The Curious Case of Ed Vebel @ Westport Historical Society

Meet Ed Vebell. He is 96, a nonagenarian, and he’s probably lived a more interesting life than you have. Like most of your older relatives Ed has stories to tell, but his span the globe, span time, and span famous events and his work will be presented at the Westport Historical Society through April 28, 2018.

It may sound cliché but it all started when Ed was shipped off to war. Ed nearly started out as an aircraft gunner, an occupation with a notoriously short lifespan, but when his superiors were alerted to his artistic ability he was quickly transferred to the US Army’s military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, as a field illustrator. As it turns out, illustrating battles was only the beginning of a decade’s long journey through odd, extraordinary and potentially lethal experiences.

Mr. Vebell spent years overseas in exotic places like Morocco and the cabarets of Paris. His decades as an illustrator, for publications like Sports Illustrated and Reader’s Digest,connected him with a cavalcade of characters including Grace Kelly and Matisse. Oh, and did we mention he also competed at the 1952  Olympics in fencing?

Like any traveler he collected some souvenirs along the way. A century gives you opportunities to acquire interesting life experiences and trinkets; only Ed’s trinkets aren’t the knick knacks you find in grandma’s attic but treasures like Buffalo Bill’s hat and a spear from the Maasai, an African lion hunter tribe.

Join us and become immersed in the life of arguably Westport’s most interesting man, and be sure to look for Ed’s recently published book “An Artist at War”. Signed copies will be available for sale at the exhibit opening and in our gift shop.

The Curious Case of Ed Vebell, runs through April 28 @ Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place across from Town Hall.  Donations Accepted, For more information call 203-222-1424 or vistiwestporthistory.org

The Magic of Native American Courting Flutes

The Institute of American Indian Studies in Washington has a perfectly unique way to top off Valentine’s Day week. On Saturday, February 17 from 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m., Ojibway artist, and musician Allan Madahbee will explain the cultural significance and the hauntingly beautiful sound of the Native American courting flute. In Native American culture, the flute is deeply rooted in the traditional Eastern Woodland Indian traditions as well as in the culture of indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Traditional Native American flutes are known by several names, one of the most common being the courting flute. As the name suggests, the courting flute was played during courting rituals by a young man serenading his intended bride. Courting was not a private affair, and this formal ritual normally took place in front of the entire tribe. It is said that once the young man and young woman were joined together, she would break the flute in half so he would never play it for anyone else. This is why some tribes do not allow, or at least discourage females from playing these sacred flutes.

Today, makers of Native American Flutes like Ojibway artist and musician Allan Madahbee craft their personal style and sound into their creations. Madahbee began to research the Chippewa flute culture and was influenced and mentored by Joseph Firecrow of the Cheyenne nation. “We became friends and he provided guidance and feedback and explained some of his methods of flute making. With his passing last year, we have all lost a great Native American flute maker and musician. I am proud to continue our flute making traditions.” The sound of the courting flute that is usually made of cedar has an uncommon scale for Western music and is entrancing.

Born on the shores of Lake Huron, Allan Madahbee is a registered Ojibway (Chippewa) Indian that has pursued the traditional arts and crafts of his ancestors. He has been making Native American flutes for about ten years. “I had always thought they were a product of the Southwest Indian tribes, but a book that I found that was written during the 1800s about Chippewa culture, had a passage about the Chippewa flutes, along with pictures. This made me realize that they were indeed a part of my Chippewa culture. Knowing that my ancestors constructed these flutes for hundreds of years has inspired me to continue this tradition. Also, the haunting sound from these mystical instruments is a large part of my inspiration.”

Along with constructing Woodland flutes, beaded moccasins, woodcarvings, Native American regalia, and rock sculptures, Madahbee always returns to his artistic roots in paintings. Mainly self-taught, Madahbee had high school art courses with fellow Ojibway artists Blake Debassige and James Simon – two well known Anishnawbe artists that are respected and have their paintings displayed around the globe.

Space is limited and reservations are suggested. To make sure you get a spot call the Institute for American Indian Studies at (860) 868-0518 or email general@iaismuseum.org to reserve your spot. The program is included in the price of admission: $10 adults; $8 seniors; $6 children; IAIS Members free.

The Legacy of Wisdom Wednesday- Native American Sayings

“The Great Spirit is in all things, he is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us, that which we put into the ground she returns to us…” – Big Thunder (Bedagi) Wabanaki Algonquin

Native American wisdom is something that resonates with many people. In years gone by, Native Americans passed down their history and sayings orally from generation to generation as a guidebook for a way of life that honored and respected all living things.

As Native American culture in Connecticut grew and evolved so did the art of storytelling and wise sayings. These were used as tools to pass down traditions, local customs, hunting and gardening skills, family and child-rearing traditions and courting rituals. In essence, these stories and sayings helped connect them to each other and to the land where they made their home.

An Important Legacy

Through their stories and sayings, Native Americans shared and preserved the memory and traditions of their ancestors. These became an integral part of the legacy passed on to future generations.

Today, remembering and sharing this wisdom is one way to keep the cultural traditions of Native Americans alive. It gives us a glimpse into this rich cultural heritage and into the past of our great nation.

Every Wednesday, the Institute for Native American Studies in Washington will share a saying on their FaceBook page with a “Wisdom Wednesday” posting to inspire you with the wisdom of those that have gone before us.

About The Institute for American Indian Studies

The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation. This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.

Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village. Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time.

The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.

Tiger Cub Live Cam @ Beardsley Zoo

The two rare Amur or Siberian tiger cubs were born in November at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport have received worldwide attention. Unfortunately, the Tiger cubs, Reka and Zaya are too young to be viewed by the public, however, Blue Buffalo has sponsored a live streaming webcam in their nursery!

The webcam offers animal lovers a close-up view of these two stripped sweethearts at play from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Watching the live feed also gives the public a chance to see how hard the zoo staff is working to care for these little ladies that are genetically so important to sustaining their breed.

The Beardsley Zoo is an accredited zoo that does much more than just display animals. Accredited Zoos play an important role in conservation, saving animals and breeding them that are on the verge of extinction in the wild, like Amur Tigers.

In the wild, Amur Tigers are critically endangered due to poaching and the change in their habitat. Reka and Zaya will help keep the genetic pool diverse so these new arrivals are very important overall to this rare and beautiful species.

In late spring, the Beardsley Zoo will move the tiger cubs to a new tiger exhibit where the public can actually watch them frolic… but for now get ready to ohhhhhh and awwwww when watching the webcam!

The Power of Native American Traditional Healing

To celebrate and honor the knowledge of plants and herbs used by Native Americans the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington Connecticut has decided to launch “Medicinal Monday” on the Institute for American Indian Studies’ Facebook Page. Make sure to follow the page (like and share it too!) to find out how plants and herbs have been used for thousands of years.

The interconnection of all creation is the foundation of the culture of Native Americans, and this is reflected in the way that they tried to heal the sick. They practiced the healing arts in a way that not only included the plants that surrounded them but also by trying the heal the entire person, mind, body, and spirit. There is a long tradition of Native American healers using indigenous plants for a wide variety of medicinal purposes with applications as diverse as there are tribes that use them.

In Connecticut long before the first contact with European settlers, Native Americans were using herbal remedies to heal members of their tribe. Their vast knowledge of herbs and plants came from observing wildlife in the woodlands that surrounded them. They watched what deer, elk, and bears ate when they were sick and experimented with those herbs and plants to see if they would cure them as well.

Plants were carefully studied by Native Americans over thousands of years, and through information passed down from generation to generation, they had a huge knowledge base of how to use plants and herbs, that amazed the early Europeans. Tobacco, for example, was used in healing numerous conditions and was also used in rituals and ceremonies. Sage was used for stomach problems, witch hazel was used to treat sore muscles, cuts, and insect bites, dandelions were made into a tea that was drunk as a general health tonic and juniper berries and pine needles cured scurvy.

There are hundreds of herbs and plants that were used by Native Americans to heal both mind and body that were adopted by the first settlers to Connecticut. Today, many modern medicines are based on plants and herbs that were used for thousands of years by Native Americans. As a matter of fact, more than 200 botanicals derived originally from Native Americans have been or are still in use by pharmaceuticals.

About The Institute for American Indian Studies

The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation. This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.

Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village. Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time.

The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.

An American Odyssey: The Jewish Experience in Greenwich

This exhibition curated by the Greenwich Historical Society located in Cos Cob will explore the history of the Jews of Greenwich within the broader context of the history of the town and the nation.

Beginning with the question of why Jews chose to settle in Greenwich and how they gained an economic foothold, the exhibition will explore the experience of Jewish families living and working in Greenwich for more than a century. It will examine how they, like other immigrants, struggled with the pull to integrate into American society and yet also remain distinct. And it will look at how they, as well as other minorities in Greenwich, have contributed to the larger community despite experiencing periods of discrimination and restrictions on worship, employment and housing opportunities.

Although the lion’s share of the growth of Greenwich’s Jewish community began in the 1960s (today about 11 percent of the population is Jewish), the tale really begins with the mass exodus of Jews from Eastern Europe to America between 1880 and 1920. The stories of those who sought to build new lives here–emblematic of larger historical themes–will be told through photographs, artifacts, archival documents, ephemera and first-person accounts. The exhibition will also explore the little-known fact that there were Jewish property owners in Greenwich as far back as Colonial times.

An American Odyssey: The Jewish Experience in Greenwich is curated by Dr. Ann Meyerson, a nationally recognized independent museum curator who most recently co-curated The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World (October 28, 2016 to March 12, 2017) at the New-York Historical Society.

Savor CT 2018 in Naugatuck

Once again this year the Naugatuck Historical Society is hosting the popular Savor CT at the Naugatuck Portuguese Club located on 110 Rubber Ave. on Feb. 10 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. This event features just Connecticut businesses that carefully craft a multitude of goodies from beer and wine to all manner of food from chocolate to cookies!

Participants in Savor Connecticut include: four breweries, two vineyards and four distilleries. There will also be a great variety of food, all made in Connecticut to sample including the specialties of Nardelli’s, Mr. D’s Tavern, Fascia’s Chocolates, Avery Soda, Pepperidge Farm, Hummel and much, much more. There will be over 30 vendors featured at the event. Guests at the event will enjoy drinks, a commemorative glass as a souvenir, food, music and raffles from around the state.

The event helps to support the mission of the Naug uck Historical Society. The Society tells the stories of Naugatuck through programs, school visits, exhibits, articles and more. Currently, the museum is located at 171 Church Street in Naugatuck, and is looking forward to moving to the Tuttle House when renovations are complete.

The snow date for this event is February 12, but only will be used in extreme weather conditions. Tickets are available at the museum on Church Street which is open 11-4pm on Saturdays or at Fine Wines and Liquors. Tickets are $15 for members of the Society or Portuguese Club when purchased in advance. Tickets for non-members are $20 when purchased in advance. All tickets at the door are $25.

For information on how to become a vendor, donate a raffle prize or to purchase tickets contact Wendy Murphy 203 218 5349, wendy.murphy@snet.net