MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - This summer the Middlebury Language Schools, known internationally for their intensive immersion approach to the teaching of language and culture, will launch a School of Abenaki as a pilot program. 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.
“We want to recognize and honor the people on whose land Middlebury is making its home,” said Middlebury President Laurie Patton. “We have been partnering with Abenaki educators on a variety of events for the past several years and are thrilled to be taking this next step to bring Abenaki language and culture into our curriculum.”
“We will have the opportunity to engage with a local culture that is right here, where we live,” said Steve Snyder, dean of the Middlebury Language Schools. “It’s a wonderful complement to our tradition of engaging with cultures around the globe.”
Approximately 20 students will live, learn, and interact in the language. All participants will abide by the Language Pledge, a formal commitment to speak the language of study and no other for the entire session. The School of Abenaki will host cultural events, some of which will be open to the public. The pilot program will run from June 30 to July 14 and will be located on the Middlebury College campus.
Jesse Bowman Bruchac, a citizen of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe, will direct the School of Abenaki. He has written and published bilingual books and recordings as well as developed online teaching content in the Abenaki language. Bruchac has lectured at Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, and Princeton. He is currently coteaching a Wabanaki language course at the University of Southern Maine.
Bruchac will draw on the Abenaki community to identify faculty and guest lecturers, and performers, such as storytellers, basket makers, and drummers. He is already familiar with Middlebury—he presented several lectures at the College last year and also performed on the flute and offered an invocation in the Abenaki language at the College’s 2019 Commencement ceremony.
“It’s exciting that the Abenaki language is receiving this recognition from Middlebury,” said Bruchac.
“Traditional stories, music, and culture of this land shared within its original language will serve as the foundation of the School of Abenaki,” added Bruchac. “Alnôbaôdwada waji kassagakimzoldiakw/Let’s speak the Abenaki language so that we may learn together!”
For more information on the Middlebury School of Abenaki, contact Molly Baker, director of Middlebury Language School enrollment, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-443-5028.