Native American Woodlands Folklife Talk by Dana Benner

Curious about the Native peoples who once lived along the banks of the Merrimack River? The Lowell Folklife Series invites you to a talk by Dana Benner on Saturday, November 5 at the Event Center of the Boott Mills MuseumWhen most people think of Native peoples at or around the time of contact with Europeans, they think either of Thanksgiving or fierce warfare. Many people are unaware of the extensive social traditions, trade relations, and industrious nature of the Native nations. The area along the Merrimack River that we define as Lowell was home to the Pennacook people.  Just to the south were the Massachusett, who were direct trading partners with the Pennacook.  Mr. Dana Benner will explore the rich traditions of the Pennacook nation, leaving the audience with a greater appreciation of the people who once called this area home.

Dana Benner is of Micmac/Penobscot/Piqwacket descent and is a member of the Inter-Tribal Council of New Hampshire.  He has been studying Native history and culture his entire life and has been writing about it for over 25 years.  He holds a BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in U.S. History and Native Culture from Granite State College and he is working on his M.Ed in Heritage Studies with a concentration in Native History and Culture from Plymouth State University.

This talk is free and open to the public.

2:00 p.m @ 2nd Floor Event Center, Boott Mills Museum

110 John Street, Lowell, MA

For more information: 978-275-1719

Event sponsored by the Lowell National Historical Park and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

 

 

 

 

It’s not everyday that a city celebrates its 175th anniversary

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On April 11, 2011, the city held a birthday party for itself, marking the 175th anniversary of its founding.

Lowell has been attracting immigrants ever since the 1830s, when the rapid growth of textile mills provided much needed employment. Yesterday’s parade was a physical manifestation of the city’s diversity, which continues to evolve.

Just before 4:30, people gathered themselves in groups, in preparation for the  parade to city hall. Seeing those who turned out to march was a testament to the city’s changing demographics. Judging from the dress and the flags whipping in the wind, local participants had cultural roots in in Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Quebec, Portugal, Israel, Columbia, Vietnam,Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, and Cameroon — and Lowell Pride.

The celebration began with a  parade.

Lowell High School’s Marching Band did a fine job providing the rhythm.

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Approaching City Hall, a lion dancer teased the crowd.

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And then it was time for speeches and cake.

The celebration continues throughout the year with special events.

All photos by Maggie Holtzberg

In the Community: Music and Franco-American Food

 

Sometimes, a concert’s setting can make all the difference. When Lowell National Historical Park first thought of partnering with the Franco-American Day Committee to help celebrate Franco-American Week in Lowell, we planned on presenting a Franco-American/Irish concert on Park grounds. But after much thought and discussion, we all realized that the better idea was to pair the Park-sponsored concert with a community event — the traditional ham and bean supper, which is typically held in a French Church Hall. This year, the supper was served in the Immaculate Conception School Hall. When we arrived around 4:45 p.m., the hall was full of people, many of whom had grown up in Lowell and the surrounding communities. Although there were some children about, the average age was about 75. French was being spoken and the aroma was heavenly. Home baked hams and plenty of Cote’s beans, both the light and the dark, were being served.

 

People socialized and ate from 4:30 to 6:30. Music was scheduled to start at 7:30. Several hours before members of the “Irish-French Connection” took the stage, they rehearsed in the Park’s Visitor Center conference room.

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The leaders of this band – John Whelan and Donna Hébert –are icons in their Irish and Franco-American musical communities. Each brings 40 years of performing, teaching, and recording experience to the newly formed band.

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The tunes and songs they performed during the evening concert were once commonly played and danced to in Irish and French-Canadian immigrant communities throughout the Northeast, where both groups migrated in the 1880s to work in the textile mills. Indeed, when we asked the 135 audience members how many had relatives who had worked in the Lowell textile mills, about half of the hands went up.

Seated at one of the many tables was Lowellian Raymond Breault, who throughout the evening played his wooden spoons and clogged his tap-soled shoes in time to the music. On more than one occasion, he made his way to the front of the hall to demonstrate his rhythmic feet. This delighted the musicians. As Donna remarked from the stage, “There is no better compliment to a fiddler than to have someone who is moved to  get up and dance.”