Abbe Trustee Featured in The Bangor Daily News

Image courtesy of Matthew Polstein

Abbe Trustee Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot, is featured in The Bangor Daily News! An excerpt from the article is below.

Jennifer Sapiel Neptune — artist, anthropologist, educator and member of the Penobscot Nation — has integrated her myriad skills to intertwine the past and the present, giving life to the future of her community. Her most recent reproduction from Penobscot history was a ceremonial headdress, cuffs and a collar, hand-decorated with intricate beadwork. It took Jennifer hundreds of hours to make the pieces, but the craft was only part of the job. It also was important to infuse the three garments with the spirit of their heritage. So Jennifer embarked upon a journey with them, all over the state of Maine.

I first met Jennifer four years ago, when I wrote a story about her basketry. Jennifer has been interested in artifacts and historic, native craftwork since her youth.

“As a teenager I went to the [University of Maine] library and read Native American books about my tribe and others,” she said. “There were these amazing black-and-white photographs of beadwork and baskets. I wanted to see them in color. I wanted to make them.”

Jennifer enrolled at the University of Maine as an anthropology major with the express purpose of being allowed access to the native artifacts in the collections of the Hudson Museum.

“I could see and touch them and really study them,” she said.

To read the article in its entirety, please visit the Bangor Daily News.

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.