Abenaki language revitalization

Elizabeth Berton-Reilly's picture

My name is Elizabeth and I am currently a student in a PhD program, Language Literacy and Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico.  My specialty is Northeastern Woodlands people culture and natures of personal identity. I have been writing about this for several years now, having been deeply inspired by my Northeast Woodlands relatives and friends. 


I am writing a paper for class that I will also be submitting to the Algonquian Conference in 2018.  (http://algonquianconference.atlas-ling.ca/ ).  This paper will be about what is going on with Abenaki language revitalization today in New England.  I want to address how empowering it is for an Abenaki person of today to learn their language.  I am also interested in the connection between Indigenous identity and heritage language. I am trying to get a feel of what is out there today for the Abenaki people in New England who want to learn Abenaki.


My main question is how can an Abenaki language revitalization become successful when the Abenaki people of New England are scattered everywhere? What can I say and do in a conference and paper setting that might help this become successful?

Thanks so much in advance Elizabeth Ann Berton-Reilly, M.Ed.

Hi Elizabeth,

What a fascinating topic and question! I hope that Ashley Smith of Hampshire College is following this thread, I know that she is working on Abenaki history, and I have a hunch she would say that the answer to your question begins with space. You might return to Lisa Brooks to think about space and language.

I also suggest you get in contact with another wonderful scholar, Jenny Davis at Illinois Urbana Champagne, who works in very innovative ways on Indigenous language revitalization.

And for what it is worth, I will be presenting this year at UNM's Spatial Humanities Working Group on Haudenosaunee Place Names, something Jenny actually helped me with.

Good luck!

Hello Taylor,

My goodness! I cannot thank you enough for all the amazing information you have given me.

I too hope that Ashley Smith is on here, I would love to correspond with her as well.

To everyone, you can reach me best at emberfaye@gmail.com. In terms of Lisa Brooks, I have her book, The Common Pot – which is wonderful actually. The final chapter 7: Concluding Thoughts from Wabanaki Space, Literacy and the Oral Tradition is right on target and has been very helpful.

I will also try and get in touch with Jenny Davis as well.

Even though I am a graduate student at UNM, I have never heard of the Spatial Humanities Working Group. Sounds so amazing! Perhaps we can meet up when you are out here. When is it?

Finally, rightfully so, everyone I have talked to about this paper has pointed me in the direction of Joseph and Jesse Bruchac. This family has done some amazing things for Abenaki language revitalization. I have emailed him awhile ago and have not heard back.

Thanks again so much Taylor! :)
Elizabeth Ann Berton-Reilly, M.Ed.