Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage
On view at LCMM June 24 through August 12, 2017
What does it mean to be an Abenaki in today’s world? What does it mean to be an Indigenous artist? Native identity finds expression in different ways with each generation. This new exhibit, Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage, presents wearable art, such as garments, regalia, and accessories, by contemporary Abenaki artists, together with photographs and prints that reflect previous generations.
The inspiration for Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage emerged during a decade-long collaboration between Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) and the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, working with the region’s Abenaki artists, community members and tribal leaders. The Flynn Center for the Arts has added to this partnership their expertise as presenters of performing and visual arts, community programs, and educational resources. We are deeply grateful to the many contemporary Abenaki artists and other individuals and families who have shared their family photographs, stories and personal creations in Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage.
In the quest to interpret Native art and culture from an Indigenous perspective, Vera Longtoe Sheehan combines many roles, from community member and tradition-bearer to contemporary artist and curator. “Indigenous artists no longer need to choose between traditional and contemporary art forms,” she says. “Many of us practice both, and our contemporary art is informed by tradition.” As founder and director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, Vera encourages and welcomes open discussion of Indigenous arts and experience among members of the Native community, and their multiple perspectives inform the selection of works and images in the exhibition.
The exhibit title provides immediate entry into that Native perspective, by starting with the word “Alnobak.” Longtoe Sheehan explains, “In the old days, Aln8ba or Alnôba was said to mean "an Indian person" and the plural of that is Aln8bak or Alnôbak meaning "Indian people." Today we use these terms as a reference to our own people. So the exhibit title Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage is meant as People: Wearing Our Heritage.” (Note - the 8 was a symbol that the French Jesuit priests used instead of ô, which makes a nasal o sound. Most people just use a regular o today because on the keyboard there is no shortcut to type ô and it sometimes loses its formatting when used online.)
Another term found in the exhibit is N'dakinna. “This refers to our homeland, which is much larger than Vermont,” she explains. “N’dakinna includes Northern Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, parts of Maine, parts of New York and Quebec. This exhibit brings together work by artists and family photographs from throughout N’dakinnna.”