Leah Curley 

What’s in a name? ‘w8bAn’ means light, ‘Aki’ means land. Together? They give you ‘W8banaki’ (Abenaki in English), meaning ‘people in the morning’ or ‘people of the East’. Brome County is a traditional territory of this once nomadic First Nation, and the Lac-Brome Museum will be turning a spotlight on its traditions, mythology and its current art and culture, starting Saturday, May 21st. 

“We want to talk about this area when it was made into villages, but it’s not just about history,” said Lac-Brome Museum curator Rachel Lambie. “It’s about the modern experience for an Indigenous person in this area.” 

Getting it right 

Past and present, Lambie is determined to get it right. So she reached out to the experts: the Musée des Abénakis in Odanak, Quebec’s first aboriginal museum; the Ndakina Office, the archeological bureau of the Grand Council of the Abenaki Nation (GCNWA); and Christine Sioui-Wawanoloath, a well-known contemporary artist from the Abenaki community. 

The first step was to package up much of the Museum’s Indigenous collection and send it off to Odanak for assessment. The resulting report provided a wealth of information, some of it surprising. As Lambie said, “sometimes you look at an object and you think – is this an arrowhead or is this just a rock? Now we know exactly what we have, where things came from, how they relate to this area, and how they were used.” 

Acknowledging Indigenous land 

Lambie says it was a huge relief to connect with the community in Odanak, and not just for help with the identification of objects. Another imperative for her was the adoption by the Lac-Brome Museum of a land acknowledgement. An act of reconciliation, this written statement recognizes the traditional territory of the Indigenous people who made it their home before settlers arrived. “It’s such an important first step in working with Indigenous communities, in being part of the reconciliation process,” said Lambie, “and I wanted to get the language right, so I asked them to edit what I composed.” A seeming nuance, their revision meant so much more. As those in Odanak explained to Lambie, this was not Indigenous land, this is Indigenous land. In other words, we who live in TBL live on the traditional territory of the W8banaki Nation. 

A joyful world 

Then there is the work of Abenaki-Wendat artist Christine Sioui-Wawanoloath, who, to quote her artist’s statement, “uses the trickster’s humour to plunge us into the heart of the creation of a rather joyful world.” Her deep knowledge of the mythology and traditional tales of her people is evident in the vibrant, luminous works that will be a vital part of the story this exhibition tells. 

Sioui-Wawanoloath’s bears will ‘travel’ in a canoe from the Museum’s Indigenous collection. 

More to come 

Rachel Lambie joined the Lac-Brome Museum as curator in July of 2021. The Abenaki temporary exhibition will be her first since then and it’s indicative of a long-term goal. “There are so many stories,” she said, speaking of the Museum’s many and diverse collections. “I want to magnify each one individually and give it a chance to shine in its own temporary exhibition.” With so many stories, we can look forward to an exciting future at the Lac-Brome Museum. 

More to love at the new Lac-Brome Museum gift shop 

Treasures await you at the newly expanded Lac-Brome Museum gift shop. “We can display twice as many items as the old shop,” said Jane Walker, a member of the volunteer team responsible for the project. That’s a good thing because there will be much, much more to showcase, what with two experienced buyers on the hunt for merchandise. In addition, many more local artists will be represented than in the past, and there will be several exclusive items by local designers, inspired by the Museum’s artifacts. “Overall, we’re going for colour, for whimsy – for fun things that will make the museum an exciting place to shop,” said Jane. 

This new treasure trove opens officially on May 21, along with the ‘Present and Past: the W8banaki Nation in Brome County’ exhibition. Two not-to-be-missed events. The Musee des Abenaki’s in Odanak is Quebec’s first aboriginal museum. When asked about its participation in this exhibition, Patricia Lachapelle, head of collections, had this to say: “We are always happy and proud to contribute to the development and the influence of the Abenaki culture by collaborating with cultural institutions that recognize the millennial presence of the Abenakis on the territory as well as the contribution of the Nation to today’s society.”

Coming this summer … 

Old favourites will return to the Museum grounds this summer. Two outdoor theatre events for children are being planned and the ever-popular antique fairs will be back. Check for dates and times.