Friday, April 10, 2015

AAM President Ford W. Bell to visit the Abbe

Photo courtesy of AAM

American Alliance of Museums (AAM) President Ford W. Bell will visit the Abbe Museum this afternoon to meet with Abbe trustees, staff, and museum professionals from across the state of Maine. Bell, who has served as AAM president since 2007, is retiring on May 31, 2015.

Bell began his tenure at the helm of the AAM in June of 2007, following years working as a veterinarian and an assignment as the CEO and president of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. He had also served as chair of the board of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and was a longtime board member of the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota. Upon retirement, Bell and his wife plan to move back to Minneapolis.

The AAM counts some 3,8000 institutions across the US among its members. Its mandate includes advocating for museums on relevant issues, and establishing operational standards and best practices across the industry. Under Bell's tenure the AAM went through a major restructuring that saw its staff cut by 27 percent. He also oversaw the organization's name-change in 2012, from the American Association of Museums to the American Alliance of Museums.

During his seven years at AAM he has visited more than 450 museums across 46 states! The Abbe is incredibly honored and excited to be one of those museums!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Honoring Kikehtahsuwiw: It Heals during Women's History Month

April marks the final month to see the first exhibit curated by Abbe Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy.  Kikehtahsuwiw: It Heals is a story about several women in the Passamaquoddy Tribe, residing at both Motahkomikuk (Indian Township) and Sipayik (Pleasant Point). Each of these women shares a common goal: healing their communities.

"I grew up at Township for most of my life. I was taken from my mother when I was three months old—I was told that she left me in a crib for three days, with no food or water. My aunt found me, barely alive, and they took me away. That was the first time I went to my foster family. I was nine when I was taken to my biological father’s house, and was there for just a few short months. I went to another foster family, where I suffered a lot of abuse.
I discovered drinking as a teenager—as most teenagers do—but it was never really a problem for me. After my second son was born and passed away, I didn’t care anymore. And after my daughter was born, I got into the drugs. I stayed into the drugs for eleven years, doing anything from snorting to I.V. use. Once my children were living with their fathers, I’d lost everything. I moved in with one of the biggest drug dealers around. 
The drum really helped me on my road to recovery. The drum is very powerful medicine in and of itself. My partner said we needed female voices in another group, so I said I would try. I just wanted to be around the drum. They took me to a drum practice on Indian Island, and the power of that drum beat—the music, the vocals that come with drumming—it opened my mind, my spirit to everything around me.
If I didn't have the drum or my partner’s family, I don’t know where I’d be. I always felt the drum at powwows and socials, but I never sat down and learned the songs—the words, and what they mean. The combination of it all was very powerful for me. I owe a lot to that family—they are an amazing family. They’ll help anybody. For them to take an interest in me, and to show me the right way, the right path that I should be on—that was amazing." April Tomah, Passamaquoddy at Indian Township

"I think it’s important for us to remember that we are matriarchal people. That is who we have been for thousands of years. The fact that women’s role has been diminished over the last 500 years is not our way, it’s the Western culture’s way. And if we’re going to truly survive, we need to get to the point where we respect our women, we believe in our women, and we take care of our women. We are the ones who have been entrusted as givers of life. I’m not saying that men’s roles are diminished, we just need to be reflective of and remember who we are. I think that’s important." Elizabeth Neptune, Passamaquoddy at Indian Township

"Women are still the leading force here. We’re a matriarchal society, and people have always followed the women’s lead. I think the women are still pretty strong in that—it’s set in our DNA. Women were the givers of life, we nurtured the children, and today, we’re really still pushing to make our people complete again. We’re the caregivers—if there’s going to be healing, we’re the ones to do it. I’m not saying that men are any less, because we’re all equal, but that’s what our role is. We’ve been given a very special gift, by being able to give life—we’re Life Givers, and with that comes great responsibility. Whenever I go to something having to do with community members voicing concerns, I take a look around, and I always see more women." Plansowes Dana, Passamaquoddy at Sipayik 

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Look at the Abbe's March Programs

Passamaquoddy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Donald Soctomah visited the Abbe on March 19th to talk about Tomah Joseph, a famous birchbark worker from the Passamaquoddy community at Indian Township. Often featuring depictions of Passamaquoddy oral histories, Joseph’s work was sought after by museums and private collectors all over the world; even Franklin D. Roosevelt owned some of Joseph’s pieces. Soctomah is an expert on Tomah Joseph’s history and work, and has even written a children’s book about the birchbark worker’s friendship with FDR, called Remember Me.

In the first event of its kind at the Abbe, Museum Educator and Kikehtahsuwiw: It Heals Curator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy, coordinated a Wabanaki women’s dialogue and panel discussion focused on the roles of women in Wabanaki and other cultures. We had an amazing turnout and a great discussion!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Honoring Kikehtahsuwiw: It Heals during Women's History Month with Jamie Bissonnette Lewey

My name is Jamie Bissonnette Lewey, and I live in Pembroke, Maine. My mother’s family is from the Abenaki communities in Northern Vermont and Southern Canada. My father’s family was Scottish, from New Brunswick and northern New York.

Currently I chair the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission (MITSC), which is an inter-governmental entity that was created as a result of the negotiations of the Maine Implementing Act—a law that reflects the negotiations of the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. The Commission was charged with the responsibility to identify what was going wrong within the implementation of the acts, and give recommendations about how to make it right. Ideally, the state departments, administrations, and legislature are accountable to the Commission—we’re supposed to be able to ask for any information from them. I think the fact that those lines of accountability aren't drawn darker and stronger has created a very uncertain and unsafe world for Wabanaki people in the state of Maine. It has resulted in the socioeconomic and health disparities that MITSC argue have constituted a human rights violation. In fact, the United Nations accepted our conclusion that the Settlement Act has resulted in conditions that create a human rights violation.

In my work for the American Friends Service Committee, I am building a center for healing and transformational practices. What I’m focusing on is building a center where people who are really working to heal and transform their communities can come together, share what they’re learning, and build upon their lessons, and in that way, actually create a movement for healing. Taking the time to heal might seem like a luxury, but as I get older I’m more and more convinced that it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Without it, we may not be able to fix the other things that are wrong.

Celebrating Women's History Month with Kate Pontbriand

Photo courtesy of  Rachel Tirrell.

Kate Pontbriand is a junior at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire working towards a BA in Anthropology, with minors in Public History and Environmental Studies. After graduation next May, she plans to attend graduate school and pursue her dream of becoming a professional archaeologist.

Kate was nine years old the first time she visited the Abbe Museum as part of a Girl Scout trip; learning about archaeology through the museum’s exhibits and hands on activities instilled an interest in archaeology that shaped her educational path. Nine years later she participated in the Abbe Museum’s Summer Field School at Tranquility Farm. From then on she was hooked on archaeology.
During her time at Franklin Pierce University, Kate has participated in numerous archaeological excavations throughout southern New Hampshire, and she is currently working on a publication about one of these sites. She is an active member of Franklin Pierce’s Anthropology Club, where she has held leadership roles as secretary and vice president. Next year, Kate will take over as president of the Anthropology Club.

In fall 2013, Kate studied abroad in Vienna, Austria and expanded her cultural horizons. Kate has spent her last four summers in Acadia National Park’s Cultural Resource Management Division as a Museum Assistant. Last summer she attended the Abbe’s Field School a second time and she hopes to use some of the site’s data for her undergraduate thesis. In Kate’s free time, she enjoys being outside skiing, hiking, or finding whatever other adventure the season permits.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wabanaki Artists Take Top Spots at Prestigious Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market

Jeremy Frey (Passamaquoddy), a basket artist from Indian Township, won the 2015 Best of Show Award at the 57th annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market, which draws nearly 15,000 visitors and more than 600 of the nation’s most outstanding and successful American Indian artists. David Moses Bridges (Passamaquoddy), a basket artist from Bar Harbor, won first place in Traditional Basketry. Of the 645 artists who participated in the world-acclaimed cultural event, five were Wabanaki artists from the state of Maine.

Image courtesy of Heard Museum.

Frey, who comes from a long line of Native weavers, was honored at the fair’s March 6 awards reception for his winning “Loon” basket. In 2011, Frey won Best of Show at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market and the Sante Fe Indian Market, the largest Native American Indian arts market. It is only the second time that someone has won both shows in the same year, and it was the first time in the Sante Fe Indian Market’s 90+ year history that a basket achieved the highest honor. Frey specializes in fancy ash baskets, a traditional form of Wabanaki weaving, and his work has been featured at the Smithsonian, Museum of Art and Design in New York City, and in many other prominent museums around the country.
"This is an exciting time for Wabanaki artists working on a national stage, and these wins tell us that northeastern basketry is the one to watch!” exclaimed Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Abbe Museum’s president and CEO. “The competition at juried shows is serious, and to place requires extraordinary talent and execution. Congratulations to all of the Wabanaki artists who participated and placed."
Bridges, a birch bark basketmaker and Abbe Museum Trustee, won first place for his Etched Winterbark Basket. His work has been exhibited at the Abbe, Eiteljorg Museum of Indians and Western Art, Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, and internationally. He is renowned for etching traditional double curl patterns in bark, and his stitching with spruce roots along basket seams distinguishes his work from other birch bark artists.

Other Wabanaki artists invited to attend the fair were Abbe Museum Educator George Neptune (Passamaquoddy), Abbe Museum Trustee Jennifer Neptune (Penobscot), and Theresa Secord (Penobscot). A complete list of winners can be found at

The Abbe Museum shop features artwork by each of these Wabanaki artists. Winter hours are Thursday through Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm, and admission is free through April thanks to the generosity of Machias Savings Bank.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Honoring Kikehtahsuwiw: It Heals during Women's History Month with Plansowes Dana

Kikehtahsuwiw is an exhibit about several women in the Passamaquoddy Tribe, residing at both Motahkomikuk (Indian Township) and Sipayik (Pleasant Point). Each of these women shares a common goal: healing their communities. As the carriers of life, they are also carriers of culture and responsible for carrying on their healing traditions.

To honor this exhibit during Women's History Month, we will be featuring some of Kikehtahsuwiw's stories. The exhibit, which is curated by Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy, will be on view through April of this year.

My name is Plansowes Dana, and I am Passamaquoddy from Sipayik. I have grown up here all my life, and I am raising my children here in Sipayik. My focus is on food sovereignty, and of course healing—using food sovereignty to do healing work through the community.

So far the food sovereignty project has 105 raised-bed gardens throughout the community. We've started a chicken project too. I’m hoping that maybe within the next ten years, we as a people can be 100% food sovereign again. Our people lived off the land—grew their own food, hunted, and fished. Now people solely rely on going to the grocery store, and a lot of the food in the grocery store isn't real food. It’s causing a lot of illnesses in people. So our goal with food sovereignty is to have healthy families and to be able to just live off the land again, because that is so much a part of us. I really feel like our spirit is starving for these things.

Real food is what we need. I really think that will put us on a path to healing—nourish yourself with good, healthy food, and it nurtures your mind and your body. And gardening, there’s nothing like gardening, it’s so therapeutic. It doesn't matter what kind of day I've had, if I go out into my garden, and just work the earth and pick the vegetables that we grow, it’s so gratifying. It makes you feel so good about yourself.