The Abenaki Tribe is a First Nation People, oftentimes referred to as “Native Americans”, who live in what is currently called Vermont, and areas beyond, after 13,000 years of uninterrupted historical and cultural presence. Even as an Indigenous sovereign nation, the Vermont Abenaki are still not recognized by the U.S. Federal Government. Access to many educational and all healthcare programs open to the rest of the First Nations People in the U.S., are not available to the Vermont Abenakis.

Bellcate School students in the EPIC Music Education Program had an incredible opportunity to perform as a part of a cultural event celebrating the Abenaki Nation’s continued cultural presence in their homeland, N’dakinna, on the main stage at the world-renowned Flynn Theater in Burlington, VT. They joined the ranks of some of the world’s best musicians, sharing the same stage as artists such as; Allison Kraus, Swell Season, The Head and the Heart, William Shatner, and many, many others.

Bellcate School students joined Abenaki musician Bryan Blanchette and their own Director of Music Education, Morgan Lamphere, Blanchette’s musical collaborator and fellow Abenaki– on a project with the Champlain Elementary School in Burlington. Bryan Blanchette has been a respected force on the pow-wow circuit for both his powerful vocals and his leadership on the drum, and Morgan Lamphere directs the Abenaki Music and Dance Revival program at the Vermont Indigenous Heritage Center. They were joined by Champlain Elementary music teacher extraordinaire Betsy Greene, who worked with her students and Blanchette in the classroom; and they fielded a chorus of 44 students singing in the traditional Western Abenaki language at the Flynn Theater.

EPIC Music Education Program students at the Bellcate School were given the opportunity to provide the percussion ensemble. Drums and a rattles of various kinds are crucial components of American First Nations People’s music– including our local Western Abenaki communities represented by the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi, Elnu, Koasek, and Nulhegan tribes. Many of the music students who didn’t perform this time had chances to explore the song, try out different musical roles, and experience the Western Abenaki language as a part of their music classes.

CS, DO, JLB, KK, RP took the stage in front of hundreds of their fellow Vermont student peers and they performed like true musicians on Blanchette’s original song, “Water Is Rising”. The song is an upbeat reminder that the responsibility of caring for the land we live on is all of our responsibility. The students were able to work together, communicate in the moment, support each other, practice their recoveries, lock in, and join as one, providing the audience with an amazing performance. This was an important moment in the Vermont Abenakis’ cultural outreach in education and the arts.

The song “Water Is Rising” is set to be featured on an upcoming release from the artists Nikw8bi: Featuring Bryan Blanchette & Morgan Lamphere.