by: Kayden Stauffer
For millennia, publishing has taken numerous forms. From carving on cave walls to tweeting a hashtag, published works help further the voice of a community or nation. In a sense, they immortalize the people within these communities and nations. They inspire change, as well as educate.
The Abenaki tribe of northeastern America has been keeping up and catching up. I spoke with Melody Brook, operations manager of residential life at Champlain College. She talks of the tribe’s efforts to stay modern in the digital age. “I think that various groups are using social media as a connecting factor. … I hosted the first Abenaki Women’s Council in centuries this past year and we have been using Skype and other technology to allow Abenaki women down to Hawaii the chance to participate.”
Social media has proven itself time and again to be a viable method of publication. Editors of print magazines such as Newsweek, The Atlantic, and The Huffington Post are expanding their content to social media platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr. It’s said that Tumblr, specifically, has acted as a savior to print magazines, with its method of curating content through reblogs and weekly staff recommendations.
The Abenaki tribe, similarly, has used social media in this way, to expand their outreach and send their voices out to those who otherwise may not have heard it. With the use of social media, faraway people such as the Māori people of New Zealand can connect with the indigenous people of northeastern America. They even visit every five years. Social media has acted as a link because of this. Groups and organizations exist in Vermont that work with indigenous people in Central and South America, helping them sell traditionally made items so that the tribes can get what these items are really worth. Without the use of modern technologies, this and other relationships like this that serve to preserve indigenous culture may not exist.
The surge in publications, especially those meant to educate, has come around only recently. Says Brook on this: “We have one professor that has been publishing academic books and journals since the 90s and now we have a few beginning to publish stories and other books on art.”
As far as stories, however, these types of publications have been in print for a lot longer. “Our storytellers have been using publishing media for a long time,” says Brook. “In fact, Joseph Bruchac owns his own well-established press in New York and has published dozens of books and they have done very well. Several of our other storytellers have as well.”
Indeed, Joseph Bruchac is an established publisher, editor, and author, residing in New York. He founded the Greenfield Review Literary Center and The Greenfield Review Press, has edited countless poetry and fiction anthologies, and has penned over 120 books. He has been honored and awarded time after time after time, and has worked tirelessly, along with his children and sister, to preserve the culture, language, and skills of the Abenaki people.
Brook goes on to speak to the underlying problem—the lack of education, and how it affects the ability to publish new, meaningful works. “The issue we have is that until the last fifteen years or so our graduation rate was very poor. I know when my parents went to school less than 30% of our students graduated from high school. I believe I was the third or fourth person to go to college from my community,” she says. As of 2009, the completion rate of indigenous high school students had risen to 82%, according to the 2009 compendium report by the U.S. Department of Education.
“In order for people to feel like they have something important enough to publish, they need to have confidence in themselves and their information,” said Brook, really hitting the main takeaway. She goes on: “Education is the key to instilling pride and spirit and will be a vehicle for them to understand publishing avenues. We have created a very successful program leading kids to college and now our graduation rates are over 90% and many are going to colleges. In addition to more going to college they are also going to places like Dartmouth and Cornell. It is very encouraging.”
Education inspires publications, as publications inspire education. It will only get better from here out. As Brook’s parting words state, clear in their hopefulness: “People are finding their voice.”