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"Abenaki Elders and Artists Struggle in Face of State Reopening"

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BURLINGTON, Vt. - EntSun -- By Lina Longtoe Schulmeisters, Program Coordinator
Hawk Longtoe, Intern

N'DAKINNA (Vermont, USA) - As the country braces for new waves of COVID-19 cases amidst state reopenings, the Abenaki population remains vulnerable since the early days of the pandemic.

N'dakinna (Abenaki for our homeland), begins to reopen, with Vermont allowing "travel outside of Vermont to counties across New England and New York that have a similar active COVID-19 caseload to Vermont and return without quarantining if they do so in a personal vehicle", according to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Many Abenaki citizens are extremely vulnerable in these times.

Based on research by the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA), the Abenaki population is in desperate need of protective gear (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and other materials as Vermont and neighboring states continue their re-opening plans. Disinfectant and cleaning supplies are also highly needed, in order to keep Abenaki families and businesses safe, while personal care/hygiene products have also been requested alongside arts supplies for children and youth performers. "I worry and pray that everyone is checking on the Elders," remarked one VAAA artist, "I don't know if our Elders are getting the help that they need. I check in on the Elders at least once a week and ask if they need anything and hope they aren't too proud to say yes or accept that help."

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VAAA's team is working behind the scenes to gather donations to help fund our COVID-19 relief and response efforts, including sending care packages to Elders and artists who need PPE items such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, or assistance with acquiring basic necessities such as food and medicine. Our long-time partner Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will be our acting fiscal sponsor. To help visit: www.abenakiart.org/donations.

VAAA was awarded a special project grant from the Vermont Arts Council and New England Foundation for the Arts which will provide direct relief to 17 Abenaki artists. Vermont Humanities Council awarded VAAA a Cultural Relief grant that will partially support virtual programming such as the Abenaki Heritage Weekend. Contributions like these serve as direct action to assist the Abenaki community in a meaningful way identified by the community.

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VAAA represents almost 300 individuals who proudly contribute to not only the four Recognized tribes but also contribute to the larger American society. We are essential workers, health care workers, EMTs, tradesmen, business owners, teachers, professors, veterans, volunteers, youth leaders, and Elders. The groundbreaking research discussed here is currently being undertaken by key individuals within the VAAA team. Any publications or presentations based on this data will be made by these same Abenaki culture bearers.

Vermont Abenaki Artists Association
Lina Longtoe Schulmeisters, Program Coordinator

Source: Vermont Abenaki Artists Association
Filed Under: Arts

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