The name “Sunrise Drum” combines the Wôbanaki (‘People of the ‘Dawn’ or ‘Sunrise’) with Paul-René’s last name < Tamburro > meaning “drum”. His Abenaki name translated to him by Cécile Wawanolet also contains the word ‘drum’: Môjassadop Spiwi Pakholigan – “Began with a Drum”. This name, given to him during his adolescent years while a participant in the East Coast “Powwow circuit” reflects the large amount of time spent sitting at the drum learning Northern, Southern and Eastern song traditions.
Molly (ABOVE) is wearing a broach PR made. The name “Sunrise Drum” combines the Wôbanaki (‘People of the ‘Dawn’ or ‘Sunrise’) with Paul-René’s last name < Tamburro > meaning “drum”. His Abenaki name translated to him by Cécile Wawanolet also contains the word ‘drum’: Môjassadop Spiwi Pakholigan – “Began with a Drum”. This name, given to him during his adolescent years while a participant in the East Coast “Powwow circuit” reflects the large amount of time spent sitting at the drum learning Northern, Southern and Eastern song traditions.
Paul-René Tamburro art goals focus on continuing an expression of the Indigenous cultures of the Eastern Turtle Island Peoples. He grew up surrounded by the First Nations perspectives from Elders and cultural participants including years at pow-wows Later he has continued work in Indigenous communities as an educator, social worker and artist. Today many people express pride in their Indigenous “blood” or tribal/ band enrollment – but language & culture have been harder to maintain. Sunrise Drum attempts to keep a high standard & a continuing expression for Eastern Woodland art in the world today.
PR's learning included an apprenticeship in chasing & repoussé in the 1970′s. He has worked in the Indigenous world all of his life. His ancestry is mixed Amerindian, European and African. He is enrolled in 2 state recognized tribes. One from his family - the Nulhegan Abenaki (VT), & one, the Shawnee Piqua (AL) through marriage.
During the 1970s &1980′s PR demonstrated in the public schools throughout New England teaching culture including quill-work on birch-bark, basket-weaving with black ash, carving with crooked knives, traditional singing, & dance. This incorporated the concept of respect for the contributions made by First Nations to the world.
In the early 1970′s and 1960′s Paul-René spent time, when not at powwows, as a volunteering with Harold Tantaquidgeon, a Mohegan elder, in Mohegan CT, doing wood & stone carving while helping with tours in the museum. Later he worked as an assistant to the director Peter Smith Terry of the Maine Tribal Unity Cultural Center and Museum at Unity College in Unity Maine. (The Terry collection of baskets I worked with was donated to the Abbe museum in 2002: https://www.abbemuseum.org/ )
THE BLACK & WHITE PICTURE ABOVE WAS PR (IN THE CENTER SITTING) IN 1974 AT UNITY COLLEGE ORGANIZING A STUDENT GROUP TO MOVE THE MUSEUMS COLLECTION OF BASKETS. PETER SMITH TERRY IS SITTING AND LISTING ON THE SIDE.
On Paul-René’s French side he is the great grandson of René Théophile de Quélin who was head of interior design for Louis Comfort Tiffany between 1895 and 1905. He was named after this ancestor in the hope he would pursue art.
THE PHOTO ABOVE IS OF DE QUÉLIN IN JAPAN. HE ALSO WAS A NOTED EARLY ARTIST IN CALIFORNIA, WORKED FOR AUGUSTUS ST. GAUDINS IN CHICAGO - LAFARGE AND MANY OTHERS. IT IS HARD TO KEEP TRACK OF HIM IN MANY MOVES BUT IT WILL SOON BE A BOOK PR IS WRITING.
The painting above is the stain glass window René Théophile de Quélin designed while a guest of the Emperor of Japan for Tiffany Studios. He was awarded a Gold Medal for this one by the Emperor of Japan in 1911.
During childhood PR spent many summers with his grandmother. Here he was surrounded by beads, baskets, feathers, and beadwork such as his great-grandmothers moccasins tin the picture. Also he heard many stories of the family traveling up and down the St. Lawrence River to Newfoundland and back to Indian Reserves - family lived in both places. He feels he was a strange child because no one else in the family wanted to be involved with the Native culture. He was sad to see so much potential lost and kept the desire to help continue the language and culture any way he could- including through his art and teaching.
Paul-René with two Abenaki elders Cécile Wawanolett from Odenak, PQ and New York. Also, Molly Keating from VT. The picture was taken at Odanak, PQ in 1997. Paul-René is not from Odanak, but loves the language, and his work with this language is a connection to his ancestors who would have spoken this and related languages.
Paul-René spent weeks with Cécile Wawanolett in both Troy, NY where she had moved with her family in the 1920’s, and at Odanak, PQ where she hoped to help develop a Western Abenaki language program. It was Cécile, when already in her 90s, who convinced him to go back for a doctorate as she was getting older: “You better hurry up – you keep saying we need to work on the language, well I’m getting to a point where we better begin!”. In 2000 Paul-René entered a PhD program at Indian University hoping to focus on the Western Abenaki language and work with Cécile. At Indiana university he studied for a year under Dr. Philip S. LeSourd who works with Passamaquoddy-Maliseet a closely related language By 2003, however, Cécile was unable to continue intensive work due to age and Paul-René changed his focus after finding work at University College of the Cariboo (now Thompson Rivers University) in British Columbia.
Paul-René managed to find other Eastern woodlands peoples wherever he lived. Below is a picture from 2000 in Oregon where Françoise M'Sadoques had been living for many years. Originally from Odanak PQ she was a fine basket weaver. Paul-René brought her ash splints and sweet grass. Françoise and he wove a basket together. Paul-René had pounded splints as a younger man, but never made a basket this was his first… not too good but Françoise gave it a “pass” and both signed the bottom.
PR incorporates many basket designs into his work. Some of these are from the Mohegan painted baskets he learned about from the Tantaquidegeons in CT and some from the Mi'kmaq quilled baskets from his time in Nova Scotia where his father, an Anglican Priest, moved us one year.