. Root clubs, for example, did not seem to be made and sold in Vermont as tourist items, although very similar looking ones were sold for that purpose at Kahnawake. These root clubs tend to be carved relatively simply with minimal decoration, usually of fine ink or watercolor delineating bird-like beaks and eyes, rather than the fine carved detailing and painted design demanded by tourist buyers. Instead, we have a documented example that seemed to be used in healing, and another that was used to keep order within a family, indicating that they remained, at least in part, internal cultural implements.
Another well-designed and executed wooden implement is the crooked knife (often called “basket-knife” in VT). These distinctive native-design tools seem as rare as root clubs and are almost always entirely utilitarian. However, one crooked knife with a provenance just north of the Canadian Border in the Southern Eastern Townships of Quebec is finely crafted with beautiful incised and filled detail on the obverse and an artistically sweeping rake to the blade; thereby making a classic pieces of Northeastern Native art. (Photo to the right)
In the last 50 years or so decoys have emerged as a great vernacular art tradition, with many fetching many thousands of dollars at auction. Although there are Vermont decoy carvers with Indigenous heritage their creations are not considered “Indian Art.” However, a composite twig decoy from the same area as the crooked knife is so similar to the Cree “Tamarack Twig” decoys accepted as legitimate Indian Art that we will list it here. This is a goose “shadow decoy” constructed of black or river birch twigs and bound with cotton twine. A Nulhegan band elder remembered their use in middle 20th century cornfields around Lake Memphramagog to attract Canada geese to the shotgun. When viewed from a distance, the decoy has a wonderful flowing stance, and as the elder said “looks like a goose to another goose.. (Photo to the right)
These few items are only an introduction to the richness of historic Indigenous woodcraft of our region. Old bowls, spoons, wall-hangings, cups, walking staffs and even furniture remain to this day to grace museums and collections.
Since the 1970’s, beaded clothing and fashion accessories of our neighbors to the East have become some of the most collected and valuable of any Native American art. Fortunately, our regional styles have not seen such interest or even study by elite art collectors, and so the materials are still somewhat available and collectable by Indigenous museums and cultural organizations. I find that some of the late 19th and early 20th century clothing used by basketsellers especially interesting. It combines European materials such as cloth and ribbons with indigenous motifs to make a distinctive, but underappreciated fashion that I call “cut-cloth Fringe’ style. We have several examples of this style from the Connecticut River Valley and Lake Champlain which seem to date from the 1890’s to about the beginning of the Great Depression. The example that I share here is made from a tan twilled cotton with patchwork and ribbon-work detail below the neck and above the hem. It is sturdy and technically well made, so much so that it is still worn for educational purposes. (Photo to the right)
Of course everyone wants to know about “Abenaki Beadwork,” and unfortunately, pre-1900 Indigenous Vermont/New Hampshire beaded cloth is the most elusive craft art that remains today. There is one late 18th/early 19th century beaded moccasin vamp or epaulet that was found in NW Vermont that is in a generalized style that may or may not be Vermont Abenaki, but was at least used here at one point. (Photo below).
Probably a more characteristic style is the mid 19th century “flat bag” or reticule described below. It has a form related to the typical “tulip” or “inverted keyhole” bag sold by the Eastern Wabanaki people of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. However, the beadwork itself is distinctive and unlike that of the standard Wabanaki to the East, or the Iroquois styles to the west. Unfortunately, it has not yet attracted interest of collectors, museums and academics, so it is uncertain exactly whether this is a “Montreal Area,” “Eastern Townships (Quebec) area,” “Vermont area” “or “New Hampshire area” style; or all of the above. However, I believe that it represents the best candidate style for having been produced here in the mid 19th century. (Photo to the right)
The one craft art likely to show up in VT/NH antique shops is ash-splint basketry, and there are many styles and types. I will illustrate two of the older more utilitarian types that were made before the ubiquitous “sweetgrass” and “cowiss” touristic souvenir baskets that are so common today. Ash splint basket making in VT/NH basically went extinct in the 1930’s. Baskets after that time seem to be made by expatriate basket sellers from Canada or Maine who sold tourist goods in places such as the White Mountains Intervale or the shores of Lake Champlain. (Photo to the right)
The first early type is from the 1830’s and is more closely related to southern New England basketry, in its “varying splint” construction and the use of stamping and or painting on the wide splints as decoration. it was probably used like a bandbox, for the storage of lightweight household and fashion goods such as yarn or hats. The second basket, probably from the third quarter of the 19th century, still retains the varying splints, but now shows direct influence of basketry evolution to the East, in its checkerboard (rectangular) base and the treatment of the radiating splints on the lid. Instead of being stamped, the wider splints are “daub-dyed” or pigment painted only on the outside before weaving the basket. The later, turn of the 20th century dyed ash splints are dipped in dye and thus show the color both inside and out. Both of these early basket styles are relatively uncommon in VT/NH and even less common with a good provenance placing them here in the 19th century. (Photo to the right)
Another important basket type is the coiled basket. Even more elusive than early beadwork, coiled basketry is only known from two areas in the Northeast, the Passamaquoddies and a single family in Northwestern VT. These are tiny items, made from carefully selected and prepared horse-hair, similar to the much more well known Thono O’odam tourist wares. As with most local wares, there is no historical interest in these beautiful tiny baskets, and we await the continuation of this tradition by young members of the VT basket making family.
Interested in Learning more about the Indigenous Art of Vermont?