Abenaki Tribes Celebrate Art And Culture On Church Street

Jul 7, 2018

Abenaki artists, musicians and civic leaders gathered in downtown Burlington Saturday for a celebration of their tribes' history, art and culture.

Drumming, singing and displays of traditional and modern Abenaki art filled the top block of Church Street. Under a tent, Kerry Wood — a member of the Mississquoi tribe — sold traditional baskets made of brown ash and sweetgrass. Wood said she learned to make the baskets through an apprenticeship a few years ago. 

Kerry Wood, a member of the Missisquoi tribe, sells baskets at an Abenaki art and culture festival in Burlington on Saturday.
Credit Henry Epp / VPR

Wood said the Burlington event helps increase the visibility of the Abenaki. She said when she was in school, she didn't learn about any Native Americans in Vermont.

"And yet historically, we know that Native Americans — and specifically the Abenakis — have been here for 10,000 years," Wood said, "so to have this opportunity to come home and be on Church Street and share it with the visitors in our home community is an amazing opportunity."

From VPR's Brave Little StateWhat Is The Status Of The Abenaki Native Americans In Vermont Today? [November 2016]

Don Stevens, chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, organized Saturday's celebration of Abenaki culture on Church Street in Burlington.
Credit Henry Epp / VPR

Don Stevens, chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, said that along with events like the one Saturday, he hopes to get more schools to include teachings about the tribes in their curriculum.

"We're a vibrant community, and we want to make sure that people can learn about us. ... We want schools to also teach about us because we're not in the past," Stevens said.

Watch Below — Members of Abenaki tribes perform traditional drumming at Saturday's event on Church Street: