This exhibition is a collaboration of artwork by Abenaki artists of the Champlain Valley and the Connecticut River Valley. Vera Longtoe Sheehan, Elnu Abenaki, and founding director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association curates the exhibition. Sheehan serves as an Executive Board Member for the Vermont Humanities Council, on the Vermont Arts Council’s IDEA Committee, and is a core member of the Education Justice Coalition of Vermont. She formerly worked at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Her curatorial work reflects her deep knowledge of Indigenous history and culture in the northeast. The exhibit will be on view at the Institute through March 2023.
“Nebizun: Water is Life”, draws visitors into the Native American worldview of water from the very first word Nebizun which means medicine, and the root word, Nebi, the Abenaki word for water. Water is one of the four sacred elements of life, along with air, earth, and light/fire. As stewards of the environment, Native American people know the importance of clean water. Water is essential for life, it is important to fish and other wildlife, it is essential for the growth of crops, and it is an important component in medicine and healing.
The Abenaki community, among many others, knows how important clean water is to everyday activities that some take for granted. During the recent controversial construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through the homelands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the anthem, “Water is Life, was born by Water Protectors and, this traveling exhibit recognizes this controversy through its name and some of its artwork.
“Nebizun: Water is Life” reflects awareness of both traditional values and contemporary issues. This exhibit draws inspiration from Native American grandmothers who have been doing water walks to pray for the water and the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. We hope this exhibition inspires everyone to be a Water Protector.
About Institute for American Indian Studies
Located on 15 acres of woodland acres the Institute For American Indian Studies on 38 Curtis Road in Washington, Connecticut preserves and educates through archeology, research, exhibitions, and programs. They have the 16th c. Algonquian Village, Award-Winning Wigwam Escape Room, and a museum with temporary and permanent displays of authentic artifacts from prehistory to the present that allows visitors to foster a new understanding of the world and the history and culture of Native Americans.