83. Chris Newell Forges The Snowshoe Path as the First Wabanaki Leader of the Abbe Museum
Welcome to museum archipelago. I'm Ian Elsner. Museum archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than fifteen minutes. So let's get started. Chris Newell Remembers Visiting the Abbey Museum in Bar Harbor. Maine as a kid, his father was hired to put on educational performances to perform songs about their past Mikati language, history and culture at the need of market and the native American Festival hosted by the museum. So every summer, the family would drive the two and a half hours from their home in MMG, Look Newell, look forward to it year after year with an almost giddy level of excitement, but even as a young person, Newell could clearly see the difference between the surrounding events like the native market and the festival, which will run by members of the WAB, Inaki nations and the museum. which was not back then the Abbey Museum was more traditional ethnographic collection, a lot of weddings and things like that, so when it came to the museum itself, and did feel very much like inclined museum was Barbara Institution not necessarily allow mackey institution, so I definitely felt a lot more connection to things like the vessel, native American festival in those, because those were neater run and be supporting them, although I knew what. I knew the special collection I knew the shredder, and they have as far as the history of mind. People's by able as well as I keep. People's in general, always been attracted to wise available in the Abbey. mcdonagh's as a child I felt it was different spaces today, Chris Crystal, a possible quality citizen is the first member of the watanake nations to lead the Abbey. Museum high money. My name is Chris Lual and I am the director of Education for the. Educational Initiative also CO founder and I'm also the executive director and senior partner. Donations for the Abbey Museum in Bar Harbor. Chris! Co founded the ADAMO. Educational Initiative in two thousand, eighteen with Donna Spears DNA ob joy, chickasaw Choctaw and Dr Jason Man Cheney Agamal is a pass quality word for the snowshoe path at the beginning of winter. The snowshoe path is hard to find, but the more people pass along and carve out this path through the snow during the season. The easier it becomes for everyone to walk together on episode sixty eight of this show we interviewed spears about how the initiative was born out of their experiences seen colonial museum practices across present New England. So, what do we mean when we say colonial museum outside the context of Colonial Williamsburg of course, this kind goes off of my colleague Don from. Who was on the museum archipelago before museums are colonial artifacts. The idea of a museum comes with colonization and tribal museums, even in their own right are using that colonial artifacts. As a way to present her native histories, only doing different in tribal museum in a non tribal museum, largely consists of the American conservation movement which started in the nineteenth century, and when came to museums, and especially the way museum content was created colonial museums would oftentimes focus on tribes that they felt at the time were less impacted, which would have been Western plains tribes in South Western tribes so if you go into a non-tribal museum that. That has native content Colonia Museum. Then what you typically see is a presentation of native cultures through the Lens of anthropology and archaeology and a lot of those voices, ninety nine percent of those voices, especially in the past were non native voices that were framing that lends and hot of you are cultures, and so it's not uncommon to see things that out place, so to go to northeastern museum that has a collection and to see only planes. Or only question. Pari and no Wolpe Martino. Ashland basket is really kind of an old fashioned way of presenting things that goes back to a motive, thinking really originated in the idea that native people were going to vanish at one point and that we needed our history saves by an outside force, and that's literally well. The Columbia Museum represents is that mindset and the Abbey Museum is rooted in that. Mindset opened in nineteen, twenty eight. It housed the collection of native American. Objects gathered by radiologists Robert Abbey in a purpose built building. Newell was hired to lead the Abbey Museum in February twenty twenty. Four lockdowns due to cove nineteen began, but the decolonization process had been going on at the museum for the past five years. The Abbey Museum has gone through the fast five years under the previous executive director. The President CEO at the time cinnamon. Caitlyn the good I the colonization, process and car that. Not just in the content of the museum, which centers need voices now, but also in the structure of the way the museum is run in the has overtime restructured as board to become a majority Ebina Keyboard so Columbia Museum that Presents Lab Aki history. We are probably the only museum that has a structure where the voice of the people that we are representing is now centered, and is also governing the institution itself when the change of directorship happened, the museum changed the title from President and CEO to executive, director and senior partner to the watanake nations as part of this decolonisation process and the shift of power the. Tribes today are five times asking. Scott. Avenue tribes in the history. There was over twenty drives at one point, but currently there are five tribes. Nike is an over arching for the cosmetology of the peoples. Tribes in the beliefs and stories. Of Being Liska created on people from Yash reason gave us the name weapon. Aki, which is the anglicized version of impassioned twelve naccache wish would translate to the people of the dawn collectively. That's how we see ourselves. We we understand that we are the easternmost tribes on the consummate, and we are all connected in that way so when it comes to that portion of my job, I take very very seriously. No Book, right? There's no example to follow I think. The museum world and the lack of representation by native people in the museum. World is a history of the reason why that is by what I always tell people is that it does not do us any good as Nina. People to be absent from these spaces, no matter why these spaces are interpreting our cultures in our histories and everything else. Therefore, we need to be present there. Eighty five percent of native people were in in the museum field as an entry level services are security and very few of us. into the intellectual leadership positions in what I want to do. In the long run I would love to see the Abbey. Museum have a full AKI staff I mean that would be the easiest all I could actually have how do that I. Need Department the Communities into the museum world that way the always feels like a welcoming space to any of the community. Community members from eleven communities in Maine and beyond newell acknowledges that encouraging members of the watanake nations to work at the Abbey Museum can be an uphill battle because of the racist history of museums like it. The way museums in the past have done things like hold onto native. American remains. That has you know on the older generation would not go into those. Those physical spaces because of that the Abbey Museum is one of the places where we have repatriated. All of those remains were making into a welcome space and some big change for the museum world, but even outside of holding onto human remains. There are many examples of how museums default. Colonial mindset can in addition to everything else lead to a worse visitor experience. Experience as somebody that used to work in a tribal museum, it was not uncommon for me in that space or anonymous visitor whether child or adult to ask whether the tribe that we were presenting the history of still existed. There's a lot of people in this world that still saying that Nina. People are all dead in Gombe oftentimes reinforced by their childhood. And their adult experiences going into a colonial museum, seeing artifacts that are only from the past or seeing are only from the past, and so for museums to update or colonize the way they present themselves. They really got to get out of that mode of trying to save a vanishing Culture Barroux either host, the art in the history of the living cultures exist. You're now one of the easiest ways to tell if you're visiting A. A colonial museum is if it doesn't ask you as the visitor to normalize some aspect of the culture presented so an Abbey Museum experience that only features maps with modern day. Political borders or is entirely in English is not doing a good job of presenting the culture that members of the wozniacki nations share two-dimensional Master, or so you're in duration or creation people, the world in a different way, and we use songs Wong songs in. Our territory, but if you go into the while, we did was we did create a tune dimensional map all our Nike territory, but we took out the roads in the cities and all the colonial borders, and then when you see the landscape, that way represented in that fashion, you see how it all makes sense. Howard tribes existent the river ways that saturated our territories in all of those things, and you can see how people travel. Ray distances how they will imported. Imported from one river to another, so it also is going to enrich the spree in four the non Lebanon visitor, because they're really gonna be able to see our perspective and our worldview in our language, and the way we view land, all of those things, not an interpretation, but rather a first person perspective, which is really really a powerful and impactful way. Bar Harbor Maine is International Tourist Destination Cruise ships dock there today. The museum's exhibits and science are mostly in. In English, but Newell hopes that under his tenure much more native language gets incorporated to the point where a non watanake visitor will have learned some native words before they leave. The museum gets rid of the implicit bias that colonial museums have been feeding for so long. When the early English would arrive on the seventeenth century, they will used the word improvement as a reason for taking over in doing land building things like arms, permanent housing, but nowadays in in America. America we used a word development to do the exact same thing, but when we used that word development, what we mean is were about to dig up a big clock of that life giving life cycle, and we're going to do something build something, but really the process involved destruction first viewing the landscape through the different languages, really easy a window into the different mindsets. The use of language I think is probably the best bridge that I can draw for making all. When an English speaker learn some of our language, and learned some of our world view through it, they have experienced something, and so for the Non Native Museum Visitor, the international visitor up income through and learn our world through our language into how normalized to have the bathroom signs to say skied up in in instead of men's and women's. International signs, but they would learn some of our wording and profound experience as nul says there's no book and there's no guide for the process of transforming the Abbey Museum. From colonial traditional ethnographic collection into a fully decolonized museum, run by members of the watanake nations, but because of work like this, the snowshoe path becomes a little easier for other museums to follow. We want to be informative to anybody that walk in through the door, but we also want to be informative. Key person, and then by also doing that, the people who already know. Come into a space that uses their worldview then it doesn't become bar harbour institution to keep visitor anymore. It starts to become a home away from home. We are in the land of the dog, no matter what and so. Visitor should feel that sense of welcoming one walking into that space. This is really passion of mine, a passion that was born out of my childhood watching my father. You know, make a difference in this world, and that's what I would hope to do. Leave a lofty goal. Of my future in that I would hold that by the time I have done with with this world that I have changed for the better, not just really good web, Inaki people but for everybody. This episode of Museum Archipelago is proudly sponsored by a beautifully foolish endeavor, a brand new book by Hank Green Ivan, following green for over a decade I on his excellent WLAC, brothers, Youtube Channel, and now on his podcast, attracted by his humanistic approach to the world and to science education, a beautifully foolish endeavor is a sequel and conclusion to his first fiction book, an absolutely remarkable thing, which is the story of a young woman thrown into fame during the global crisis of. Of contagious streams and mysterious Robots Library Journal's review said through this adventurist, witty and compelling novel Green Delivers Sharp Social Commentary on the power of social media and both benefits and horrendous consequences that follow when we give too much of ourselves to technology. The book is out July. Seventh Twenty Twenty in physical audio in the book form wherever books are sold, or you can just go to hankering dot com, thanks so much hankering, and a beautifully foolish endeavor for Sponsoring Museum archipelago. You can find a full transcript of this episode and links to other episodes at Museum archipelago dot Com Museum archipelago is supported by listeners like you who have joined club archipelago on Patriot. If you can't get enough about how museums shape, our lives join now for two dollars a month. If this is your first episode, subscribe to the show for free using your favorite podcast player, and if it isn't leave us a rating review. And next time. Bring a friend.