Wabanaki Placenames Tour with George Neptune, Passamaquoddy

Join Museum Educator George Neptune on Friday, June 24th, from 10-11:30 am for a tour examining the history of Wabanaki People at Moneskatik. This walking tour of Bar Harbor will visit places that are significant to Wabanaki history and culture, and will include information on local Wabanaki placenames, traditional songs, and creation stories. Traditional knowledge and shared history combine to create a tour experience that is engaging for audiences of all ages.

Cost is $10 for members, $20 for non-members. Children under 10 are free. Not a member?

Sign up here. Please contact the Abbe at 207-288-3519 to reserve your spot today!

Please note: this is a walking tour around Bar Harbor, so comfortable shoes and cool attire are recommended. There will be at least two opportunities along the way to sit and rest for a few moments.

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

Sarah Sockbeson, Penobscot, won Best of Division in Traditional Baskets and Best of Class in Baskets at the 58th 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. George Neptune, Passamaquoddy, won first place in Non-Traditional Basketry and Emma Soctomah, Passamaquoddy, won Best in Classification in Junior Division-Baskets.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a Wabanaki artist,” said Neptune, an educator at the Abbe Museum. “For several years now, we've been traveling west to the biggest Indian art markets in the world and claiming top prizes in the basketry divisions at every market. This year, I won my first blue ribbon at the Heard Museum and I was beyond excited to have won with a piece that is so representative of my style as an artist. I hope it will inspire other Wabanaki people, especially youth, to take pride in our culture and practice our traditions—because when you do, beautiful things happen.”

Sockbeson apprenticed with Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot, in 2004 and learned the history, techniques, and art that has become modern Native basketry. Soon thereafter, museums and collectors across the country began to recognize her incredible talent. Her unique style incorporates many different elements of traditional Wabanaki technique and she combines that with innovative colors to create a fresh, new approach to a timeless and beautiful art form.

Neptune has been making baskets since he was four years old. At the age of seven, he wove his first basket by himself and has continued weaving through the years, fine-tuning his skills and attention to detail. His baskets now take on a sculptural element that is unique to his style, often featuring woven flowers, the signature of his family’s work. Twigs, woven birds, and other creatures are also used to create baskets that are truly one of a kind. At twenty years old, he was awarded the title of Master Basketmaker by the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, making him the youngest person to ever receive the title.

“It made me feel really good to win Best of Classification, and it made me feel like I can do a lot better and go further with my basket career,” said 12-year-old Soctomah. “My friends were really surprised how far you can go with making baskets, and where you can go. They all congratulated me when I got home. I'm really excited to go to Santa Fe Indian Market this summer and hopefully back to the Heard next year.”

Soctomah is one of the youngest basketmakers in the Wabanaki tribes and began weaving with her brother, George Neptune, at five years old. Now her brother's formal apprentice, Soctomah has already received national recognition for her work. At nine years old, she was one of the 2013 recipients of the SWAIA Youth Fellowship and was featured in Native Peoples Magazine. In 2015, Soctomah was one of the first artists to receive an Abbe Museum Wabanaki Artist Fellowship.

Other Wabanaki artists invited to attend the fair were Abbe Museum Trustees Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot and David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy, Molly Neptune Parker, Passamaquoddy, Jeremy Frey, Passamaquoddy, Gal Tomah, Passamaquoddy, and Theresa Secord, Penobscot. A complete list of winners can be found at http://heard.org/event/fair-2016/.

Wabanaki Artists take top spots at Santa Fe Indian Market

For the past 90 years, Santa Fe Indian Market has been bringing together the most talented Native American artists from around the US. As the largest Native arts fair in the world, the market covered the Santa Fe Plaza and surrounding streets this past weekend, and consisted of a myriad of events — galas, art openings, music and experiences, fashion shows, and the much anticipated juried art show. Several Wabanaki artists were in attendance this year, and a couple are coming back to the East Coast with some impressive ribbons.

Abbe Museum Fellow Emma Soctomah, Passamaquoddy, won first and second place in the Youth Division, which is her third consecutive year winning the top two spots.

Sara Sockbeson, Penobscot, won first place in Miniatures and second place in Contemporary. Her two winning baskets featured deer antler handles, which she sliced into cross-sections and then carved and polished each one, drilling a hole through the center. Sarah has said that all the antler handles she makes are unique for each basket.

Abbe Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy, received an Honorable Mention in Traditional Basketry. George has admitted that he likes turning his baskets into sculptures, and that they’re all slight adaptations on traditional methods he has been taught.

The market is definitely a meeting of buyer and artist, but it proves year on year to be so much more than just that. It’s a place where artists gather to share their creations, their traditions, and their stories. It helps make possible the continuation of traditional life, whether on a pueblo outside Santa Fe or in a small town in Maine.

More official results of all the winners will be posted soon. The Best of Show winners list is currently available on the Santa Fe Indian Market website.

Congratulations to all the Wabanaki artists!

Wabanaki Antiques Expo

During the Wabanaki Antiques Expo held on Saturday, May 9th, four Master artists from the Wabanaki communities assembled to allow Abbe visitors to pick their brains for knowledge on pieces that wereor in some cases, were notmade by Wabanaki people. The panel included Master Basketmaker and beadworker Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot; Master Basketmaker Richard Silliboy, Micmac; Master Birchbark worker David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy; and Master Basketmaker and Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy.

A wide range of objects were brought before the panel in hopes of having them identified. Tucked among several beaded "flapper" adornments and a few pieces of southwestern pottery were a few objects that piqued the panels' interest: the first object being a seal-skin belt, likely dating back to the Indian Encampments of Bar Harbor, making it easily one hundred years old.

While other objects were identified as "non-Wabanaki," including a shaker-style basket and several pieces of Southwestern pottery, many Wabanaki basketsboth utility and fancy styleswere brought in to be identified. While it's difficult to identify work by specific artists, the panelists were able to identify which tribes the baskets came from based on aesthetic trends from each community. The basket that brought up the most discussion: a red "sweetgrass flat" style purse with woven ash handles. A Potawatomi flute that dates back to the early 1800s also garnered a lot of discussion, and even some playing!

Hawk Henries, a member of the Nipmuck tribe, brought the flute in for the panelists to inspect. Hawk has a lot of experience enchanting audiences with flutes; he also crafts his own eastern woodlands flutes (out of a single piece of wood!). 

The final object discussed by the panel was a beaded leather jacket. According to the oral histories around the item, it was constructed nearly two-hundred years ago, with the beadwork eventually being added by an Ojibwe beadworker. Jennifer Neptune confirmed that the beadwork was in the Ojibwe style, however, the presence of thread in the seams and use of trade-cloth and "greased" beads led panelists to believe that the jacket was made after the Civil War when thread became much more accessible for Native peoples.

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 

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.

Abbe Museum Exhibit Focuses on Women as Healers

First-time curator and Museum Educator, George Neptune, tells a story of strength and love

The Abbe Museum, the first and only Smithsonian Affiliate in the state of Maine, is pleased to announce the opening of the Kikehtahsuwiw: It Heals exhibit, the first exhibit curated by Abbe Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy. A special blessing for Kikehtahsuwiw will be given on Thursday, February 5, 2015 at 5 pm as part of the grand opening for the Abbe’s 2015 feature exhibit, Coming Home.

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.

As a matriarchal society, women are more than just the heads of the family. As the providers and protectors of life itself, women are sacred. Capable of enduring so much pain on behalf of their children in infinite ways, they represent the healing strength of love itself. As the carriers of life, they are also carriers of culture and responsible for carrying on healing traditions.
“By sharing this story, I hope to show the strength of our people,” said Neptune. “These women are just a few of many who work every day to heal within our communities. It is my hope that when you read their stories, you also are, in some way, healed.”
Storytelling is a crucial practice in countless Native American cultures. Many tribes did not use a written language system, so storytellers were the keepers of history, knowledge, and tradition. Stories were meant to teach, whether about creation, survival, respect, or even magic.

The portraits in the Kikehtahsuwiw: It Heals exhibit were photographed by Thom Willey.

The Abbe is currently closed until February 5, 2015. Winter hours are Thursday through Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is free through April thanks to the generosity of Machias Savings Bank.

Kci woliwon ciw miluwakonok-Many thanks for your gifts

When I think back to when I traveled to Bar Harbor as a child, I honestly cannot remember the first time I visited the Abbe Museum. I have many memories of visiting Sieur de Monts for demonstrations with my grandmother, and how the first thing I always did upon arrival was enter the museum and look to the right of the display case where my grandmother’s strawberry and acorn baskets were proudly displayed. Eventually, as collections grew and the downtown facility was built, one of my own baskets joined those of my grandmother’s behind the glass display.

George Neptune, courtesy Rogier van Bakel, Eager Eye Photography

The Abbe Museum has been collaborating with Wabanaki artists for generations to create quality programs and exhibits that feature Native voices as the primary perspectives. My great grandmother, Irene Dana, frequently worked with the Abbe in both demonstrations and workshop formats; her daughter and my grandmother, Molly Neptune Parker, continued that tradition. Now the Museum Educator, I am proud to be part of an organization that, before I was even born, invested in my future as a Master Basketmaker.

At this year’s Gathering Gala, I asked those in attendance to support the presence of Native voice as the primary voice at the Abbe Museum. With support from many Native artists and performances by the Burnurwurbskek Singers, this year’s Gala not only highlighted the Wabanaki perspective, but was perhaps our most successful Gala so far. Through the generosity of those that support our mission, we exceeded our fundraising goals.

By supporting the Abbe Museum, you are supporting a groundbreaking organization that not only works to preserve Wabanaki traditions for future generations, but allows Wabanaki people to decide what should be kept.

Through the Abbe Museum, we as Wabanaki people have an opportunity to tell a story that is so frequently forgotten, ignored, or pushed aside: Our story.

Kci woliwon ciw miluwakonok—Many thanks for your gifts.

George Neptune, Passamaquoddy
Museum Educator

February Vacation Programming

February vacation is next week, and the Abbe invites you to come on down to the museum for a couple of programs specially designed for children by Museum Educator, George Neptune. All programs and museum admission are free and open to all! Please note that registration is required for the Wampum Belt workshop. See details below.

Tuesday, February 18, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Winter in the Dawnland: Wabanaki Stories and Craft Activity

In Wabanaki culture, the winter season was traditionally a time of quiet introspection and, most importantly, a time to share traditional stories. In this new program series designed for children, each month will feature a different traditional story from the Wabanaki tribes and a craft activity that relates to the story. This month, hear stories about Polawec and his magical wikuwam, the girl with the Invisible Husband, and the Pine Marten’s magical birchbark dish—then, make your own imitation birchbark basket or peaked cap to decorate and take home with you!

Wednesday, February 19, 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Wampum of the Wabanaki: Children’s Wampum Belt workshop

In this workshop, designed for families, learn some of the ways the Wabanaki used wampum, or the polished shell of a quahog clam. Wampum belts were used to keep records—is there something in your life that you would like to commemorate? After learning about traditional Wabanaki wampum belts, design your own belt to be woven out of imitation shell beads to symbolize a life event that has significant meaning for you and your family.

Free and open to the public. Registration required, contact George at george@abbemuseum.org or call (207)288-3519.