Global Learning: Navajo Studies at Grammar School This Month

brent chase navajo dineh grammar school putney

Earlier this month at The Grammar School , students learned about Navajo code-breaking, dreamcatchers, cradleboards and much more. It’s part of “Indigenous Ways of Knowing,” the school’s global education theme for this school year. Throughout the year, teachers are incorporating the concept into their curriculums, from Wampanoag history to indigenous number systems.

Eve McDermott, the Putney, Vt., school’s 2nd-grade teacher, said the staff picked the theme for this year because of its focus on learning from the natural world. The school emphasizes outdoor education, she said, which made the theme seem like a perfect fit.

 From Nov. 6 to 10, members of the Navajo Nation of Arizona visited the school to give workshops on Navajo culture. Throughout the week, the visitors worked with different grade levels on various subjects. For example, 8th-graders learned about Navajo rites of passage, while the 3rd- and 4th-graders learned Navajo weaving techniques.
McDermott said the workshops helped the students practice understanding the world through nature. “It’s really important for our kids in this day and age of the screen and of being really removed from many experiences, experiencing things firsthand. This is a real balance to that tendency in our society,” she said. “It kind of brings us back to where our focus should be.”

The week culminated with “In Beauty May I Walk,” a performance by Brent Chase, one of the visitors from the Navajo Nation, melding Navajo music, storytelling and dance. McDermott said the Navajo hoop dance was especially powerful, moving one 2nd-grader to happy tears. “It was just a feeling that you could really relate to, because the energy and the spirit of the hoop dance is really, really powerful in a room to watch it,” she said.

Teachers will continue to incorporate the theme for the remainder of the year, and the students will put on a fundraiser to buy school supplies for The Little Singer School, a K-8 school on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. The Grammar School also hopes to invite Abenaki and Iroquois representatives to give similar presentations to the students.

“We’re still glowing a week later with the spirit of the whole thing. We just can’t wait to have Abenaki and Iroquois come and just learn about their cultures. It’s so important,” McDermott said. “We have a lot to learn from them.”

See the original article by Meg McIntyre in the Keene (NH) Sentinel.

Bringing Together Two Sides of Vermont

don stevens drum flynn center vaaa

A preview of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, performing traditional and contemporary Abenaki music, storytelling, and drumming in FlynnSpace on November 14 at 7:30 pm. By KieraHufford, contributor to @flynncenter Tumblr.

The Abenaki people, like many Native Americans, have been living in America since before European settlers arrived. However, the tribes only received state recognition five years ago, in 2012. The Flynn welcomes the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA), giving them a space to share parts of their culture with the public—a performance that would have felt entirely different had it taken place in 2010.

When Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan of the Elnu Abenaki spoke with Vermont Public Radio (VPR) back in 2016, he talked about the importance of state recognition. “Before we had state recognition, whenever we made something—a pipe, a wampum bracelet, whatever—and we sold it, we had to say that we were of ‘Abenaki descent.’ We couldn’t say that we were Abenaki from such-and-such a tribe. That’s a federal law. You could get hit with a $250,000 fine per item.”

It made it difficult for Abenaki people to share their heritage. They couldn’t label their creations as being made by members of the Abenaki tribes, even though that’s who they are. And even now, they have to carry a native card proving that they’re members of the tribes; however, who they are, their culture, and where they come from is in their blood. It’s their identity, and a card shouldn’t be needed to prove that.

One of the biggest problems, according to the Abenaki, is that the Vermont Agency of Education doesn’t have a mandated curriculum surround the Abenaki people and their culture, so many students go through school and never really learn about their history or existence. The Abenaki are hoping to change that in the coming years.

“If we were going to sum up the state of where things are with the Abenaki right now, I would say change,” Eugene Rich, co-chair of the Missisquoi Abenaki Tribal Council, told VPR. “I think we’re trying to change our public persona.”

According to their website, the VAAA “embodies the history, culture, and art of the Abenaki people. While most of our artists and performers preserve and pass on the traditional art of our ancestors, others create contemporary artistic expressions that are informed by tradition.” Their mission is to promote Vermont’s Indigenous arts/artists while providing a place to share ideas and develop professionally as entrepreneurs.

The VAAA wants the Vermont public to be able to find and engage artists like Chief Don Stevens, of the Nulhegan band of the Coosuk Abenaki; Nulhegan Abenaki Drum, who combine traditional Northeastern music with the sound of the big powwow drumming; and Bryan Blanchette, who began singing at powwows 20 years ago and is currently writing/performing new Abenaki language songs, who will be performing at the Flynn.

The Abenaki have a place of belonging in Vermont, a place that should be recognized and unquestioned by the state’s residents. Not every Native American appears the same, but that doesn’t mean they have to prove their culture. The best way to combat this thinking is by learning, by understanding the Abenaki culture and how it, too, has adapted as the years have gone by.

An Evening with Vermont Abenaki Artists Association: Nov. 14 at the Flynn Center

bryan blanchette flynn center vaaa
“The story is here, but it’s been hidden. The Abenaki people, who were written out of the story, are still here.” —VPR

At the Flynn for the first time, the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association shares a performance of both traditional and contemporary Abenaki music, storytelling, and drumming. Performers include Chief Don Stevens, Chief of the Nulhegan band of the Coosuk Abenaki, Nulhegan Abenaki Drum, who combine traditional Northeastern music with the sound of the big powwow drumming, and Bryan Blanchette, a Berklee alumnus who started singing at powwows over 20 years ago and who is currently writing and performing new Abenaki language songs.

Tomorrow, November 14th, from 7:30-10 pm, at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, 153 main St., Burlington, VT 05401.

Tickets went on sale to Flynn members on Tuesday, July 18 and to the general public on Wednesday, August 2. Flynn membership starts at $50 and is available at any time. To become a member visit http://www.flynncenter.org/support-us/membership.html.

4th Annual Pocumtuck Homelands Festival on August 5

pocumtuck homelands festival 2017

The 4th  Annual Pocumtuck Homelands Festival, a celebration of Native American Art, Music, and Culture,  takes place on Saturday, August  5, 2017,  from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Unity Park Waterfront in Turners Falls, MA.  The event is free, family friendly, fun, educational, accessible, and of interest to all ages.

Performances include live traditional, original, and fusion music, a story teller, and three drum groups. There will be outstanding  Native American artists, and games, activities and crafts for children. Also featured will be primitive skills demonstrations, a books and authors section, and condensed history lessons about Great Falls. The Mashantucket-Pequot archaeology team will be on site for the second time to analyze early contact period artifacts people bring to them. And Tim MacSweeney, keeper of the website Waking Up On Turtle Island, can help explain the significance of threatened sites considered sacred to the tribes such as in Shutesbury and Sandisfield. Food will be available, including Native American fare.

Performers will be Hawk Henries, Nipmuc flute player and flute maker;  the Kingfisher Singers and Dancers, Wampanoag from the  Mashpee, Aquinnah, and Herring Pond communities;  story teller Larry Spotted Crow Mann,  Nipmuc; the Medicine Mammals Singers;  and Lee Mixashawn Rozie,  who uses instrumental virtuosity and stories to illuminate the indigenous and African roots of “American” music.  Be energized by the presence of three drums: Chief Don Stevens and the Nulhegan-Coosuk Band of the Abenaki Singers, plus returning favorites, the Black Hawk Singers (Abenaki),  and the Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle Intertribal Coalition Singers.

Donations appreciated. Find more information and the schedule the week before the event at www.nolumbekaproject.org. and/or turnersfallsriverculture.org.

Wabanaki Calling In Song

Filmed in night vision at the Jamaica State Park archeological dig. The El-Nu Abenaki Tribe Singers led the public through a night of traditional story-telling and songs. Video by Lina Longtoe of Askaw8bi Productions.

The Abenaki Heritage Weekend gathering this weekend (June 24-25, 2017), at the lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, will open each day at 10:30 am with a traditional Greeting Song, such as this.

2nd Annual All Species Day in Great Barrington, MA

turtle island universe

Standing Rock Water Protectors and Friends & Supporters in the Berkshires,

We, Northeast Region Standing Rock RISING! NEXT STEPS Solidarity Committee are producing the 2nd annual ALL SPECIES day in Great Barrington, MA at the Fairgrounds on Rt. 7 from 12 noon to 6pm.

We are calling on all environmental, social and inter-faith communities, groups and organizations to come and stand in SOLIDARITY with Standing Rock and OPPOSE all pipelines across the country going under or near rivers, lakes, springs and ponds, especially in Sandisfield, MA where the Tennessee Gas / Kinder Morgan pipeline is proposing to desecrate and/or destroy over 20 Native American burial sites and sacred ceremonial sites as well, as they build this project that also impacts CT and NY.

100% of all donations on day of event will be directly made available to the Native Graves Ancestral Lands Legal Defense Fund (Doug Harris).

All Species day will include LIVE MUSIC, SPEAKERS, Cultural Dance groups and an inter-faith prayer vigil. Free information booth spaces will be made available at no cost to environmental and social justice groups, youth and church groups, community orgs and animal rights groups.

Performers committed to perform are Wicked Hanging Chads, a Reggae & Ska band (returning from last year) Sambaland Band, Brazilian Carnival Music, Otha Day, and the Aztec Dancers  (from Rock, Rattle and Drum American Indian Pow Wow, where they have performed for the last 11 years).

Speakers include Michael Johnson, Pathways to Peace, Karenna Gore, Center for Earth Ethics, Doug Harris, Historic Preservation Officer for Narrangansett Nation in Rhode Island, Joe Graveline of Nolumbeka Project and Rosemary Wessel of No Fracked Gas in Mass.    

More speakers to be invited and announced.

ALL SPECIES DAY SCHEDULE – April 23rd Sunday

12 noon – Inter-faith Invocation for the Earth and All Species to include a Native American tribal elder/spiritual leader, Christian Minister, Jewish Rabbi, Buddhist Monk or nun, etc.

12:15 pm – Aztec Dancers perform earth invocation and dances
12:45 – Speaker- Doug Harris
1:00 – Native American Drum and Dance for the Earth-TBA
1:30 – Taino Invocation for the Earth & All Species with Taino Song & Dance
2:00 – Speaker – Rosemary Wessel, No Fracked Gas in Mass
2:15 – ALL SPECIES House Band – Michael and Chris
2:45 – Speaker – Joe Graveline, Nolumbeka Project
3:00 – Wicked Hanging Chads – Reggae & Ska
4:00 – Speaker – Michael Johnson, Pathways to Peace
4:15 – Sambaland Band, Brazilian Carnival Music
5:45 – Otha Day – African American Drummer facilitates Drumming Circle
6:00 – Inter-Faith Prayer and Moment of Silence, facilitated by Michael
Johnson
See the original posting here.