Thanksgiving Truths

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One of my earliest Thanksgiving memories is from Kindergarten. I remember huddling around a craft table with my classmates, grappling for crayons and pairs of scissors that weren’t sticky with glue. The class was divided in half; each student assigned to be a pilgrim or an Indian. I was an Indian, tasked with assembling my own headdress of a wide construction paper band accented with three feathers. My only concern was that my feathers didn’t stand up straight, flopping under their own weight. I never thought to question this bizarre ritual; it was simply another game of make-believe. It was also the last time Native Americans were a part of my curriculum until my high school American History teacher tackled the French and Indian War. I now understand that, since my childhood, I’ve been an active participant in an annual tradition that simplifies, commercializes, and undermines Indigenous identity. I bet this is a common memory for many of the Islander’s readers today. And we know that it’s an activity that still happens in classrooms across the U.S. 
   
The Abbe Museum’s “Truth About Thanksgiving Program” took place on Monday, November 20, 2017, and it aimed to address the false narrative of the “First Thanksgiving,” which is pervasive in early childhood education, and has become an intrinsic part of the Thanksgiving holiday. The story of the Pilgrims meeting the Wampanoag for a peaceful meal is more legend than fact. In reality, Thanksgiving as we know it was conceptualized by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War as a means of unifying the divided nation. It was intended to be a reflection on American bounty, family, and tradition. Thanksgiving did not become an official National Holiday until 1941.

What is the harm? The “First Thanksgiving” story is taught as a parable of kindness, empathy, and overcoming differences, but it is inaccurate, simplified, and perpetuated annually by schools, books, movies, TV shows, advertisements, and decorations. There are only two brief written accounts by colonists and an oral Wampanoag account of the 1621 feast. The limited knowledge of the event allowed the dominant Eurocentric society to manipulate the story, recounting a tale of harmony, unity, and togetherness. This misrepresentation simplifies the complicated relationship between the two communities. It portrays the pilgrims as American folk heroes and romanticizes the idea of colonization, which is always a destructive act to those who are colonized. This narrative places Native Americans exclusively in the past, ignoring and erasing Indigenous survival.

As Thanksgiving has been commercialized, images of Native Americans have been used as marketing devices. We see them on cards and window clings, on commercials and in craft kits. Children dress as caricatures of Native people for school plays and activities. This perpetuates stereotypes and contributes to the continued commodification of Native culture. By addressing these difficult truths, the Abbe Museum hopes to promote conversation and ignite action. Curator of Education, Starr Kelly, explains, “it’s important to challenge preconceived notions, even when they’re popular. That’s how change happens.”

I’ll leave you with the questions that the Abbe posed at the end of the program: What makes a holiday meaningful to you? What would your Thanksgiving be like without the “First Thanksgiving” narrative? 
 

Angela Raup is the Manager of Guest Experience at the Abbe Museum. She develops learning and retail opportunities for our visitors, all within a decolonizing context and a team-based work environment. She works closely with the Curator of Education to co-develop, schedule, and deliver public educational programming, such as lectures, panels, workshops, demonstrations, films, etc. She is a Certified Interpretive Guide and enjoys utilizing elements of storytelling to create meaningful guest experiences. 

We are What we are Because of You

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From this beautiful spot in Bar Harbor, on a jagged rock reaching into the Atlantic, the Abbe Museum is redefining museum practice as we know it. And, as we celebrate our 90th year, we want to thank you for your contributions to helping us inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit.

You have made the Abbe an essential museum. How often have you visited the Abbe not necessarily because of a new exhibit or program, but because of its importance in today’s society?  We’ve spent close to a century sponsoring research and preserving precious collections, and we are now working collaboratively with Wabanaki people to teach generations of learners about Wabanaki people, culture, history, and art. Because of that work, and thanks to your support, we are the Smithsonian’s only home in Maine.

You have made the Abbe a trusted and invaluable educational resource. Museums are considered the most trustworthy source of information in America, a more reliable source of historical information than books and teachers. At the Abbe, we've created a world full of life, art, and experiences - from the past to the present and into the future. Our education programs this year have given guests a chance to hear about the Abbe’s collections policy and the responsibilities museums have to tribal communities when it comes to collections care. Visitors have had a behind the scenes look at our contemporary collections and handled objects during a white glove curated talk around thematic Wabanaki art forms. Visitors also had a chance to learn about best practices for collaborating with Native communities. The education team has sought to break down many of the physical barriers that keep visitors from interacting with more of our collections for more one-on-one learning opportunities that are deeply tied to the Museum’s mission.

You have made the Abbe a decolonizing museum. Decolonization is the process of reversing colonialism, both politically and culturally, and it involves not only recognizing Indigenous perspectives and the ongoing colonization of Indigenous nations but the devastating effects that colonialism has on Indigenous cultures. Through collaboration with Wabanaki people, the Abbe is a space that privileges Native perspective and voice, and includes the full measure of history, ensuring truth-telling. We’re a role model and mentor for decolonizing museum practices and in the past 18 months, Abbe staff has been asked to train, talk, teach, present, and offer guidance to dozens of museums, cultural organizations, and National Parks on how the Abbe is decolonizing its museum practices. Additionally, many publication requests have come in asking us to write about our decolonization initiatives and practices to benefit the wider museum field.

You have created economic opportunities for Wabanaki Artists. Mount Desert Island’s cragged shores, woodland trails, and calming lakes inspire creativity and have lured artists to this place for generations. Wabanaki people are part of this artistic tradition, dating back thousands of years on this island. During the Rusticator era (the 1840s to 1920s), Wabanaki people helped make Bar Harbor very attractive to visitors. Simultaneously making art and selling it to visitors ensured the cultural survival of many art forms. For years, Wabanaki artists have been traveling across the country to enter the Indian Arts marketplace, repeatedly taking top prizes from Sante Fe to Phoenix to Indianapolis. Informed by Wabanaki artists about the importance of creative placemaking and how it can support both Wabanaki artistry and the local community, we are introducing a three-day juried art event, the Abbe Museum Indian Market (AMIM), in downtown Bar Harbor, debuting May 18-20, 2018. By creating this event, we will shine a bright light on Wabanaki artists and deepen the economic and cultural impact of art making for tribal communities. 

You are a changemaker. You help the Abbe touch thousands of lives each and every year. From
the 3,000 schoolchildren who visit the Museum, to the more than 80 Native artists who help with projects and exhibits, to the hours spent in a car driving to the Wabanaki communities in Maine and the Maritimes, to the invaluable time spent collaborating with Wabanaki people, your help makes it possible for us to continue to change lives through learning. Every voice matters and yours has been especially powerful in telling the Abbe’s story.   

Your contributions have helped make the Abbe Museum an essential, decolonizing, economic educational resource that’s changing museum practice across the world. Your continued support today is extremely important because it provides an immediate and meaningful impact on the day-to-day operations of the Abbe, most of which are not funded by grant opportunities. Your gift effects every facet of the Museum, from the upkeep and maintenance of galleries and other museum spaces, to community and education programs, to utilities and insurance, to staff salaries. Your gift will help make an actionable impact on providing the necessary funding to fuel these continuing efforts. Help us celebrate 90 years in 2018 by hitting our annual fund goal of $100,000!  
 

DONATE TODAY

 

Artist doodle by Geo Soctomah Neptune, Passamaquoddy. Geo is a Master Basketmaker and has always believed that you do not choose a basket, that a basket actually chooses you. When Geo weaves, they try to be mindful of the fact that the piece will one day be a home for a small piece of their spirit, and that spirit will choose to go wherever it wants. 

Launch of the Archaeological Advisory Committee

From left to right, back row: Larry Zimmerman, Gabe Hrynick, Dave Putnam, Darren Ranco, Isaac St. John, Paulette Steeves, Kristen Barnett, Lynne Dominy, Rebecca Cole-Will, Bonnie Newsom, Stephen Loring. From left to right, front row: Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Chris Sockalexis, Jennifer Talken-Spaulding, David Goldstein, Starr Kelly, Natalie Dana, Cassandra Dana, Julia Gray, Jennifer Pictou. 

From left to right, back row: Larry Zimmerman, Gabe Hrynick, Dave Putnam, Darren Ranco, Isaac St. John, Paulette Steeves, Kristen Barnett, Lynne Dominy, Rebecca Cole-Will, Bonnie Newsom, Stephen Loring. From left to right, front row: Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Chris Sockalexis, Jennifer Talken-Spaulding, David Goldstein, Starr Kelly, Natalie Dana, Cassandra Dana, Julia Gray, Jennifer Pictou. 


The first convening of our newly created Archaeological Advisory Committee was held earlier this week at the Museum. The group of 20 included Indigenous archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians from the Wabanaki Nations and beyond, along with non-Native archaeologists, educators, and leadership from the Abbe and the National Park Service. With the long-term goal of helping the Abbe re-envision our role in archaeology in the Wabanaki homeland, the group tackled topics from community archaeology to building capacity, from education to heritage protection, all through the lenses of decolonizing practice and Indigenous archaeologies. Members of the committee will continue to work in smaller groups to further develop and implement the ideas generated this week.

The full list of committee members is:

Patricia Ayala Rocabado, independent scholar
Kristen Barnett, Unangan, Bates College
Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Abbe Museum
Rebecca Cole-Will, Acadia National Park
Cassandra Dana, Passamaquoddy Tribe  
Natalie Dana, Passamaquoddy Tribe
Lynne Dominy, Acadia National Park
David J. Goldstein, National Park Service
Julia Gray, Abbe Museum
Gabe Hrynick, University of New Brunswick
Starr Kelly, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, Abbe Museum
Stephen Loring, Smithsonian Institution
Bonnie Newsom, Penobscot, University of Maine
Jennifer Pictou, Aroostook Band of Micmacs
David Putnam, University of Maine, Presque Isle
Darren Ranco, Penobscot, University of Maine
Chris Sockalexis, Penobscot Nation
Donald Soctomah, Passamaquoddy Tribe
Isaac St. John, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians
Paulette Steeves, First Nations Cree- Metis, Mount Allison University, New Brunswick
Jennifer Talken-Spaulding, National Park Service
Larry Zimmerman, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

On Sunday, November 5th, a panel that consisted of four of the committee members took place at the Abbe, officially kicking things off for the week. The crowd of 30 interacted with panelists about the future of archaeology and what is exciting and new in the field.

 
From left to right:Jennifer Pictou (Micmac), Chris Sockalexis (Penobscot), Starr Kelly (Algonquin), Darren Ranco (Penobscot), Paulette Steeves (First Nations Cree- Metis), Kristen Barnett (Unangan), Bonnie Newsom (Penobscot), Isaac St. John (Maliseet), Natalie Dana (Passamaquoddy), Cassandra Dana (Passamaquoddy)

From left to right:Jennifer Pictou (Micmac), Chris Sockalexis (Penobscot), Starr Kelly (Algonquin), Darren Ranco (Penobscot), Paulette Steeves (First Nations Cree- Metis), Kristen Barnett (Unangan), Bonnie Newsom (Penobscot), Isaac St. John (Maliseet), Natalie Dana (Passamaquoddy), Cassandra Dana (Passamaquoddy)

Tea & Pops Archaeology Update

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If you're a fan of our Tea & Pops Archaeology program, we have some exciting news for you! This year the Abbe Museum has implemented its first ever Archaeology Advisory Committee with an impressive lineup of Native archeologists and others working in the field. To commemorate this, we are foregoing our annual Tea & Pops event in October and will instead host an Archaeology Panel with a number of experts from our committee on Sunday, November 5th at 7 pm. More details will be released soon, and don't worry, we'll revisit Tea & Pops in 2018! 

The Abbe Museum’s Archaeology Advisory Committee is part of our wider work to bring our archaeological research, collections management, and interpretation fully into a decolonizing framework. You can learn more about this new committee on our blog

So, please save the date for Sunday, November 5th at 7 pm for what will surely be an interesting panel discussion around archaeology! 

Indigenous Peoples' Day

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Indigenous Peoples' Day has been picking up steam the past few months as the city of Los Angeles adopted the holiday and, more locally, Bangor, Orono, Portland, and Brunswick all made the switch (Belfast did so back in 2015). So what is Indigenous Peoples' Day? It's a holiday to honor and celebrate Indigenous peoples and cultures of this continent. At its infancy, the holiday began as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day, observed on the second Monday in October to commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. As it has grown and been adopted by many localities, the day has turned into a celebration of Native history and culture in the Americas. 

You might be asking though, why? For the past 525 years, Native Americans have been adapting to and resisting the legacy of Columbus and colonization in our homelands. The consequences of Columbus’ arrival and his attitude and dealings with Indigenous people set in motion the foundation of the Atlantic slave trade, state-sanctioned theft, and genocide. Colonization is a violent and deliberate process of appropriating land and resources to secure wealth and power over an area of land.

Colonization is also an on-going process; celebrations of Columbus only exacerbate the colonial realities in which we live. What do we celebrate when we celebrate Columbus Day? We celebrate the deaths he caused, we celebrate colonization, and we celebrate slavery. Are these things worthy of celebration? Certainly not, as conscious citizens, it is vital to be critical and engaged in the reality of colonial celebrations that further serve a colonial purpose of re-telling history so that it is more palatable for the masses. Indigenous Peoples' Day is a way for people to become engaged in issues that affect Native communities and learn directly from those in Indian country about history, culture, and contemporary issues. 

At the Abbe, we will be hosting an impressive amount of programming to celebrate Indigenous history and culture in Maine. We are pleased to have John Dennis, Mi’kmaq, with us for the day on Monday, October 9th. He will host a hand drumming session on our front patio to kick off the celebrations, welcoming all people into our museum spaces. Later John will host a storytelling hour where he will share traditional Wabanaki stories inside the Museum. Throughout the day we will have plenty of opportunities for families to learn and have fun whether on a free People of the First Light Tour or in our Learning Lab where we will have crafts, educational touch tables, and other engaging activities. We look forward to seeing you at our downtown location on October 9th!


Starr Kelly is the Curator of Education at the Abbe Museum. She is a member of the Algonquin First Nation of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg in Quebec, and has worked as a middle and high school social studies teacher and is a social justice oriented educator, developing what she refers to as a "curriculum for dignity." Her lessons and pedagogical approach put theory into practice by honoring those she teaches about while simultaneously creating an environment which is responsive to the needs of her learners and dignifies her students' lived experiences

Abbe Museum Awarded Competitive Grant for Workplace Inclusion

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The Abbe Museum has been awarded a $53,050 Museums for America: Museums Empowered grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The grant is 1 of 28 awarded to museum projects across the US – totaling more than $1.9 million – and will fund the Abbe’s project, Workplace Inclusion to Support Museum Decolonization. 

“As centers of learning and catalysts of community change, libraries and museums connect people with programs, services, collections, information, and new ideas in the arts, sciences, and humanities,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “They serve as vital spaces where people can connect with each other. IMLS is proud to support their work through our grantmaking as they inform and inspire all in their communities.”

Museums for America (MFA) is IMLS’s largest discretionary grant program for museums, supporting projects and ongoing activities that build museums' capacity to serve their communities. Museums Empowered (ME) is a special MFA initiative to provide professional development and capacity building opportunities for eligible museums. This year IMLS received 147 applications requesting $16,770,555 for Museums Empowered grants.

The Abbe’s project will include professional development and training for staff, board, and volunteers to support the Museum’s work with the Wabanaki Nations towards a decolonized approach to every aspect of its operations. An emerging concept in museum practice, decolonization is an ongoing process of sharing authority for the documentation and interpretation of Native culture. 

“The Abbe team is committed to continued learning and we have dedicated ourselves to internal examination to make sure we are an inclusive museum, focused on anti-racist strategies and initiatives,” said Abbe President/CEO Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko. “As a small organization, the grant award helps us expand our bandwidth by bringing in experts to guide us and ultimately boost our strategies for the benefit of Wabanaki people and museum-goers.”

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.

As a decolonizing museum of Wabanaki art, history, and culture, the Abbe develops policies and protocols guiding decolonizing practice. As part of the Workplace Inclusion to Support Museum Decolonization project, Museum staff members and trustees will engage in learning sessions around anti-racism and the effect of acculturation and will engage in cultural competency assessments. A museum inclusion expert will work with staff to assess inclusion from a systems perspective – people, policy, assumptions, values, and norms – and determine if they align with the museum's adopted guiding principle of decolonization. The project will provide essential resources for staff in the learning and development of workplace inclusion practices to support the broader work of decolonization.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. IMLS’s grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov. 
 

Abbe Launches Archaeological Advisory Committee

It’s August, the time of year when the Abbe Archaeological Field School happened for many years. As many of you may know, the field school is currently on hiatus as we begin the process of finding the right place for archaeology in our decolonizing museum practices.

The Museum is beginning the process of addressing our archaeological research, collections, and interpretation through the formation of an Archaeological Advisory Committee. The Abbe Museum, in partnership with Acadia National Park, is excited to launch this new project as part of our Decolonization Initiative, and we’re working under a Cooperative Agreement to partner with the Wabanaki Nations of Maine to inspire new learning, to understand issues of stewardship of heritage resources, and to provide opportunities for co-management of research about Wabanaki history and archaeology.  

The Abbe was founded in 1926 around goals to collect, preserve, and interpret the archaeological record of the region, and we have been doing archaeological research in the Wabanaki homeland since 1928. However, like most archaeological work in North America, this was not done with any involvement with or consideration for the Wabanaki people themselves for many decades. In recent years, the Museum has begun to work more collaboratively on some aspects of our archaeological content, but as a decolonizing museum, we know that we need to do so much more.

We will bring together an outstanding group of knowledge-keepers from the Wabanaki communities and the field of archaeology to help us assess where we are, think about what role archaeological research, collections, and interpretation should have in the Wabanaki homeland, and to bring current best practices in Indigenous archaeologies to shape the future of our work at the Abbe Museum and in Acadia National Park. This group includes more than 10 Indigenous archaeologists and anthropologists, and several non-Native archaeologists who have shown a strong track record of working collaboratively with Indigenous communities. The Abbe team is very grateful to everyone who has agreed to share their time and expertise to kick off the process!

Acadia National Park resource managers will join the process, to listen and learn about issues of heritage resources stewardship, offer insights from their experiences, and collaborate with the Abbe Museum and Wabanaki Nations to protect Wabanaki archaeological resources. Wabanaki archaeologists, anthropologists, and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers from the Penobscot Nation, Passamaquoddy Tribe, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, and Aroostook Band of Micmacs will be members of the committee. Indigenous archaeologists from colleges and universities in New England and the Canadian Maritimes and from the National Park Service (NPS) will be joined by non-Native archaeologists and anthropologists from our region, the NPS, the Smithsonian, and beyond.

The initial on-site meeting of the Archaeological Advisory Committee will take place this November. This meeting will be followed up by virtual meetings and collaborations, both with the full committee and in smaller working groups. Our hope is to develop guiding principles, priorities, best practices, and protocols to re-envision archaeological research, collections management, and interpretation, not only at the Abbe but across the Wabanaki homeland. 
 

Julia Gray is Director of Collections & Research at the Abbe Museum. As a non-tribal museum whose work focuses on the Wabanaki (the Native people of northern New England and easternmost Canada), the Abbe is committed to a vision to 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. Gray’s work in collections management and care, exhibit development, research, and community outreach has engaged extensively with the decolonizing vision of the museum, most recently in the development of our core exhibit, People of the First Light.

Questions Teachers Must Ask Themselves: A Reflection on Dignity

I came to the Abbe Museum as a former social justice trained educator having worked with middle and high school social studies students. I worked hard to develop my pedagogy in the classroom, constantly forcing myself and my students to look beyond the pages of our resources and ask ourselves questions. Why is this important? Whose voice are we actually listening to? Who is telling this story? Who has been silenced? One question I kept asking myself at the end of every lesson was how do I bring dignity to a society built on colonialism and slavery?

Developing a solid curriculum is essential to all good teaching. My theory behind developing curriculum for dignity is a dual intention of honoring my content and providing an environment that is responsive to the needs of my students. In a history setting, students are free to explore the lives of other people separated by time and space and grapple with questions universal to humanity. "History, in other words, is...open to the whole range of human experience" (Whelman, 55) and I can utilize this to promote my own students' dignity by legitimizing their experiences. 

You may ask how one actually creates this kind of “curriculum for dignity." In my approach to history, I think it is imperative to highlight the agency and resistance of those living under oppressive socio-political systems. I wanted my students to interrogate all of our texts that perpetuate ideas about 'passive victims.' The development of critical thinking is essential for this kind of questioning. My focus on resistance is about bringing dignity to those in our units and students alike. It is an avenue through which students see the importance of being critical citizens who vocalize their questions and concerns. 

My work in museums is not all that different than that in a classroom. I still value the reflective nature of this work and believe that museum professionals must fully form their pedagogical approaches with dignity in mind. How does our work dignify the lived experiences of Wabanaki people? How are we addressing the past transgressions of museum work which assaulted Indigenous dignity and wellbeing? These are the questions I do not fear asking my colleagues and myself because it is the heart of decolonizing work. 

I bring dignity into museum work through truth-telling and decolonizing practices such as honoring the authority the Wabanaki nations have to tell their own stories. Since starting at the Abbe, my education team has developed a dialogue program called Decolonizing Museum Practice. It is an institutionally-reflective experience for visitors to see the challenges museums, like the Abbe, must come to terms with in order to create an environment that breaks down colonial narratives and supports a Native voice and agency. I actively engage visitors in reflecting on their own experiences and biases, because learners never come to us devoid of these, and in order to push past stereotypes and static historical narratives we need to confront ourselves.

Whether my learners are in a classroom or the museum, there is a responsibility I feel I have to bring my pedagogy of dignity to all the work I do behind the scenes and out on the frontline. This ensures that I am able to create a space for deeper educational moments that push us past the comfortable and into a truthful assessment of colonialism today. 

About the Author
Starr Kelly is the Curator of Education at the Abbe Museum. She is a member of the Algonquin First Nation of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg in Quebec, and has worked as a middle and high school social studies teacher and is a social justice oriented educator, developing what she refers to as a "curriculum for dignity." Her lessons and pedagogical approach put theory into practice by honoring those she teaches about while simultaneously creating an environment which is responsive to the needs of her learners and dignifies her students' lived experiences. 

Guest Blogger Series
Our Guest Blogger Series is written by members of the Abbe Museum's Board of Trustees, Native Advisory Council, Staff, and special guest authors. It is a place to talk about the Museum's mission and related topics. Interested in becoming a Guest Blogger? Contact the Abbe's Director of Advancement, Heather Anderson, for more details at heather@abbemuseum.org

Abbe Museum Welcomes New Trustees

The Abbe Museum has added two new members to its Board of Trustees, bringing the total number of Trustees to 16. The new appointees, Gabriel Frey, Passamaquoddy, and Sarah Sockbeson, Penobscot, assumed their new roles on June 2, 2017. Abbe Trustees Jeff Dalrymple and Richard Cleary were elected to a third term.

"We are honored to have Gabe and Sarah join the Abbe’s board,” said Abbe Museum Board Chair Ann Cox Halkett. “Both bring talents and new perspectives that will complement and strengthen our energetic and engaged board. Their leadership will be especially important as the Abbe continues its commitment to decolonization and launches the first annual Abbe Museum Indian Market in Bar Harbor in May 2018.”

Gabriel Frey is a Passamaquoddy artist who learned to make brown ash baskets from his grandfather. His baskets can be seen in museums and galleries across Maine, and his work was recently featured in museum exhibits in Maine and Connecticut. Gabe was a recipient of a Native Arts New England grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts in 2008, and he teaches basketmaking to apprentice Wabanaki basketmakers.

Image courtesy Eager Eye Photography

Image courtesy Eager Eye Photography

Sarah Sockbeson is a Penobscot artist, raised in Brooklin, Maine. Her great-grandmother made Penobscot baskets in the early 1900s on Indian Island. In 2004 Sarah apprenticed with Jennifer Neptune where she learned the history, techniques, and art that has become modern native basketry. She was soon being recognized by museums and collectors across the country from Maine to Arizona. Her unique style incorporates many different elements of traditional Wabanaki technique, however, she combines the tradition with innovative colors and patterns to create a fresh, new approach to a timeless and beautiful art form.

The Abbe Museum Trustees also include: Ann Cox Halkett (Chair), Joseph F. Cistone (Vice Chair), Curtis Simard (Secretary), Jeff Dalrymple (Treasurer), Richard Cleary, William Haviland, Abbe Levin, Jamie Bissonette Lewey, Margo Lukens, Roger Milliken, Jennifer Neptune, Patricia DiIanni Selig, Douglas Sharpe, Chris Sockalexis, and Honorary Trustees Alice Wellman and Darren J. Ranco. 
 

Welcome New Staff Members

We are excited to announce the arrival of two new staff members: Starr Kelly and Angela Raup. Please join us in welcoming them both to the Museum and Bar Harbor! We'll announce a few Meet and Greet dates soon that will give you all an opportunity to meet Starr and Angela and get to know them in their new roles. 

Starr Kelly is our Curator of Education. She is a member of the Algonquin First Nation of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg in Quebec. After growing up in Portland, Maine, she attended Colgate University in Hamilton, NY as an undergraduate in Native American Studies. She continued her education at Colgate receiving a Masters of Teaching in 2013, focusing her studies on secondary social studies.

A Gottesman fellow, Starr created original research on the lasting intergenerational trauma caused by the boarding school era among Native peoples in the U.S. and Canada. A topic that led to her thesis work in the area of decolonization practices as a means to address the needs of Native students and foster healing from historic trauma inflicted by colonial agendas.

As a middle and high school social studies teacher, Starr is a social justice oriented educator and has developed what she refers to as a "curriculum for dignity." Her lessons and pedagogical approach put theory into practice by honoring those she teaches about while simultaneously creating an environment which is responsive to the needs of her learners and dignifies her students' lived experiences. 

Starr is committed to language and cultural revitalization efforts in Indigenous communities. She is a traditional beadworker in both flat and raised beadwork mediums and enjoys hiking and live music in her spare time. 

Angela Raup is our Manager of Guest Experience. She originally hails from Smithfield, Rhode Island, but is no stranger to Mount Desert Island. She previously worked for College of the Atlantic’s Summer Field Studies Program, and for the Jordan Pond House Restaurant. After graduating from the University of Rhode Island in 2012 with a degree in Anthropology and Writing, Angela moved to Washington, DC, where she began her museum career.

Angela spent two years as an Operations Manager at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment before accepting a position as Visitor Operations Manager of the United States Capitol. Serving under the 114th Congress, Angela facilitated daily operations at the Capitol Visitor Center and provided assistance and direction at Congressional events. She is a Certified Interpretive Guide and enjoys utilizing elements of storytelling to create meaningful guest experiences. Angela loves big breakfasts, chai lattes, graphic novels, and painting.

Amy Lonetree Lecture on Decolonizing Museums

The Abbe Museum is excited to announce that Dr. Amy Lonetree, Ho-Chunk, will give a free lecture on Decolonizing Museums: New Directions, Ongoing Challenges at the Museum on February 1, 2017, at 7 pm. Lonetree is a leading scholar on Indigenous history, visual culture studies, museum studies, and decolonization.

“We are incredibly honored that Amy is giving this talk at the Museum, especially since decolonization has been our touchstone and guiding principle for many years,” said Abbe President and CEO Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko. “We’ve been a resource and a model that the museum field turns to for ideas, solutions, and strategies for comprehensive museum decolonization.”

As applied to the relationship of institutions such as museums to the Native people of the United States, “decolonization” means, at a minimum, sharing authority for the documentation and interpretation of Native culture. Traditional museum practices of exhibiting, collecting, and programming have informed the collective memories of museum-goers while dehumanizing Native history and creating colonizing museum spaces. Emotional, spiritual, and physical harm is done when these colonized spaces and practices are not acknowledged and addressed. As explained by Lonetree in her 2012 book Decolonizing Museums, “Museums can be very painful sites for Native peoples, as they are intimately tied to the colonization process.” 

Lonetree’s talk will focus on the current state of contemporary exhibition practice with, by, and for Native Americans at both national and tribal museums. Central to her analysis is exploring how museums can serve as sites of decolonization by privileging Indigenous knowledge and worldview, challenging the stereotypical representations of Native people produced in the past, and discussing the hard truths of colonization in exhibitions in an effort to promote healing and understanding.  

“As a scholar focusing on the history of the relationship between Indigenous communities and museums, I am heartened to see the amazing work happening at the Abbe Museum,” said Lonetree. “Their willingness to discuss the knowledge they have gained with other museum professionals is impressive, and I would be honored to assist them in these endeavors based on my academic background in museum studies and Native American history. I am confident that the important conversations that take place at the Museum will enable all to arrive at new understandings of how best to move forward with efforts to decolonize museums.”

To learn more about the Abbe Museum’s decolonization practices, please check out our Strategic Plan. This lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, or to reserve a seat, please contact the Abbe at 207-288-3519 or RSVP@abbemuseum.org. 

About Amy Lonetree
Dr. Amy Lonetree is an enrolled citizen of Ho-Chunk Nation and is an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her scholarly work focuses on the representation of Native American history and memory in national and tribal museums and she has conducted research at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, British Museum, Mille Lacs Indian Museum in Minnesota, and the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways in Michigan. Her publications include, Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums (University of North Carolina Press, 2012); a co-edited book with Amanda J. Cobb, The National Museum of the American Indian: Critical Conversations (University of Nebraska Press, 2008); and a co-authored volume, People of the Big Voice: Photographs of Ho-Chunk Families by Charles Van Schaick, 1879-1942 (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2011). She is currently working on a visual history of the Ho-Chunk Nation from 1879-1960.

We Must Decolonize our Museums

“Museums can be very painful sites for Native peoples, as they are intimately tied to the colonization process,” writes Ho-Chunk scholar Amy Lonetree. Reading this passage for the first time in 2012 stopped Abbe President and CEO Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko in her tracks and forced her to ask herself "How does the work I do cause another person’s pain and anguish? How dare I ignore this pain?" She can’t ignore it, and she would hope most of us can’t ignore it. But for many museum workers, this intertwined colonial history isn’t discussed or represented in their institutions.

In the following talk, recorded at TEDxDirigo in Portland, Maine on November 5, 2016, Cinnamon shares the urgency of museum decolonizing practices and describe some of the work the Abbe Museum is doing.

What Does Decolonization Mean?

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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, orwhat 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 ourstrategic planincludes 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!

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 Università 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.