Dawnland Voices: Indigenous Writers of CT Panel Discussion
New Haven, Conn. (May 6, 2021)—In the first event to be held in Connecticut related to the “Dawnland Voices” project, a panel representing various tribes among the five recognized in Connecticut will be moderated by Siohban Senier, associate professor at the University of New Hampshire, who edits the online publication “Dawnland Voices.” The event will be hosted by the New Haven Museum in partnership with the International Festival of Arts & Ideas on June 3, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. To attend go to: https://www.artidea.org/event/2021/4467. The event will be streamed live on Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitch and the Festival’s Virtual Stage, and will be recorded and archived for later viewing.
The discussion was designed to inform a deeper understanding of contemporary indigenous culture and the living writers who represent its diversity and strength. The event was coordinated with input from West Haven resident Ruth Torres, co-editor of the Schaghticoke section in the print edition of “Dawnland Voices.” The anthology project, “calls attention to the little-known but extraordinarily rich literary traditions of New England’s Native Americans...from the earliest petroglyphs and petitions to contemporary stories and hip-hop poetry.”
The Indigenous Writers of CT Panel Discussion panel is one of several events relating to New Haven’s 2021 selection for the NEA Big Read, “An American Sunrise,” by writer, musician, and current Poet Laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. “An American Sunrise” revisits the homeland from which Harjo’s ancestors were uprooted in 1830 as a result of the Indian Removal Act. An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.
Natasha Gambrell - Panelist
They are the daughter of Valerie Gambrell, current Tribal Councilor for the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation. They have been dancing Eastern Blanket, Jingle, and Northern Traditional since the age of eight. At 16, they were crowned Ms. Eastern Pequot. They’ve traveled to schools and colleges in the Northeast speaking on behalf of their tribe and have participated with the Archaeology Field School Collaborative with UMass Boston, beginning in 2008. In 2015, they graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University with a B.A in English. In 2017, they were elected Tribal Councilor, where they are currently serving a second term.
Rachel Beth Sayet - Panelist
Rachel Beth Sayet or Akitusut (She Who Reads) is a is a member of the Mohegan nation. She is a Mohegan/Narragansett/Pequot anthropologist, reiki practitioner, lightworker, and essential-oil crafter. Raised with the spirits of her ancestors, she grew up learning traditional stories and teachings and participating in tribal events. Rachel has always been passionate about and proud of her Mohegan heritage and identity as well as an avid studier and learner about other cultures, indigenous and beyond. History has always been her favorite subject. Sayet’s other main passion in life is food. Her grandmother inspired her to cook cultural cuisines and she received a B.S. in restaurant management from Cornell University.
Siobhan Senier - Host
Siobhan Senier is a professor of English and chair of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of New Hampshire. She edited the anthology “Dawnland Voices,” and its corresponding online journal, “Dawnland Voices 2.0.” Her groundbreaking scholarship, teaching, and activism have inspired students and communities across several areas of research: American studies, Native American studies, and New England studies. Her other publications include “Voices of American Indian Assimilation and Resistance,” “Sovereignty and Sustainability: Indigenous Literary Stewardship in New England,” and essays in journals including American Literature, American Indian Quarterly, Studies in American Indian Literatures, MELUS, Disability Studies Quarterly, and Resilience.
Candyce Testa - Panelist
Candyce Testa, (Pequot) is a cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on native language, identity and connection to place in an attempt to reclaim the indigenous spaces of her ancestors. She currently works as a cultural instructor for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. In this position she leads her community in language reclamation, assists with event organization, provides art workshops and tells indigenous stories. She considers herself a student of life and enjoys sharing her reverence for the land and waters with her people.
Ruth Garby Torres - Panelist
West Haven resident Ruth Garby Torres contributed a chapter, "How You See Us, Why You Donʹt: Connecticut’s Public Policy to Terminate the Schaghticoke Indians" in the volume, "Recognition, Sovereignty Struggles, and Indigenous Rights in the United States: A Sourcebook" edited by Amy E. Den Ouden and Jean M. O'Brien. With Schaghticoke elder and educator Trudie Lamb Richmond, Torres was the co-editor for the Schaghticoke section in "Dawnland Voices." She holds a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University.