Abenaki tribe displays history at Burlington airport

Published: Oct. 15, 2019 at 12:04 AM EDT
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Next time you catch a flight out of Burlington International Airport you will get a chance to catch some art from the Abenaki Tribe.

The Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe is putting pieces of their culture on public display to educate the 1.4 million people who fly in and out of Burlington every year. Chief Don Stevens says the main message he wants to get across is that the Abenaki people, who first inhabited Vermont 11,000 years ago, are still here.

“It's also a time to educate the public about our culture, our traditions and that we're still here, we're still vibrant, and we hope that people learn more about the original Vermonters,” Stevens said.

Director of Aviation Gene Richards says the airport and the tribe have been collaborating for a year to decide how to best transform the space on the second floor to create the Abenaki Nation Museum.

“There’s really no formal place currently where the story is told and collection can take place so the collection will start here. It may migrate at a later date. There may be other interests. There may be other artifacts that will be collected but for today, this starts the conversation,” Richards said. “I think it's really important for the culture of Vermont for people to understand what was here before Vermont was here and this will really start telling that story.”

Richards says the display can be seen from either side of the airport. As you pass, you'll see 48 artifacts, each one representing a unique aspect of the culture.

“There's a crooked knife which is what traditionally we would carry when we do our craftwork. There's birch bark baskets. There's rattles made out of gourds. There's gourd carvings,” said Stevens. “On the other side, there’s some bone needles, some porcupine quill necklaces, and the fabulous beadwork that we do.”

The display will be unveiled on Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. Richards says Gov. Phil Scott and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger are invited. The unveiling is open to the public.

Stevens says the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe has a five-year contract with the airport and they hope to extend it.