Waponahki Student Art Show Alumna

Do you ever wonder if the artists featured in our Waponahki Student Art Show keep creating art once they leave the Maine Indian Education schools?

Christiana Becker, Penobscot, is a student at the University of Maine and has been using her art as a medium through which she displays and shares her culture. When she was in the eighth grade, she participated in the Abbe Museum's annual Waponahki Student Art Show with the following submission.

Hidden Warrior Spirit

Christiana R. Becker, Penobscot
Grade 8
Indian Island School

"I've always like to read fantasy books or books with swords. I like it when there is a woman who is a hero or warrior. So I drew a woman who wanted to be a warrior. She goes to one of her favorite spots to ask for guidance from her ancestors. She then sees a reflection of herself and finds she does have the spirit of a warrior. It's hidden inside her."

Fast forward to 2016 where several of Christiana’s original pieces were recently featured in the University of Maine's Senior Art Exhibit “Ghosts of Carnegie Hall." Christiana hopes observers take from her art the importance of “giving back to the Earth, being grateful, and making sure that your descendants and your people will also benefit from your actions.”

Read more about Christiana's success in a recent article posted by the Maine Journal.

Local Wabanaki Artist Receives National Grant

First Peoples Fund, a nonprofit that supports indigenous artists across the country, recently awarded Jason Brown, Penobscot, a jewelry artist and metalsmith from Bangor, a $5,000 business entrepreneurial grant and fellowship.    

“I’m honored that my artwork and commitment to my community have been recognized by First Peoples Fund. This grant and leadership training will help me expand my work and market, and allow me to continue to give back to my culture and community,” said Jason Brown.   

First Peoples Fund, based in Rapid City, South Dakota, focuses on community and economic development for tribal communities through support for Native artists and recently announced a roster of 27 2016 Native artist-fellows from across the country.

"We are proud to continue to grow our First Peoples Fund family of artist-entrepreneurs,” said Lori Pourier, president. “We believe that when Native artists have support and opportunities to build reliable and consistent incomes through their work, they thrive, their families thrive and whole communities thrive.”

First Peoples Fund is supported in part by The Ford Foundation, The Bush Foundation, Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Northwest Area Foundation, HRK Foundation, The Howe Family Foundation, Surdna Foundation, U.S.D.A Rural Business Opportunity Grant, and The Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

Founded in 1995, First Peoples Fund's mission is to honor and support the Collective Spirit® of First Peoples artists and culture bearers. For further information, or to apply for support through one of their programs, please visit www.firstpeoplesfund.org or contact First Peoples Fund at P.O. Box 2977, Rapid City, SD 57709-2977.

Meet a Wabanaki Artist Fellow: Donna Brown

Donna Brown talked about her beaded moccasins with Abbe Trustee, Sandy Wilcox, at the Museum's annual meeting in August.

Donna Brown talked about her beaded moccasins with Abbe Trustee, Sandy Wilcox, at the Museum's annual meeting in August.

Donna Brown, Penobscot, handcrafts jewelry and traditional beadwork made from various metals, semi-precious gemstones, and glass beads. She uses stringing and metal shaping techniques to create various types of earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, and also uses intricate beadwork techniques to create jewelry and regalia accessories by beading with cloth, leather, and a loom. She has beaded on items such as moccasins, shoes, belts, barrettes, shawls, earrings, and hair ties.

"My work is motivated by my desire to create colorful jewelry and regalia that will be passed on to future generations," Donna said in her fellowship application's artist statement. "I am inspired by the colors and elements of nature, as well as my Wabanaki culture, and I am passionate about creating miniature works of art that begin with a sketch or outline of a pattern and seeing it come to life through the work of my hands. It gives me great joy to see others enjoy and wear my creations, whether for everyday wear or worn specially for traditional gatherings."

Donna is working hard to build her business and cultivate her brand to a level of success that will allow her to broaden her reach into the jewelry and fashion industry.

"I feel once I have gained access to this industry, I can share the beauty and significance of our culture through my designs and creations. It is also my goal to teach others my skills to serve as a mentor and help keep our traditions alive."

In July, Donna attended the Native American Festival as an Abbe Museum Fellow. She and her husband, Jason, are the creative force behind Decontie & Brown  and have been creating jewelry for the past 20 years.

"This fellowship will also support me by allowing me access to some of the tools and supplies that are needed to sharpen and polish my brand. By presenting my jewelry in a professional and attractive way, I add value to my creations, my brand, and to Native American jewelry and art. Wabanaki artists who attend the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance shows, are in the unique position of presenting their creations to collectors from around the world. My goal is to utilize this opportunity by attending these shows and presenting my creations in the same manner as top jewelry designers, utilizing cohesive display presentation and product packaging. 

The Abbe Museum Wabanaki Artist Fellowships were made possible through support from Dawnland, LLC, the concessioner in Acadia National Park.

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.

2015 Maryann Hartman Award Recipients Announced

Photo by Read D. Brugger
Maria Girouard is a recipient of the Maryann Hartman Award for her advocacy for the preservation of the cultural heritage and rights of the Penobscot Nation. Maria is the Director of Dawnland Environmental Justice, and a leading force behind the Justice For The River campaign. She joins a long list of distinguished Maine women who have been honored with Maryann Hartman Awards, named for the late University of Maine Associate Professor of Speech Communication. Hartman Awards are given by UMaine’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program and recognize Maine women for their inspirational achievements in the arts, politics, business, education, healthcare, and community service.

Ever wonder how a river, mountain, or town got its name?

Wabanaki Place: Language and Landscape

Join us on Sunday, June 1, 6 - 8 PM to learn about Mount Desert Island and Downeast regional names from the perspective of its earliest inhabitants. James E. Francis, Penobscot Nation’s Cultural and Historic Preservation director and member of the USET Culture & Heritage Committee, will share stories about the origin and meaning of geographic place names from a Wabanaki perspective.

Place names are part of language preservation which is an important part of Penobscot culture. Recently, the Penobscot Nation was awarded a $339,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to the Folk Life Center which will provide resources and linguistic training to the Penobscot Nation’s language revitalization efforts and the publication of a comprehensive dictionary.

As part of the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) 2014 Semi-Annual Meeting in Bar Harbor, this is a unique opportunity to learn more about Native cultural place and belonging. As a special addition, the presentation will be accompanied by a performance by the Alamoosic Drummers.

Today, USET has grown to become an inter-tribal organization with 26 federally-recognized Tribal Nation members. While defined as a regional organization, USET has developed into a nationally prominent and respected organization due to its broad policy platform and influence
on the most important and critical issues facing all of Indian Country. Supporting all of its issue specific advocacy is a foundation built upon the goals of promoting and protecting the inherent sovereignty rights of all Tribal Nations, pursuing opportunities that enhance Tribal Nation rebuilding, and working to ensure that the United States upholds its sacred trust responsibilities to Indian Country.

USET represents and promotes the interests of its member Tribes through conferences, associations, work groups, partnerships, etc. Additionally, it serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas, works on behalf of its membership to create an improved quality of life for American Indians through increased Health, Education, Social Services, Housing, Economic Development, Transportation, and Justice opportunities, and works to promote Indian leadership to ensure Indian Country’s continued growth, development, and prosperity as Tribal Nations.

The USET Conference will meet in Bar Harbor from June 2-4, 2014.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

6:00-8:00 pm

Abbe Museum, Downtown