CVUUS worship opens with a ringing of the bell and saying: “We recognize that CVUUS gathers on land seized from the Western Abenaki people by European colonizers. We respect the Abenaki’s spiritual relationship to the land and waters of the Champlain Valley. We are committed to building a peaceful and more just relationship with them, and to promoting knowledge about their history and culture.”
Fuller Event Opening Language: “I want to start this event by acknowledging that we (or for Zoom, ‘most of us’) are gathered here and holding this Meeting on the unceded traditional homelands of the Abenaki people, their ancestors, and allies. Please join me in acknowledging the Abenaki community, their elders both past and present, as well as future generations. Let us not look away from the exclusions and erasures of Indigenous Peoples, including those on whose land we live, work, and witness. May we be committed to dismantling the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism here in Ndakinna – the place the Abenaki people call Our Land. Thank you.”
Watch CVUUS worship with Abenaki Chief Don Stevens: our guest worship speaker on Feb 28, 2021 in a service led by Liam Greenwood who co-leads the Native Moons Group. Go to https://youtu.be/JEPV9Mi4Mj4
Watch CVUUS worship with MUHS’ Grace Vining who, along with a Burlington student Theo Ellis Novtny, won an award for young film makers for a short film on the need for teaching Abenaki culture. This Sept 27, 2021 worship was led by Native Moons’ Liam Greenwood. You can watch the whole service here and Grace and Theo’s documentary here: https://youtu.be/WyDVh9RSgJ8.
CVUUS Share the Plate Donees (March 2021)
Vermont Abenaki Artists Assn. promotes regional Indigenous arts, artists, and culture by providing an organized central place to share creative ideas, and professional development. It creates engaging cultural events, educational programs, exhibitions, and curriculum materials and represents over 280 artists, teaching artists, performers, educators, and scholars. We’ll collect for them in the first half of March. For more, visit abenakiart.org.
Abenaki Helping Abenaki’s mission of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation is to strengthen our government; to build our community, and ensure sustainability; to protect our customs and traditions; and to revive our culture and celebrate our heritage while sharing it with those around us. N’dakinna (our homeland) is nestled among the lakes, rivers, and forests of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Our connection to this land cannot be described in any language. It is our birthright and obligation to advocate for our ancestral territory so that its uniqueness and beauty will be protected for the generations to come. Look for displays at Burlington International Airport, Echo Museum, and Ethan Allen Homesite. We’ll collect for them in the second half of March. For more, visit abenakitribe.org
Indigenous Peoples Day
This was an official VT state holiday, replacing Columbus Day for the second year on the second Monday in Oct. What a great opportunity to create some family traditions for honoring the original people of these hills and valleys, and other Indigenous Peoples around the world. Find at least one to do, maybe more, to tie into UU values of valuing the inherent worth and dignity of each person, and searching for the truth, and working toward a more just world. Here are a few things you might do to mark this holiday, or any time of year, from Montpelier’s Dir. of Religious Exploration Liza Earle Centers.
Watch the Abenaki Creation Story. It is powerful to hear the Abenaki language spoken.
Keep the Abenaki language alive! Abenaki leaders are trying to teach more and more people the language.
School of Abenaki at Middlebury College Abenaki is an endangered Eastern Algonquian language and one of the three Wabanaki languages of New England and Quebec. It is spoken throughout a wide area ranging from Lake Champlain to the west and Maine to the east. You can listen to an interview with Director Jesse Bruchac and read more about the program here. The School of Abenaki launched in the summer of 2020. Their 2-week program is drawn from the Abenaki speaking community as well as beginner level students who are passionate about learning Abenaki language and culture.
Clean up our own way of speaking, to make sure we’re not spreading myths about Indigenous People or using hurtful phrases or micro-aggressions. Learn which every day phrases to leave out of our speaking here. (For some Abenaki, the phrase “Native Vermonter” can be hard to hear said by a non-Abenaki. It’s easy to just say “born in Vermont” instead.)
Learn more and support indigenous authors. Consider buying or borrowing books by indigenous authors: some picture books or some for youth/young adults. Peruse the CVUUS Library reading list: https://www.cvuus.org/learning/library/reading-lists-2/native-american-perspectives/
A land project: Abenaki have always been and continue to be stewards of the land. Spend some time in nature, connecting with the Earth. You think of a project you could do to care for the land the way it cares for us–plant a tree or bush, pick-up trash, get a bird feeder for the long winter ahead.
Feast with some of these traditional Abenaki foods. ??You might want to include several of these in a meal: squash, corn, beans, pumpkin seeds, popcorn, berries, sunflower oil, fish or a dessert with maple syrup! Here’s an article about a local Abenaki chef.
Celebrate: Some good news: just in the last month, a bill passed the VT State legislature that place name signs within VT State Parks will include the Abenaki name for a place along with the English name (if the Abenaki place name is known).
Watch Dawnland, a documentary done in and about Maine and its Indigenous Peoples and the work of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission established by the Chiefs of the Wabanaki Confederacy and the State of Maine. Middlebury Friends Meeting’s Cheryl Mitchell purchased a license to view the film for 2021. Here is the link to the 54 minute version: https://vimeo.com/497022254 Password: fifteen.orange.ball.
Native Moons and Natural Mindfulness Group
This new small group ministry started by Liam and Mike Greenwood in 2020 aims at celebrating the Abenaki and Iroquois lunar cycle. We are an informal group who began by reading chapters of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and held discussions to share our reflective writings on these chapters over Zoom. We also offered some outdoor activities. This group is open to anyone, and you are free to drop in. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are going to join us for a Zoom or an in person event so that if weather changes or something becomes uncertain, we will know who to contact.
Zooming on the Full Moon (although in-person clustering is smiled upon). The Native Moons Book Group has chosen to learn about Abenaki history more deeply and more intimately. We will be meeting with Aunt Sarah, Woman of the Dawnland. This biography by Trudy Ann Parker is of Trudy’s great aunt Sarah, who lived to be 108 years old. Her journey from the 1820’s to the 1930’s within the State of Vermont is a slow loss of indigenous culture and rights, and a complex relationship with the dominant settler culture.
THANKSGIVING? GIVING THANKS?
I can’t celebrate Thanksgiving anymore. The racist and violent white supremacist roots of it are too awful. There are many things to do instead and here’s what I’m hoping to do: a big family meal, donating money, a land acknowledgement, and sharing information about the origins of “Thanksgiving” with the people at our meal and the wider community. Is this enough? Probably not but it’s what I have come up with for this year. We aren’t going to call it Thanksgiving, to separate it from the original holiday. It’s really important to do something to concretely support the Vermont Abenaki community, not just in words, so we are donating to them HERE (scroll to the bottom). Here’s a useful article: 9 Ways to Decolonize and Honor Native Peoples on Thanksgiving – culturalsurvival.org and a powerful very short video from Teen Vogue. Watch before showing kids: Native American Girls Describe the REAL History Behind Thanksgiving (1:43 min)
From Poppy Rees, Dir. of Religious Exploration