An enriching trip to the Abenaki community of Odanak

On Friday, February 2nd 2018, a group of 43 students and Faculty members from Bishop’s University attended a trip to the Abenaki Community of Odanak, located one hour and a half away from Sherbrooke. We have asked Mélissa Poirier, Indigenous Student Support and Community Liaison Officer at Bishop’s University, along with #Ubishops students, to share their experience in Odanak.

The day trip was filled with several enriching cultural activities. Upon our arrival at the Musée des Abénakis in Odanak, we were greeted by Chief Richard O’Bomsawin and Daniel G. Nolett, General Manager of the Band council. They took the time to meet us at the museum and stayed with us a good part of the day to talk with the students and answer their questions.

Richard O’Bomsawin, Chief, Abenaki Band Council of Odanak
Daniel G. Nolett, General Manager, Abenaki Band Council of Odanak

The participants had the chance to have a guided visit of the museum’s permanent exhibit and its temporary exhibit entitled Microcosme. A traditional meal composed of Sagamité (soup), smoked fish and bannock prepared by community members was serve to all of us. As we sat to enjoy our meal, Mr. Nolett sang the feast song to the vibrant sound of his drum. After the delicious meal, we had the privilege to have Mrs. Christine Sioui Wawanoloath join us for a storytelling moment. Furthermore, an Elder was on site to do a basketry demo. Participants were able to handle the different baskets and ask questions to understand better this elaborate and fastidious craft tradition.

“We learned about the history of the Abenaki community, their legends, how they record time, etc. I found out that they use the moon cycle as the calendar to determine what to do every season. Because in China, we also use the lunar calendar to record time.  I love the fact that we have something in common. Their traditional smoky fish was very delicious.  In the afternoon, a woman showed us how to make baskets with local materials.  It was amazing to see how they have kept their traditions.”  – #Ubishops Master of Education student Yuyin Ning

“A visit to the Musée des Abénakis is a visit to the past and present history and culture of the Abenaki Nation. The site is wonderful, and to be able to engage with the community members was a great and welcoming experience. The history and culture is very well distributed throughout the museum, and engages the audience through a variety of senses. There is a space for temporary exhibits as well as a permanent exhibition. It was a great platform for present day indigenous and non-indigenous peoples to come together and create something together rather than apart. It sent a wonderful message. It is a visit worthy of our time, considering that Bishop’s University is located on Abenaki territory, and so to learn more about the people and the origins of a place is an important process for reconciliation and to learn about history from those whose perspectives have for too long been ignored.” – #Ubishops Education student Sandra Zmuda

Basketry demo at Musée des Abénakis

The adventurers in the group went for a nature walk in the Tolba trail (which means turtle) alongside the St. Francis River. Overall, these different activities are meant to foster various aspects of Traditional Abenaki culture and to promote broader understanding of their history and arts.

This activity sparked such a high interest in the BU community that we organized a second trip to Odanak that will take place on March 16th. With over 50 participants already registered, we are happy to say that it is booked to maximum capacity.

“There’s unprecedented good will and interest at BIshop’s in learning the truth of this territory past and present and building better relationships. A thousand efforts are seeding, something I’m thrilled to witness.” – Dr. Lisa Taylor, Full Professor, School of Education

These activities were made possible thanks to the financial contribution of CN. Their participation in our Indigenous support program allows for the implementation of such educational and meaningful activities.

To learn more about Musée des Abénakis: 

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