Abenaki Heritage Weekend 2023

Abenaki Heritage Weekend poster

June 17-18 at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

On June 17-18, 2023, citizens of the New England Abenaki community will gather at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to celebrate their history and heritage, and the public is invited! Organized by the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, this free event is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. 

One of the highlights is the Native Arts Marketplace of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, where visitors can talk to artists, watch craft demonstrations, and purchase outstanding beadwork, paintings, jewelry, wampum, woodwork, leatherwork, drums, and other items. 

“The variety and quality of the work created by our Abenaki artists is outstanding,” said Vera Longtoe Sheehan, Executive Director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association. “Some of our artists create traditional art and some create contemporary art, often inspired by tradition. If you are looking to purchase a special gift or something new for your collection, be sure to visit the Native Arts Marketplace.”

Throughout the weekend there will be activities of interest to everyone. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy singing and drumming by the Nulhegan Drum — you may even be invited to drum with them. Children and adults alike should not miss storytelling by Abenaki author and historian Joseph Bruchac, and songs for the little ones with Francine Poitras Jones. 

Artists in the Arts Marketplace include Michael Descoteaux demonstrating the making of hand drums; Elnu Abenaki Elder Jim Taylor making wampum beads from whelk and quahog shells; and Linda Longtoe Sheehan weaving wampum, an intricate process using the shell beads. On Saturday, meet basketmaker Kerry Wood. On Sunday, visit the “Make and Take” table, where children can make a gift to bring home for Father’s Day.

A new special exhibit, Beyond the Curve: The American Abenaki Covid Experience will open during Heritage Weekend in the Schoolhouse Gallery, and will be on view all season. Artwork and stories by 20 American Abenaki artists illustrate the impact of the pandemic in the Abenaki homeland and the resilience of Abenaki people during troubled times. Meet the curator, Vera Longtoe Sheehan, for a gallery talk. 

Thanks to Vermont Humanities, Vermont Arts Council, and Vermont Department of Health for their sponsorship of the event. For more information on Abenaki Heritage Weekend, visit: AbenakiArt.org/abenaki-heritage-weekend.

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Governor Recognized Abenaki Recognition and Heritage Week. Saint Alban’s Messenger. May 4, 2023

SWANTON — For the fifth consecutive year, Gov. Phil Scott has recognized May 1-7 as Abenaki Recognition and Heritage Week.

Abenaki Alliance logo with mountains, water, and sun.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.

Vermont delegation statement commemorating Abenaki Recognition and Heritage Week. Vermont Biz. April 28, 2023

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 …….

Vermont Native Communities Support the Vatican’s Repudiation of the “Doctrine of Discovery”

Long-awaited opportunity to move forward after 500+ years of cultural annihilation

Vermont Business Magazine On March 30, 2023, a joint statement (link is external) from Roman Catholic Church leaders formally acknowledged and took accountability for “the terrible effects” of more than 560 years of assimilation policies and the resulting “pain experienced by indigenous people.” Click here to read more . . .

Water is Life Teach In

Bookmark for Water is Life Teach-in.

The Abenaki Arts & Education Center is excited to announce the Water is Life Abenaki Teach-In on March 25, in Vergennes, VT.

In this all-day workshop, Abenaki Arts & Education Center educators will inspire teachers with interactive, media-rich content that links 12,000 years of Abenaki history with 21st-century civic engagement. Participants will pursue a deeper understanding of the region’s diversity through the voices of the American Abenaki people.

From Lake Champlain to the Connecticut River Valley, the life-bringing waters of N’Dakinna (Abenaki for “Our Homeland”) were our earliest highways for travel. The water itself is important to the plants, fish, animals, birds, and other wildlife that are necessary to our way of life.

Presenters will illustrate the Abenaki relationship to water, awareness of water as a fundamental element necessary for all life, and concern that pollution of water can change our traditional lifeways and the health of all our relations, human and animal.

Participants will investigate resources, interaction with Abenaki culture bearers, and be introduced to culturally responsive and sustaining teaching strategies to effectively incorporate diverse narratives into their curriculum.

Registered teachers and homeschoolers will also be invited to attend additional virtual sessions, and be given access to additional bonus content.The program is presented in partnership between Abenaki Arts & Education Center, and Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, and supported in part by Vermont Humanities.

Four Abenaki tribes were recognized by the State of Vermont following an arduous process which included proving their ancestry and enduring community presence in Vermont. After reviewing tribal recognition applications and verifying the data, the Vermont state legislature voted unanimously three times to recognize the tribes. Gov. Peter Shumlin codified their legal status as Native American tribes for the Elnu and
Nulhegan Abenaki Tribes in 2011 and the Koasek and Missisquoi Abenaki Tribes in
2012. Their legal status as state recognized tribes is now codified into Vermont law.
The teacher training will be held at The Bixby Memorial Free Library in Vergennes, VT.
“The Bixby follows the Vermont Forward Plan and Vergennes City COVID guidelines.
Masks are welcome but not required. The library has industrial HEPA room air purifiers
installed throughout the building, eliminating unwanted dust particles, germs, and
contaminants” says Amber Lay, Assistant Director of the Bixby Library.

For more information and to register for the teacher training please visit https://abenaki-edu.org/

Abenaki Arts and Education Association logo.

Vermont Biz News Release

Speaker Series Shares Indigenous and Scientific Views of American Abenaki Heritage, March 7 & 22

Two-eyed Seeing Speaker Series poster with information about the presentations.

In March, Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA) is pleased to present the 2023 Two-Eyed Seeing Speaker SeriesThe 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. All programs in the Two-Eyed Seeing Speaker Series are presented on Zoom, thanks to support from . . . Click here to read more


Speaker series shares views of American Abenaki heritage

Screenshot of WCAX3 Speaker Series YouTube video.

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Local Abenaki artists are encouraging people to open their minds to different perspectives.

The Vermont Abenaki Artists Association in February and March is presenting the “Two-Eyed Seeing” speaker series, Vera Longtoe Sheehan, director of the VAAA says two-eyed seeing is a way of viewing the world from both an indigenous and western perspective. She says the goal of the series is to help folks see the bigger picture.

“I’m hoping everyone comes away with this idea that we have this amazing world and so many different types of people and to bring diverse perspectives to the way we look at archaeology . . . read more

Article in The Montpelier Bridge: Two-Eyed Seeing: Abenaki Speaker Series

Darlene Kascak and Vera Longtoe Sheehan at the American Institute for Native American Studies.
Left, Darlene Kascak (Schaghticoke Tribal Nation), Education Director of the Institute for American Indian Studies and Traditional Native American Storyteller, with Vera Longtoe Sheehan (Elnu Abenaki Tribe), Executive Director, Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and Abenaki Arts and Education Center, in the IAIS exhibit gallery with Nebizun: Water is Life. Photo courtesy of the Institute for American Indian Studies.

In honor of World Water Day on March 22, the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA) is presenting “Kwanitekw (Connecticut River): The Sustainer of Life.” The event is the third in the organization’s “Two-Eyed Speaker Series” that started Feb. 21. The term “Two-Eyed Seeing,” was coined by Mi’kmaw Nation Elder Albert Marshall, Vermont Abenaki Artists Association Director Vera Longtoe Sheehan said in an email to The Bridge. “As Marshall explains, “Etuaptmumk — Two-Eyed Seeing . . . refers to learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges . . . read more

Speaker Series Shares Indigenous and Scientific Views of American Abenaki Heritage

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.

Image of Vermont Humanities logo.

All programs in the Two-Eyed Seeing Speaker Series are presented on Zoom, thanks to support from the Vermont Humanities and Vermont Arts Council.

Image of Vermont Arts Council logo.

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 of ancestral American Abenaki beadwork from Waterville, Vermont, created about 1845, was identified by Dr. Wiseman. Vermont Indigenous Heritage Center Collection

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

Image of Sherry Gould.
Rep. Sherry Gould (Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe)  
Image of Dr. Robert Goodby.
Dr. Robert G. Goodby

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:

Image of Vera Longtoe Sheehan with denim Tolba jacket.

Most recently, Vera Longtoe Sheehan (Elnu Abenaki Tribe) curated the exhibit Nebizun: Water is Life, which is touring New England 2022-2024.

Image of , Darlene Kascak (Schaghticoke Tribal Nation).

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.

Image of Matt Devine is a Fisheries Biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

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.

Image of Vermont Humanities logo.

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.

Image of small dark blue AAEC logo.
Image of Abenaki Trails logo.
Image of American Indian Studies logo.
Image of Connecticut River Conservancy logo.
Image of CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection logo.
Image of Monadnock Archealogical Consulting logo.

Abenaki COVID-19 Storytelling Project Memory Booth Blog

December 5, 2022 – We are so honored that Abenaki and other Native American Families are trusting us with their family stories about vaccines, disparity, and access issues they are experiencing. During storytelling sessions, we provide participants with many different types of art materials to help them express themselves. Here is an example of a process drawing that was created during a storytelling session. What do you see when you look at it?

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

All artistic media are welcome: painting, collage, mixed media, carving, sculpture, fiber, weaving, pottery, poetry, photography, music, storytelling, dance, video, & more . . .

Contact Us!
If you are interested in submitting work or would like more information, email [email protected] or call (802) 265-0092.

November 15, 2022 – We are grateful to everyone who is participating in the Abenaki Storytelling Project. We’ve spent months collecting stories and artwork about the Native American COVID experience in Vermont. The stories are like legos that come in different sizes and shapes.

A pile of legos in many colors.

October 20, 2022 – Our team attended the Mending Ourselves, Together conference at the UVM Davis Center, Burlington and we share our community initiative with healthcare professionals interested in health equity.

August 19 – 20, 2022 – We set up a memory booth at the Nulhegan Heritage Gathering, Camp Sunrise Cub Scouting Camp. Community members created artwork and shared their COVID memories.

October 1, 2022 – Visit the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association’s Storytelling booth at the Indigenous People’s Day Rocks event in Stowe on October 8th. Mayo Farm Fields, Stowe, VT.

August 3, 2022 – We are excited to announce we will be gathering stories and artwork about the Native American COVID experience in Vermont at the Nulhegan Abenaki Gathering at Camp Sunrise Cub Scouting Camp. Stop by our booth and tell us your story. Artwork and stories will inform an upcoming traveling museum and digital exhibition.

July 15, 2020 – Are there 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 an insulated drink cup. There are monetary incentives available for one-on-one storytelling or focus group storytelling sessions.

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

June 20, 2022

VAAA’s Executive Director Vera Longtoe Sheehan did a presentation about the Abenaki COVID-19 Storytelling Project at the annual at 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!

A large group of people in the art pavilion for the Storytelling Memory Booth.

June 13, 2022

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.

Image of memory booth logo and link to Memory Booth Events page..

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 25

We are excited to share the logo for our banners and website.

Storytelling Project logo

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.

Links to other Storytelling Project Pages:

Image of Call to Artists button with link to more information.
Image of button for About the Abenaki Storytelling Project and link..
Image of memory booth logo and link to Memory Booth Events page..
Image of news room button with link to news room page.

Abenaki Heritage Weekend 2022


For information contact: Francine Poitras Jones

[email protected]


Abenaki Heritage Weekend June 18-19, 2022 at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Are you looking for a special experience to start the summer? On June 18th and 19th, citizens of the New England Abenaki community will gather at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to celebrate their history and heritage and they are inviting you and your family to join them! 

This free event will be open from 11am to 4 pm both Saturday and Sunday. One of the highlights is the Native Arts Marketplace of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, where visitors can talk to artists, watch craft demonstrations, and purchase outstanding beadwork, paintings, jewelry, wampum, woodwork, leatherwork, drums, feather boxes, and other items.

A Joint Statement from the Four Vermont State Recognized Abenaki Tribes in Response to Certain Recent Events


June 6, 2022 – We, the four Vermont state recognized Abenaki tribes, stand together in affirmation of our own shared, lived experience here in the Northeast, which is necessarily different from that of our relatives in other places, and which has been acknowledged by the State of Vermont.

The distinct historical and contemporary realities within the southern reaches of Ndakinna, our homelands – under the influence of British and French colonial, Federal, and State governments – have brought us to where we are today. Through common experiences of colonization, marginalization, and displacement, our citizens are now found within what is now called New England and points beyond.

We are appreciative of the public process of change that is underway, to raise awareness, remove imposed divisions, and restore balance in these homelands. We wish to work together for healing and understanding among All of our Relations and all of those who are here now.

We look forward to opportunities for dialogue and collaboration – a responsibility incumbent upon us all – in these increasingly challenging times. Traditional teachings make it clear that we owe this to each other, our children, and to the Earth, our Mother.Signed by the Chiefs of the Four Vermont State Recognized Tribes, on behalf of their Councils and Communities (signatures on file), 

Chief Richard Menard, Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi

Co-Chief Shirly Hook, Koasek Traditional Band of the Koas Abenaki Nation

Chief Donald Stevens, Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation

Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan, Elnu Abenaki Tribe

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


Photos From the 2017 Abenaki Heritage Weekend

Every year the Abenaki Heritage Weekend offers opportunities for in promtu activities for the public to interact with the Abenaki community. Lina Longtoe of Askawobi Production captured a couple of these encounters.


Aaron Wood teaches two young people learn how to pound an ash log to produce ash splints for basket making.


Everyone gathers for a Round Dance


Frederick M Wiseman


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.


 Root club, stylistically similar to the Newport, VT example; early 20th century.

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.

Well designed crooked Knife.  Birch Handle, ground-file blade and brass wire wrap. 19th century East side Lake Memphramagog. 

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)

Twig decoy,
Early 20th century, Fitch Bay
(east of Lake Memphremogog), QC.

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.

Fashion design

Woman’s cotton twill dress and red cloth sash. ca. 1900
Connecticut River Valley, VT.

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).

Beaded wool panel, Trade wool, silk ribbon, glass beads.Early 19th century, found in Swanton, VT.
Flat Bag with beadwork. Velvet, cotton liner, glass beads. Mid or late 19th century, probably Abenaki.

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)


Early 19th century ash-splint Basket.  Vernon, VT. 

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)

Turn of the 2Oth century ash-splint basket.

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)

brown horsehair foundation and black hair ties left, and black horsehair and white hair ties, right.
Probably early 20th century. St Albans, VT.

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.

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