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Posts Tagged ‘abenaki’

Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/CSM.
This gourd box and ornament, on display at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in New Hampshire, were made by Jeanne Morningstar Kent, an Abenaki artist
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When I was editing the community development magazine for the Boston Fed, I published several articles on the Abenaki people in Vermont. I hadn’t heard of that tribe before and was intrigued to learn they also have a big presence in New Hampshire, Maine, and Canada. Nowadays, they are no longer living their lives below the radar, and a project launched in the middle of the Covid pandemic has helped.

Chelsea Sheasley reports at the Christian Science Monitor, “For years, Darryl Peasley and Sherry Gould, two friends and members of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, heard stories about various Native American sites dotting the region around their small southern New Hampshire hometowns. 

“There was the Indian Tie Up in Henniker, an overhanging rock formation said to have been a site where Native Americans camped or spent winters; a mineral springs sacred site in Bradford; and an old chimney in the woods in Hopkinton rumored to hold ties to Native culture. 

“Before last summer, Mr. Peasley and Ms. Gould had visited only a few spots. That’s changed since they launched the Abenaki Trails Project in August 2020 and organized outings to explore each site with other tribe members and community partners. The project aims to create a network of sites and art installations that the public can visit to learn about Native American history and the continued presence of Native Americans in New Hampshire today.  

“ ‘I want to prove that not only did we live here, we still live here,’ says Mr. Peasley, an artist who creates pouches, hats, and dance sticks in contemporary and traditional Abenaki style. He’s mulled over the idea of sharing Abenaki history more broadly ever since he heard state legislators years ago call New Hampshire a ‘pass through’ state for Native Americans, an assertion he and others say is a misconception.  

“Last summer, he and Ms. Gould decided to take action. They approached select boards and historical societies in four towns, asking to work together to better document local Native American history. They’ve held hikes, paddling trips, and spoken at community events, and they plan to branch out to two more towns this summer.

“On June 5 the Abenaki Trails Project and the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association launched an art show at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner. On display is a birchbark canoe made in the traditional Indigenous style by Ms. Gould’s husband, Bill Gould, who is Abenaki, and Reid Schwartz, a local craftsperson. They sourced all their materials, including white birch bark, spruce root, and moss, within a five-mile radius of Warner. 

“Even in its early stages, the Abenaki Trails Project is ‘raising consciousness, particularly among non-Native people,’ says Robert Goodby, an archaeologist and anthropology professor at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, who was invited to attend several of the group’s events to offer an archaeological perspective. 

“ ‘The Native people have always known that they have a long history here and that these sorts of sites exist. For most non-Native people, it’s very easy to spend your whole life living in New Hampshire and never really think about the Native presence here, and I think this is a way of bringing that presence into the light, community by community,’ says Dr. Goodby, who has found evidence in archaeological digs of Indigenous people living in New Hampshire for over 12,000 years. 

The Abenaki Trails Project aims to highlight positive relations between historic Native Americans and European settlers and dispel the myth that Native Americans disappeared from New England – or that they were primarily antagonistic toward settlers.

“ ‘We want people to understand that Abenaki weren’t just what you read in history books, the murderers and marauders. They helped the colonial settlers also or they wouldn’t have known how to plant corn, how to survive the winter,’ says Mr. Peasley on a recent afternoon at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum art show, where some of his handcrafted hats are on display. …

“ ‘Because these initiatives are going on all over New England, I’m hopeful that it will help change dialogue,’ says Christoph Strobel, author of ‘Native Americans of New England’ and a history professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. …

“One of the highlights of the Abenaki Trails Project for Ms. Gould, a basketmaker, is how enjoyable the exploratory outings are, which bring together Native Americans and non-Native community partners like historians, geologists, and archaeologists. … Yet Ms. Gould still struggles, she says, with feeling like she lives in a ‘dual reality’ where friends know she’s Native American, but in broader society ‘a lot of people want to think that’s not true or you’re trying to appropriate someone else’s culture.’ …

“It doesn’t help that there are no federally recognized Native American tribes in New Hampshire. The Nulhegan Band that Mr. Peasley and Ms. Gould are members of is headquartered in and recognized by Vermont. …

“The project’s impact continues to ripple out. Heather Mitchell, executive director of the Hopkinton Historical Society, says that seven years ago the society created an exhibit including a paddle trip with points of interest along the Contoocook River. None of the sites included any Native history. This summer, after participating in outings with the Abenaki Trails Project, the society plans another paddle trip that will focus exclusively on Native American points of interest.”

More at the Monitor, here.

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nativestories_turtles

Photo: Lukas Vermeer, Flickr
There’s a strong connection with the turtle and the story of creation in indigenous traditions. Native American tales told recently on Public Radio International include tales associated with winter and tales tied to the gradual return of life.

Most indigenous people have oral traditions about the seasons, the origins of life, and the duty to protect the Earth. Recently I heard some Native American winter stories on the radio and learned that when tales are not written down, it’s important to include the name of the person who first passed the story to you.

What follows is part of a discussion that Steve Curwood at PRI’s “Living on Earth” had with Joe Bruchac, a storyteller from the Nulhegan Abenaki tribe in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. The radio show covered traditional winter tales and Native Americans’ respect for the Earth.

“CURWOOD: Years ago, I went to visit the Menominee and I met their forester, [who] explained to me that the Menominee only cut the trees that are too old or ill and that as a forester, he was cutting trees that had been designated by the foresters before him that they had been prepared, they would be mature, and that he was going ahead to make preparations for what would be cut in later generations. …

“The Menominee were forced to give up their land, along [Lake] Michigan. But they were permitted in negotiations to keep a couple hundred thousand acres of forest land inside. And they decided that this was their legacy forever. And they started with an estimated billion and a half board feet of timber. Over the years, they’ve harvested over a billion board feet and they have more than what they started with today, because they’ve only cut with what’s too old or too ill to keep growing. It’s amazing. …

“JOE BRUCHAC: It was Stephen Marvin Askinet, who was the elder who told me that story when I was visiting Menominee. He since passed on but he was a wonderful tradition bearer. And one thing I always try to do is to remember to acknowledge those people who shared those stories with me. For example, that rabbit snow dance story can be traced back through people such as Arthur Parker, who was a Seneca storyteller and writer who recorded many of the traditions of his people. …

“CURWOOD: [Do you have a tale about] the solstice, the changing of the season, then getting dark and getting cold? …

“JOE BRUCHAC: Well, there is a tradition among the Abenaki people which has gone back for a long time, called the New Year’s greeting. And it is this when the new year comes, everyone goes from house to house, and they say …

[HE SINGS THE ABENAKI GREETING SONG]

“Which means, ‘Forgive me for any wrong I may have done to you, including wrong that I may not realize I have done to you.’ For it is important to realize that the things you do affect others around you. And sometimes you may not even know that you’ve caused an offense or hurt someone’s feelings. But at the start of the year, beginning again with those words, were able to have a clean slate. …

“As a friend of mine who is a Cheyenne elder [told me], if you carry guilt, it’s like carrying bad water in a cup. You can never fill it again with good water. Instead, pour that guilt out and then do better so that you do not accumulate more of that guilt and you can have fresh water to drink or to share. And that again, is an idea for the beginning of the new year. …

“CURWOOD: This is the time of year when we celebrate life. … Perhaps you could tell us along those lines?

“BRUCHAC: One of the traditions that I have learned over the years, my Mohawk and other Haudenosaunee, Iroquois, elders who are friends of mine, such as Tom Porter, a Mohawk elder, is that the first person who came to this earth was a woman.

“That long ago there was a land in the sky, and that a woman fell from that sky land, holding in her hand, the seeds of the flowers and plants. The birds flew up to catch her on their back, and then the great turtle swam up from below the surface of the water for only water was here. And animals began to dive down to bring up Earth.

“The one who succeeded the one who made it was the little muskrat. She brought up a paw full of Earth and put it on the back of the turtle. And then that woman stepped from the backs of the birds and began to dance in a circle with slow, small steps as women dance today in the Haudenosaunee tradition.

“The earth got bigger and bigger, and where her feet stepped and made footprints, she dropped the seeds, the flowers and the trees and the other plants. So life came to be on earth through the agency of sky woman, who is always remembered among the Haudenosaunee people as a Mother, the first Mother of us all. …

[HE TAPS A DRUM]

Which drum do we hear first? We hear the heartbeat of our mother, even before we are born. We’re listening to the music of life and dancing in that water within our mother’s body. So when we are born, we’re listening for the sound of the drum. …

“[We] say the drumbeat is the heartbeat of Mother Earth, and that we as human beings must always remember it when we hear the drum to respect our mothers and respect our Mother Earth.”

More good stories here, including the one about the rabbit who loved snow a little too much.

 

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Newport, Vermont, is way up north near Canada. It’s the southern port of vast Lake Memphremagog, whose name comes from an Abenaki Indian word meaning “beautiful waters.”

Any destination near Canada, as I should have known, means having access to French radio on the drive up, one of many small bonuses. Another bonus was the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center, which provides shop space for sellers of many Vermont products under one roof. I bought a very nice turkey sandwich there and a bottle of Granny Squibb‘s Unsweetened Black Currant Tea. (I thought Granny might be a local, but the bottle says she’s a “Rhode Island original.”)

Discover Newport blogged about the Tasting Center in June, “The Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center, LLC, has completed its equity financing and will open its doors to the public this summer, announced Managing Partners Eleanor Leger and Gemma Dreher.

“ ‘This is a unique enterprise that we hope can serve as a model for other rural areas, not only in Vermont but in other regions that value their working landscape,’ said Eleanor Leger, the primary leader of the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center project.

“A total of sixteen individuals and two foundations purchased equity shares in the holding company that purchased the building at 150 Main Street in downtown Newport in September of 2012.  Their equity of $562,000 is being leveraged with $750,000 in financing from Community National Bank and the Vermont Economic Development Authority [VEDA]. …

“Said Gemma Dreher, an early lead investor. ‘The Tasting Center will benefit from all of the changes happening in the Kingdom, but it will also play a key role in keeping our local farms and food producers viable for the future.’

“The building is fully leased to four local food and beverage businesses that feature products from across the region.” More.

You can learn how Newport conducted a visioning process to get input from residents on what they would like their community to be like in the future, here.

And there’s more at Newport’s website, here.

While I was enjoying my turkey sandwich and currant tea, my friends were taking a tour of nearby Jay Peak, which is benefiting from that special type green card that foreign nationals can get if they invest $500,000 in high-unemployment or rural areas. The resort is posh. I don’t think Princess Mononoke would like the loss of woodlands, but I am pretty sure the people getting the new jobs are grateful.

By the way, even if you hate superhighways, the drive  to the Northeast Kingdom, as that part of the world is known, is spectacular — green mountains, rivers, farms, red barns, cows. For all the photo ops, there are not nearly enough places to pull over and capture the autumn asters or the clouds over the mountain over the farm over the river.

Photo: http://discovernewportvt.com/fresh

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