Abenaki not included in new American Indian museum

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(Host) Visitors to the National Museum of the American Indian, which opened this week in Washington, D.C., will find information about Indian tribes from South America to Canada. But there’s nothing in the museum about the Abenaki Indians. A representative of Vermont’s Abenakis says the tribe doesn’t feel slighted by the omission.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Fred Wiseman says there are more than 4,000 members of the Abenaki Tribe in Vermont and a larger number in Canada. Wiseman says these numbers are one of the reasons the new national museum contains no information about Abenakis.

(Wiseman) “First of all we’re very small, we’re very isolated. We’re kind of out of the loop in the major Indian politics of the United States.”

(Zind) Wiseman is a member of the Abenaki Tribal Council. He says he’s not upset that the National Museum of the American Indian didn’t include the tribe in its exhibits; many other tribes were also excluded. Wiseman says museum officials kept him informed of their progress as the new museum took shape. A museum spokesperson says curators worked closely with Native American organizations to decide what to include in the exhibits.

Wiseman says he hasn’t received any inquiries about the new museum from members of his tribe. One reason for the lack of interest could be that, like most tribes, the Abenakis face the challenge of teaching their children about their heritage.

(Wiseman) “Of course the Abenaki children are interested in things that kids are usually interested in. What we’re trying to do is have them have a pride, what we call cultural competency in their culture.”

(Zind) Wiseman says there may be opportunities in the future for Vermont’s Abenakis to take part in exhibits or demonstrations at the National Museum of the American Indian.

In the meantime, those interested in Abenaki history and culture can visit the Abenaki Tribal Museum and Cultural Center in Swanton. The museum opened in 1999 and Wiseman is its director.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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