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 his work is informed by many years of ethnographic work on the Navajo Nation. Costello serves the director of postgraduate studies at NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community, an Indigenous designed and delivered ATS accredited graduate school.
ContactDamian CostelloMontpelier, VT 05602 email@example.com(802) 598-6777
Available Program Formats: In person or online presentations
Few things evoke the identity and values of New Hamphire more than maple syrup. It also bridges the many divisions facing our communites. In this presentation, Damian Costello explores how the practice of maple sugaring connects us to the land, our ancestors, and all that surrounds us. In conversation with Robin Wall Kimmerer’s bestselling Braiding Sweetgrass, he suggests that sugarmaking—which is informed by indigenous wisdom—is a communal medicine of connection that teaches mutual reciprocity with the land.
Calling all genealogists, local historians, and amateur detectives! This program will examine an unsolved story of murder from northern New England: Local history briefly records that in 1790, the original American settler to the Montpelier area, Jacob Fowler, killed an unnamed “Indian” in a dispute over a trapline. Together, participants will draw on historical documents, genealogical work, and the fiction of local historian D.P. Thompson to reconstruct the biographies of the two participants and explore this formative time in New England history.
As part of New Hampshire Humanities' Perspectives Book Groups, we're reading Black Elk Speaks by Nicholas Black Elk. The life of Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950), the Oglala Lakota visionary and healer.
Black Elk Speaks, the story of the Oglala Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) and his people during momentous twilight years of the nineteenth century, offers readers much more than a precious glimpse of a vanished time. Black Elk's searing visions of the unity of humanity and Earth, conveyed by John G. Neihardt, have made this book a classic that crosses multiple genres. Whether appreciated as the poignant tale of a Lakota life, as a history of a Native nation, or as an enduring spiritual testament, Black Elk Speaks is unforgettable.Black Elk met the distinguished poet, writer, and critic John G. Neihardt in 1930 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and asked Neihardt to share his story with the world. Neihardt understood and conveyed Black Elk's experiences in this powerful and inspirational message for all humankind.
PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED TO RECEIVE THE BOOK PRIOR TO DISCUSSION.
As part of New Hampshire Humanities' Perspectives Book Groups, we're reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert).Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings―asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass―offer us gifts and lessons, even if we've forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.
PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED TO RECEIVE THE BOOK PRIOR TO DISCUSSION. Please contact the host to reserve your spot.
As part of New Hampshire Humanities' Perspectives Book Groups, we're reading There There by Tommy Orange. In There There, Cheyenne/Arapaho novelist Tommy Orange explores the challenges and rich texture of Native Urban life.
A wondrous and shattering novel that follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize.Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American—grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism.Hailed as an instant classic, There There is at once poignant and unflinching, utterly contemporary and truly unforgettable.
This lecture explores the life and legacy of Nicholas Black Elk (c.1866-1950), the Lakota holy man made famous by the book Black Elk Speaks. I begin with Black Elk's Great Vision and his struggle to discern his calling during the events of the Great Sioux War. During his long life, Black Elk lived out his vision in three overlapping roles: as a traditional healer, a Catholic teacher, and a revivalist of Indigenous traditions. In the midst of great tragedy, Black Elk wove these three strands into one beautiful life exemplifying survival, hope, and reconciliation. We will discuss the relevance of Black Elk's legacy for broader questions of Abenaki survival in Northern New England, hope in the face of global environmental problems, and reconciliation in the midst of growing political and religious sectarianism. This talk is based on extensive historical research, extended residency in Indian Country, and continuing conversation with Lakota elders.
The Stono Rebellion has been called the most important slave revolt in North American history. In this lecture, Damian Costello examines the events and the deep African roots of the 1739 uprising in South Carolina. Recent arrivals from the Kingdom of Kongo drew on drumming traditions, military organization, and Kongolese spirituality to communicate their message of freedom. The high point of the revolt was a ceremonial dance, the sangamento, which fused African precedents and enacted the rebels' call of liberty. Costello will also trace the sangamento tradition in the U.S. and throughout the Americas, and discuss how the Kongolese message of liberty can inform present-day efforts to overcome the lingering effects of our colonial inheritance.
New Hampshire Humanities programs are made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this these programs do not necessarily represent those of the NEH or New Hampshire Humanities.