HOLDING UP THE SKY: Major New MHS Exhibition Honors the First People of Maine, the Wabanaki
February 25, 2019
Portland, ME: Maine Historical Society (MHS) will launch Holding Up the Sky, a major new exhibition to be held in its Portland gallery from April 12, 2019 to February 1, 2020. The exhibition honors and explores the experiences of the First People of Maine, the Wabanaki, encompassing the Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot people.
"We believe that it is essential to explore, honor, and help all Mainers better understand the 13,000-year experience of the Wabanaki and their strong continued presence in Maine as the state prepares to commemorate its Bicentennial in 2020," says Steve Bromage, MHS Executive Director. "Their story and our shared history provide the foundation for understanding Maine statehood, the context for key issues that shape Maine today, and perspective that will help us plan a future that draws on the strength of all Maine people."
"This exhibit reflects a unique collaboration between MHS and the Wabanaki peoples in Maine, and thoroughly marks the diversity of Wabanaki experience in our homeland over the last 13,000 years," adds Dr. Darren Ranco, member of the Penobscot Nation and Associate Professor of Anthropology and Coordinator of Native American Research for the University of Maine.
Holding Up the Sky is being developed in collaboration with a team of advisors, including Lisa Brooks (Abenaki), James Francis (Penobscot), Suzanne Greenlaw (Maliseet), Darren Ranco (Penobscot), Theresa Secord (Penobscot), Ashley Smith (Wabanaki descent), and Donald Soctomah (Passamaquoddy).
Holding Up the Sky will explore Wabanaki philosophies of leadership and obligation relating to humans and non-humans; and reciprocity through the topics of self-governance, trading, the environment and resource management, basketmaking, and medicine and health. It will consider thousands of years of life in "Maine" places prior to the arrival of Europeans, and the complex relationships that have evolved since Europeans settled here.
These shared histories are the basis for the exhibition, which is built around the voices and perspectives of Wabanaki people. Advisors have guided Indigenous interpretations of historic and contemporary items in the exhibition, encompassing everything from Colonial-era treaties and maps, to baskets and beadwork, to haute couture fashion.
In addition to items from Maine Historical Society collections and newly-commissioned pieces from Wabanaki artists, the exhibition will feature artifacts generously loaned by many individuals and organizations, including: Abbe Museum, Hudson Museum, Passamaquoddy Cultural Heritage Museum, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Maine State Museum, Nova Scotia Museum, and Bangor Historical Society.
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