Abenaki cultural artifacts on view at lake museum

FERRISBURGH — 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.
Supported in part by a grant from the Vermont Humanities Council, these programs are presented in conjunction with the traveling exhibition “Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage,” on view through Aug. 12 at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum on Basin Harbor Road in Ferrisburgh.
Developed by Abenaki culture bearers with deep understanding of how this vibrant regional culture continues into the 21st century, the summer workshop will provide teachers and home school educators with new resources and age-appropriate techniques to help elementary students learn about the Abenaki tribe’s 11,000 years in the Champlain Valley. The seminar will help participants to better support any Native students while presenting American history, and will establish a network of educators and Native culture bearers who can remain in dialogue through online and social media platforms.
The program will also include a gallery talk in the exhibition “Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage,” which explores Abenaki identity and continuity through garments, accessories, and family photographs.
Workshop presenters draw on recent scholarship and oral history combined with cultural traditions and personal experience to provide a Native perspective on the history and culture of Vermont and New England.
“History books, museums, and schools in New England often present Native culture as if the Abenaki disappeared in the 18th century,” says Vera Longtoe Sheehan director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA). “Now we are trying to bridge the gap between the Native and non-Native communities through the ‘Wearing Our Heritage’ project. Our goals are to reclaim our place in New England history, to make connections between our shared past and the present, and for the region’s Native people to be recognized as experts in their own history and culture.”
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has been collaborating with the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts to present the traveling exhibition, an illustrated catalog, and a series of public programs at LCMM, the Flynn Theater, and area libraries including Bixby Library in Vergennes, Pierson Library in Shelburne, Charlotte Public Library and Fletcher Free Library in Burlington.
The library programs, which will take place this fall and in the spring of 2018, will include presentations and discussion of topics such as the experiences of youth living in traditional and contemporary worlds; women’s experiences with the dichotomy between the respected position of Abenaki women in our past and the challenges faced by Indigenous women today; the expression of community and tribal identity through art and how cultural traditions suggest possibilities for change in the future. 

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