Events to focus on Native American language, culture


FARMINGTON — University of Maine at Farmington visiting Libra Professor and Abenaki scholar, Lisa Brooks, is collaborating with UMF faculty to present “Living Language,” a semester-long series focused on language exchange. The series will include several events focused on Native American language and culture indigenous to Maine and New England. The events are open to the public and will run from February through April. All events are free unless otherwise noted.

The series began with a reading by Cheryl Savageau, Abenaki poet, visiting writer, storyteller and textile artist, on Feb. 7. Savageau is the author of three poetry collections, “Mother/Land,” “Dirt Road Home,” which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and “Home Country.”

Next in the series, Brooks will conduct a conversation with Maria Girouard, former director of Penobscot Nation Cultural and Historic Preservation, and Donald Soctomah, tribal historic preservation officer of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, on “Wabanaki Culture and History: Maine’s Commitment to Native American Studies.” This presentation will address Maine’s commitment to Native American studies and its national obligation to better understand Native culture and history. It will take place at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28, in The Landing, UMF Olsen Student Center.

The final February event will be a workshop from the Maine Learning and Technology Initiative titled, “Supporting Language Acquisition through MacBook and NetBook Applications.” It will take place from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29, in Room 113, UMF Education Center.

Brooks is teaching at UMF for the spring semester thanks to the Libra Scholar initiative, an endowed program established in 1989, designed to bring scholars of national and international prominence to campuses throughout the University of Maine System.

“The fund for the Libra Professorship enables us to bring to UMF a scholar, writer or performer who is at the top of his or her field,” said Michael Johnson, UMF associate professor of American literature. “What’s particularly great about Dr. Brooks is not only is she a nationally-known scholar of Native American literature, but she’s also focusing her research on our area, western Maine and northern New England.”

The John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University, Brooks is an Abenaki scholar specializing in Native American literature and history, with a particular interest in Maine and New England. Her book, “The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast,” is a groundbreaking study of the way early Native American leaders in what is now New England adopted writing as a tool for reclaiming land rights from English colonists.

Additionally, she is the co-editor of and contributing author to “Reasoning Together: The Native Critics Collective.” In 2009, Brooks was elected to the inaugural Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, an international academic association. She also serves on the editorial board of the journal Studies In American Indian Literatures and on the advisory board of Gedakina — a nonprofit organization focused on indigenous cultural revitalization, educational outreach and community wellness in northern New England.

Additional “Living Language” events will include:

* “Environmental Justice and the Penobscot River,” presented by Barry Dana, Penobscot leader and educator, at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, March 14, at Emery Community Arts Center.

* “Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action,” film screening and Q & A about the impact of environmental policy on the Native American way of life and discussion with Barry Dana, Penobscot leader and educator, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, at Lincoln Auditorium, UMF Roberts Learning Center.

* “Language, Culture, and the Changing Face of Maine,” with Margie MacDonald and Shelly Chasse-Johndro of Project Opportunity, UMO, at 11:45 a.m. Monday, March 19, at Lincoln Auditorium.

* “Anthropoeta, An Evening of Poetry and Improvised Music,” with Renato Rosaldo and Cristian Amigo with Gustavo Aguilar, in April, date, time and location to be announced.

* “Living Languages: Language Keepers — an Evening of Native Stories and Language,” featuring Roger Paul, Passamaquoddy/Maliseet Language Keeper and educator; Jesse Bruchac, Abenaki Language Keeper and author; and another guest, to be confirmed, from the Wabanaki tribes of Maine, at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 10, at Emery Community Arts Center.

* “Joseph Bruchac, Abenaki Storyteller and Writer,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, at Emery Community Arts Center.

* “Telling Room Students: A Window into the Young Writers and Leaders Program,” a screening of works by students who are members of the YWL program, an after-school program for recent immigrant and refugee students, at 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, at the Education Center.

* “Language Loss and Revival and the Work of Language Keepers,” a discussion with Julia Schulz and Ben Levine, at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, April 18, at Emery Community Arts Center.

* “Language of America,” a film by Ben Levine, 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 18, Lincoln Auditorium, UMF Roberts Learning Center.

* “The Language of Dance: Acholi Dancers of Portland Maine,” in April, date, time, location and cost to be announced.

The “Living Language” series is sponsored by the UMF Provost’s Office, UMF Diversity Committee, UMS Diversity Committee, Libra Scholar Program, University Culture Committee, Mantor Library, University of Maine Project Opportunity, State of Maine Learning Technology Initiative and the UMF Multicultural Club. Funding has also been received for the series by Gedakina, a nonprofit group aimed at strengthening and revitalizing the cultural knowledge and identity of Native American youth and families from across New England.

For the latest information on events, visit