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 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.

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.

March Events at the Abbe

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Mt. Desert Community Progressive Dinner
March on Mt. Desert Community Progressive Dinner
5:00 - 7:30 pm

Join Mount Desert Street neighbors as we celebrate our community with
this annual progressive dinner.

  • 5:15-5:30 pm at Abbe Museum: Conners-Emerson Play
  • 5:30-6:00 pm at YWCA: Hors d'oeuvres
  • 6:00-6:30 pm at St. Saviour's Church: Salad
  • 6:30-7:00 pm at Jesup Memorial Library: Soup & Bread
  • 7:00-7:30 pm at Congregational Church: Dessert. 

Free, open to the public

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
5:30 -7:00 pm

The PKMDI spring session will feature eight presentations, 6 minutes 20 seconds each (20 slides x 20 seconds), and will be emceed by Lyzz Bien. Midway through the presentations we'll break for an intermission.

Free and open to the public.
Location: Reel Pizza Cinerama, 33 Kennebec Place, Bar Harbor

Thursday, March 19, 2015
Coming Home Brown Bag Lunch Series with Donald Soctomah, Passamaquoddy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Join us for the second program in our Brown Bag Lunch series with Passamaquoddy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Donald Soctomah. The Coming Home exhibit features several etched birchbark pieces made by 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.

Free and open to the public.
Location: Abbe Museum Downtown

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Wabanaki Women’s Dialogue and Panel Discussion
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

In the first half of this program, join Museum Educator and Kikehtahsuwiw: It Heals Curator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy, and other museum visitors in a dialogue focused on the roles of women in Wabanaki and other cultures. Then, join a panel of Wabanaki women for a discussion of the Kikehtahsuwiw: It Heals exhibit, and how the traditional role of women in Wabanaki cultures informs their contemporary work within the Passamaquoddy community.

Free and open to the public.
Location: Abbe Museum Downtown

Saturday, March 28, 2015
Winter in the Dawnland Storytelling and Craft Activity with Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy
10:00 am - 12:00 pm

For the final program in the Winter in the Dawnland series, join Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy, to hear Wabanaki stories about Koluskap and the creation of the Wabanaki people. When Koluskap came to this land, there were no people here, so he took an arrow and shot a brown ash tree. From that tree, the Wabanaki people were born. To this day, Wabanaki people use strips of brown ash to weave their baskets. In the second part of the program, you will also have the opportunity to weave with ash and make your own woven bookmark to use while you wait for next year’s series!

Registration required, space limited. Recommended for families.

For more information, or to register, contact Museum Educator George Neptune, (207) 288-3519 or george@abbemuseum.org.
Location: Abbe Museum Downtown