In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.
Please introduce yourself with your name and title.
My name is Liz Charlebois. I serve as chair of the New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs (NHCNNA). I also work as education director at Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner, New Hampshire.
Can you give us your Native name, its English translation and/or a nickname?
My name in Western Abenaki is Aliz8bat Mali.
What responsibilities do you have to the tribes of New Hampshire?
The mission of the New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs is to recognize the historic and cultural contributions of Native Americans to New Hampshire, to promote and strengthen their own heritage, and to address their needs through state policy and programs.
How is the commission set up?
NHCNNA is a 15-person commission, with ten members chosen from the Native community and five members who represent state organizations such as the Division of Travel and Tourism, the Native American Program at Dartmouth College, the State Council on the Arts, the New Hampshire Society of Genealogists, and an archeologist appointed by the Division of Historical Resources.
How often are commissioners chosen?
Commission members are appointed for three-year terms. Chairs are elected every year.
How often do the commissioners meet?
The commission was established to meet quarterly. However, we are in the process of changing scheduled meeting times so that we can meet six times a year.
How does the commission relate to the rest of the New Hampshire state government?
NHCNNA is administratively attached to the Department of Cultural Resources.
What attractions are available for visitors on New Hampshire Native lands?
There are no official tribal lands in New Hampshire. However, in my perspective, the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum serves as a place where the Native community can gather. It also houses an impressive collection of Native art that includes a Contemporary Art Gallery.
What annual events does the commission sponsor?
NHCNNA is still fairly young. It has only been in existence since 2011. As of right now, there are not any officially sponsored events. However, NHCNNA supports several Native events in New Hampshire and plans to have a more active presence at different events across the state.
How did your life experience prepare you to lead?
I never planned to be a leader. I have tried to carry myself in a good and honorable way. I have been involved in my community from a very young age. As a younger woman, I sat on several executive boards for nonprofit organizations. All of these things combined led people to put my name forward as someone who would work to make things better for the people in my community.
Who inspired you as a mentor?
I come from a family of strong women. My mother has always been a role model for me. Her path has not been an easy one, but she perseveres, and does so with grace.
Are you a descendant of a historical leader?
Where is your home community located? Where are your people originally from?
I am Missisquoi Abenaki. My home community is from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but my tribal headquarters is Swanton, Vermont. Historically, my people are from Vermont, New Hampshire, and Quebec.
To read the full interview, visit the NMAI series here.