Out & About: Hartford Historical Society to Honor Abenaki Tribe

  • A depiction of the Abenaki created by French settlers. (Courtesy Hartford Historical Society) Courtesy Hartford Historical Society

Valley News Calendar Editor
Published: 8/7/2017 10:00:04 PM
Modified: 8/7/2017 10:00:08 PM

White River Junction — After a year’s hiatus, Abenaki and Indigenous Peoples Day is returning to White River Junction.

The celebration, hosted by the Hartford Historical Society, aims to honor Vermont’s earliest known residents who lived in the area well before Vermont, or the United States for that matter, was ever thought of. It will take place on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction. Admission is free.

Among the attendees will be Jeanne Brink, whom Martha Knapp, director of the Hartford Historical Society Museum, described as “a respected elder,” of the Abenaki tribe. Brink also teaches the Abenaki language.

“The language is really getting big now that the Abenaki are starting to come out and get recognized,” Knapp said.

Brink also teaches basket-making, and three of her students, Emily, Megan and Valerie Boles, will be there with her to demonstrate their skills.

Another member of the Boles family, Michael Boles, will be assisting Jesse Larocque in making basket splints by pounding black ash logs.

“They have to bang on the log… until they become the strips to make the baskets with,” Knapp said. “The men pound the material… and give it to the women to make the baskets.”

There will also be a chance for hands-on learning: Rhonda Besaw, an Abenaki master beadworker, will be teaching the traditional craft.

“She gives free beading lessons,” Knapp said. “She just says she enjoys giving back to the people.”

Herbalist Roberta Noyes will discuss how pine needles were used to heal ailments.

“They used trees for healing back in the day,” Knapp said. “That’s part of their heritage.”

Returning as masters of ceremony are John and Donna Moody.

And of course there will be food: Nate Pero, chief of the Koasek band of the Abenaki, will dress meat donated by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

Other dishes served with the meal will arrive potluck-style. The historical society provides the corn on the cob.

“It turns out to be quite a big feast,” Knapp said.

While the event is a celebration of culture and history, it also serves as a reunion of sorts.

“Lots of times it’s like a gathering place because lots of Abenaki haven’t seen each other for a while,” Knapp said.

Editor’s note: The celebration is supported by the Hartford Parks and Recreation Department, the Hartford Historical Society, the Byrne Foundation, the Winter Center for Indigenous Traditions and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. For more information, contact the historical society at 802-296-3132.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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