Author and theologian Damian Costello explores how the practice of maple sugaring in Vermont connects us to the land, our ancestors, and all that surrounds us. In conversation with the bestselling book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, he suggests that sugarmaking—which is informed by Indigenous wisdom—is a communal medicine of connection that teaches mutual reciprocity with the land.
He spoke at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum on October 5, 2022 as part of our First Wednesdays series.
About Damian Costello
Damian Costello received his Ph.D. in theological studies from the University of Dayton and specializes in the intersection of Catholic theology, Indigenous spiritual traditions, and colonial history. He is an international expert on the life and legacy of Nicholas Black Elk and the author of Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism. Costello was born and raised in Vermont and serves as the Director of Postgraduate Studies at NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community.
Underwriter: Passumpsic Bank, FDIC
Recent First Wednesdays Videos
Poetry Reflections with Richard Blanco
Noel ClarkApril 21, 2023
Selected by President Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in US history, Richard Blanco is the first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity characterizes his four collections of poetry. Join him as he discusses his work and life with a panel of students from Hartford High School.
Disability, as part of the human condition, has always been with us. But considering disability to be negative is a new concept, shaped by recent history. Professor of philosophy, author, and disability activist Patrick Standen unravels the complicated, fascinating, and controversial history of the concept of disability.
The People’s Tongue: Americans and the English Language
Noel ClarkApril 6, 2023
Longtime First Wednesdays favorite Ilan Stavans discusses his new book, an anthology that tells the story of how the English language has been transformed in the United States. The People’s Tongue features essays, letters, poems, songs, speeches, stories, jeremiads, manifestos, and decrees across history, from Sojourner Truth and Abraham Lincoln to Henry Roth and Zora Neale Hurston and beyond.
From Red State to Blue State: Vermont’s Political Transformation
Vermont HumanitiesApril 6, 2023
For 100 years—from the 1850s to the 1950s—Vermont was the most Republican state in the nation. But today it is the most Democratic. Journalist Chris Graff considers some factors behind the switch from “red to blue,” including interstate highways, the arrival of IBM in Vermont, and the reapportionment of the Vermont House.
Biodiversity, Conservation, and Civic Participation in Paraguay
Noel ClarkMarch 1, 2023
South America’s Atlantic Forest is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Cristhian Fretes Ojeda, technical trainer for Peace Corps Paraguay, discusses how civic participation is leading the effort to conserve crucial natural areas like the Atlantic Forest and the Gran Chaco, which span several South American countries.
In this presentation for Vermont middle and high school students, Andrew Aydin, co-author of The March Trilogy with civil rights icon John Lewis, describes the creation of the next book in the series, RUN! Aydin also relates becoming an author, how he became involved in politics, and his experiences working with Congressman Lewis. He’s joined by a panel of students from Rutland Union High School.
Many communities recently have questioned the value of long-standing monuments. These debates can strike at the heart of history and memory. Seeking dialogue instead of a shouting match, author Raffi Andonian suggests four simple questions for communities to consider as they evaluate historic sites, famous figures, and public monuments.
Trauma-informed journalist and essayist Lori Yearwood explores what it means to be a trauma-informed journalist when reporting on difficult topics. Having experienced homelessness herself, she suggests key ideas to keep in mind as journalists engage with populations who face dire situations and systemic poverty.
Adapting Traditional Stories into Mainstream Literature
Noel ClarkJanuary 25, 2023
Author David A. Robertson examines his middle grade fiction fantasy novels, The Misewa Saga, and discusses what role traditional stories played in the development of the series. In this January of 2023 virtual event presented by the Norwich Public Library , he explains how he honored the richness, intent, and themes of those original stories.
In 2021, UVM student Jordan Rowell kayaked the 120-mile length of Lake Champlain. Over a two-week journey, Rowell and local filmmaker Duane Peterson conducted interviews to better understand the challenges facing the lake and to explore our relationship with natural resources in the era of climate change. The pair shares excerpts from their short documentary film and discusses its creation.
Where Do We Stand? A Report from the Climate Battle
Noel ClarkDecember 7, 2022
Author and activist Bill McKibben— the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and leader of the climate campaign group 350.org— shares an overview of the climate crisis and what changes need to be made to save the planet. McKibben spoke at Norwich Congregational Church, United Church of Christ on December 7, 2022, presented by the Norwich Library.
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