Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Read to ME Challenge

The Read to ME Challenge is a month-long public awareness campaign beginning in February 2016 to promote childhood literacy in Maine.

Looking for a good book for the Read to ME Challenge February 2 through March 2, 2016? There are some amazing Wabanaki authors out there you should check out! Take a journey of friendship between Passamaquoddy birchbark artist and guide Tomah Joseph and future president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Donald Soctomah's book Remember Me: Tomah Joseph's Gift to Franklin Roosevelt. Cross the sky with Muin through the telling of a very old Mi'kmaw legend in Muin and the Seven Bird Hunter's: A Mi'kmaw Night Sky Story by Lillian Marshall, Murdena Marshall, Prune Harris, and Cheryl Bartlett. Follow Kunu as he tries to make an ash basket for the first time just like the other men on Indian Island in Kunu's Basket: a Story From Indian Island by Lee DeCora Francis. From ancient oral traditions to contemporary stories, there is something for everyone!

On Saturday, February 20, 2016, the Abbe is partnering with the Jesup Library from 1 - 2 pm for a special Read to ME program. Do you have personal objects that spark a specific memory? Do you have a stuffed animal, toy, or photograph which reminds you of a time you spent with a friend? Bring that with you to the Jesup Library and join Abbe Museum Educator Jen Heindel as we share some of our own memories before we read Remember Me: Tomah Joesph's Gift to Franklin Roosevelt by Donald Soctomah and Jean Flahive. After the story, we'll make miniature faux-birchbark canoes just like the one Tomah Joseph gave to Franklin Roosevelt!

Here are a few more books by Wabanaki authors:

  • Thanks to the Animals by Sockabasin, Allen J., and Rebekah Raye
  • Muskrat Will Be Swimming by Savageau, Cheryl, and Robert Hynes
  • Weska'qelmut Apje'juanu by Fitch, Sheree, and Bernard Francis
  • A Little Boy Catches a Whale by Perron, Judith Carol, and Naomi Mitcham
  • How the Cougar Came to Be Called the Ghost Cat by Isaac, Michael James, and Dozay Christmas
  • How the Petitcodiac River Became Muddy by Maillet, Marguerite, and Raymond Martin. English Version by Allison Mitcham
  • Tihtiyas Et Jean by Gagnon, Nathalie, Naomi Mitcham, and Donald Soctomah
  • Un Petit Garçon Pêche Une Baleine by Perron, Judith Carol, and Naomi Mitcham
  • Nine Micmac Legends by Nowlan, Alden
Happy reading!

The Abbe is Hiring!

The Abbe Museum offers unique career opportunities that empower individuals to connect with our mission and our audience in a profound way.

As a Guest Services Associate, you will be making a significant contribution to Maine’s first and only Smithsonian Affiliate, a Museum beloved by visitors from around the world. The Smithsonian is the guardian of some of our nation’s most valuable scientific, historic, and artistic treasures and is a leader in research, innovation, and discovery. The Abbe Museum fits snugly within this realm, offering our visitors unique and inspiring experiences every single day. Guest Services Associates help the Museum to encourage a more tolerant and culturally-aware society by inspiring visitors to think more deeply about the history and contemporary lives of individuals from other cultures.

The Abbe Museum experience is inclusive and welcoming to all. We foster a strong staff culture of collaboration and teamwork, in a service-focused environment. Staff in public-facing departments must always present a welcoming and inclusive museum visitor experience. Do you enjoy interacting with people? Do you believe that customer service is an important part of a positive experience? We hope you'll consider joining the Abbe’s growing Guest Services team.

Reporting to the Associate Manager of Guest Experience, Guest Services Associates act as an integral source of patron knowledge about the Museum, its history and current strategic direction, and its exhibitions and programs.

Ideal candidates have a heart for service, are driven, self-sufficient, and committed to promoting the Abbe's new Customer Service Pledge and to finding surprising and welcoming ways to interact with patrons of all types. Check out A Day in the Life of an Abbe Museum Guest Services Associate for a peek into what the job entails. Incentives will be given to exemplary job performers.

This is a seasonal position, from May 1st through October 31st, 20-40 hours per week at $10 per hour. For more details about daily tasks and how to apply, please contact the Associate Manager of Guest Experience, Debbie Miles, at or 207-288-3519.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Teamwork at its Best!

The Abbe staff spent some time last week taking down a wall that has been up in our main gallery for 15 years. With this wall gone, we are one step closer to installing our new core exhibit, People of the First Light!


Friday, January 22, 2016

Abbe Museum Staff Rocked #MuseumSelfieDay

January 20th was ‪#‎MuseumSelfieDay‬, and the Abbe staff had way too much fun snapping photos all around the Museum. There happened to be a lot going on that day in and around our main gallery as we prepare for our new core exhibit, People of the First Light, which made our photo opps all the more interesting!

We think we won #MuseumSelfieDay, for sure. At least on Facebook. Hop on over and search for "#MuseumSelfieDay" to see for yourself.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Local Wabanaki Artist Receives National Grant

First Peoples Fund, a nonprofit that supports indigenous artists across the country, recently awarded Jason Brown, Penobscot, a jewelry artist and metalsmith from Bangor, a $5,000 business entrepreneurial grant and fellowship.    
“I’m honored that my artwork and commitment to my community have been recognized by First Peoples Fund. This grant and leadership training will help me expand my work and market, and allow me to continue to give back to my culture and community,” said Jason Brown.   
First Peoples Fund, based in Rapid City, South Dakota, focuses on community and economic development for tribal communities through support for Native artists and recently announced a roster of 27 2016 Native artist-fellows from across the country.
"We are proud to continue to grow our First Peoples Fund family of artist-entrepreneurs,” said Lori Pourier, president. “We believe that when Native artists have support and opportunities to build reliable and consistent incomes through their work, they thrive, their families thrive and whole communities thrive.”
First Peoples Fund is supported in part by The Ford Foundation, The Bush Foundation, Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Northwest Area Foundation, HRK Foundation, The Howe Family Foundation, Surdna Foundation, U.S.D.A Rural Business Opportunity Grant, and The Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

Founded in 1995, First Peoples Fund's mission is to honor and support the Collective Spirit® of First Peoples artists and culture bearers. For further information, or to apply for support through one of their programs, please visit or contact First Peoples Fund at P.O. Box 2977, Rapid City, SD 57709-2977.

Friday, January 15, 2016

What Does Decolonization Mean?

As the only museum in the world dedicated to Wabanaki art, history, and culture, the Abbe works closely with the Wabanaki Nations, sharing authority for the documentation and interpretation of Native culture. We are committed to an ongoing process of better understanding Wabanaki culture, history, and values, and with this in mind, we have a new vision for the Abbe, one that is  groundbreaking, ambitious, and thrilling:
The Abbe Museum will reflect and realize the values of decolonization in all of its practices, working with the Wabanaki Nations to share their stories, history, and culture with a broader audience.
You might be wondering what decolonization means, or what it looks like in a museum setting. You’re not alone; it’s not a well-known word or practice, but it’s gaining speed and we’re proud to be a leading resource and model that the museum field turns to for ideas, solutions, and strategies for comprehensive museum decolonization.

Susan Miller, Seminole, describes decolonization as a process designed to shed and recover from the ill effects of colonization. Amy Lonetree, Ho-Chunk, states in her outstanding publication Decolonizing Museums, that “a decolonizing museum practice must involve assisting (tribal) communities in addressing the legacies of unresolved grief.”

Generally speaking, museums have historically controlled their audiences’ understanding of Native people,  sovereignty, and culture by leaving Native people and communities out of the planning and processes of museum practices. In the end, there was little to no consultation and collaboration with Native people on exhibits, archaeology, culture, history, fashion, food, music, placenames, burial remains, spirituality, education, and much, much more. This practice is certainly evolving, but the museum field has a long road to travel, righting these inequities of the past and planning for a collaborating present and future.

The principles of decolonization inform how the Abbe builds, understands, and exhibits its collections, and they affect who shapes and tells the stories in our galleries and programs. Decolonization is part of our governance and policy and practice, the training of all staff (including those who greet and educate visitors), and even determines what is sold in our Museum shops.

We’ve got big ideas for the future, and our strategic plan includes designing and installing a new core exhibit, producing the Abbe Museum Indian Market, expanding our dialogue-based programming, implementing a new and improved web presence, developing an archaeology advisory committee, and creating an online collections database. We plan to share updates, projects, and milestones on the website and blog each week, so be sure to visit often (and ask questions)!

This new plan and vision are the result of years of discussions, interviews, research, writing, and testing. The plan represents a critical transition in the history of the Abbe, and it’s a journey we’re excited to embark on!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Peacebuilding at the Abbe

The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates is the largest annual event in peacemaking. Needless to say, attending an event such as this is an incredibly daunting task—especially when you’ve been chosen to be the first Native youth delegate to attend. Why was I chosen? Could they not find someone better? What if I speak too strongly, or am not strong enough? What if I misrepresent my people? What if? These questions raced through my mind at what seemed like a thousand times per second as I checked in at the Bar Harbor International Airport. With my hand drum and my mother’s eagle feather tucked into a compartment on the wing of the tiny plane, I embarked on a journey that already felt like one of the most significant and terrifying experiences of my life. 

I was excited to be able to hear from the Nobel Laureate’s directly—last year, due to various political reasons, the Summit was postponed and I attended the Global Youth Peace Indaba in Capetown, South Africa, instead. I knew that the Summit would be very different from the Indaba, and the chance to be able to ask questions of today’s leading peacemakers made me feel nervous and intimidated. I arrived in Barcelona, Spain, prepared to consider ways in which peacebuilding can be incorporated into my work at the Abbe Museum and armed with the goal of creating the first Native Youth Delegation to the Summit in 2016. After visiting the city in high school and spending three months there as an undergraduate, it was as if I was returning to a home away from home.

Plaza Espanya, Barcelona

After one brief evening of getting to know the other delegates, the Summit began like a whirlwind. The opening ceremony and sessions took place at the Universitat de Barcelona and began with a welcome by the mayor of the city, Ada Colau. I found that even though I hadn’t heard the Catalán language since I left the city in 2008, I understood the majority of what was said! Not only did Mayor Colau express gratitude to the Laureates and Secretariat for choosing Barcelona, but she also set the tone for the rest of the Summit by publicly stating that Barcelona would welcome Syrian refugees. This led to larger discussions regarding refugees, with other Laureates pointing out the fact that this is not a new humanitarian crisis, and that the root causes of war must be eliminated in order to create peace. Laureate Mairead Maguire, from Northern Ireland, stated that eliminating the roots of war—specifically, ending militarism—would ultimately be up to young people. She believes that the youth is more ingenious than previous generations, and she apologized to the youth delegates for the world that would one day be handed to us.

Me and Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire.

Laureate Mohammed Yunus, from Bangladesh, echoed Maguire’s message, stating that creating a new civilization is the mission of our generation. He stated that, with 20 million refugees around the globe, the world needs direction from the peace Laureates. His message was that the concentration of wealth and the unemployment of young people worldwide ultimately makes for an unsustainable society; he encouraged that we, as human beings, are not job seekers but job creators and that unemployment is the artificial creation of wrong-thinking. If we are to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030, then we, as young people, needed to take action. These goals are meant to serve as guiding steps to achieving sustainable world peace.
Each of the youth delegations nominated two participants to contribute to the creation of the 2015 Youth Declaration of Peace, which would be composed of declarations pertaining to each of the Sustainable Development Goals. Students and young activists from around the world discussed ways in which we, as young people, can work to achieve these goals, and working with my colleagues from LUISS (Libera UniversitĂ  Internazionale degli Studio Sociali Guido Carli), Oxford University, and PeaceJam, the following was written to accompany goal number ten, “Reducing Inequalities:”    
Financial inequality, ongoing colonization, refusal of reconciliation, institutionalized and non-institutionalized discrimination, and the disparate distribution and development of agricultural and medical resources are just a few of the challenges concerning the reduction of inequality; the role of youth is key to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals through raising awareness and constantly learning; an effective preliminary solution for eliminating these social constructs is to encourage the unconditional appreciation of all human life (The Youth Declaration of Peace).
Me and other Youth Delegates after the American Friends Service Committee Workshop.

I knew that the Youth Declaration was going to be read during the closing ceremony of the Summit, but I was still surprised when my colleagues informed me that, while I was in the restroom, they had unanimously decided that I would read our section. Aloud. On a stage. In front of all the participating Laureates. The next morning, I met with the other delegates assigned to read the declaration and prepared to read in front of the world’s leaders in peacebuilding. I was, to say the least, absolutely terrified, and have never been more thankful for my theater degree. With my drum keeping my hands steady and my mother’s feather giving me strength, I walked on stage with representatives from the other delegations. 

Me at Font Magica, Barcelona

My experiences in Barcelona were far too many for me to effectively summarize in one blog post. I reconnected with old friends while making amazing new ones; returned to a city that I adore; was able to ask questions of incredible peace builders including Jody Williams (a driving force in the launching of an international campaign against landmines), Tawakkol Karman (she has been called the "Iron Woman" and "Mother of the Revolution"), and Frederik Willem de Klerk (the former State President of South Africa!), and excitedly told anyone that would listen how the Abbe tackles social justice issues in a museum setting. Now, I’m conducting research to create the FIRST EVER Native Youth Delegation to the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates for 2016, and couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this history!

Me and Nobel Laureate Jody Williams

There were an infinite amount of meaningful messages received at the Summit. If I were to boil all of these messages down into core lessons, they would be as follows: Mohammed Yunus taught me that youth is key to making change; Mairead Maguire reaffirmed that dialogue is essential to making peace; Frederik Willem de Klerk encouraged that reconciliation is essential to decolonization, and Jody Williams stressed that empathy must be converted into action. With these lessons being added to my peacebuilding toolkit, it is my hope to share these messages with other Indigenous youth and ultimately contribute to the cultivation of sustainable peace, and create a world that my grandchildren will be proud to be a part of.

Thank you to the American Friends Service Committee, an amazing organization that made my journey possible.