Native American Day at CES

Castleton, VT June 2023 -- “Close your eyes. Imagine a world with no cell phones, no computers, no electronics at all; no planes, trains, or automobiles. Listen closely and hear the birds singing, rivers flowing, and wind blowing.” This is how guest speaker Lucy Cannon-Neel addressed the 4th grade class at Castleton Elementary School. She continued, “Travel back in time 1,000 years, long before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth rock, before any European explorers touched the northeastern portion of what is now called the United States.”  Ms. Cannon-Neel then had the students open their eyes to see a descendant of the people who were here at that time. She was referring to herself, for Ms. Cannon-Neel’s ancestors were Native Americans from the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation.

Lucy Cannon-Neel’s visit was the grand prize for a district wide food drive involving all schools in Slate Valley. This food drive was arranged by Slate Valley’s Home to School Liaison, Ms. Carrieann Wolcott. 1,158 pounds of non-perishable and household items were donated to the local food shelf. Castleton Elementary School (CES) collected the largest amount, 590 pounds, therefore winning the challenge and affording them the visit from Ms. Cannon-Neel. On June 9th, all students participated in a day of learning centered on Vermont Native American history and culture.  


Each class at CES was able to spend about 40 minutes with Ms. Cannon-Neel. She modified each discussion with students to match their age. But the general topics remained consistent. Ms. Cannon-Neel shared that canoes were the main form of transportation and how the vessels were made without the use of modern tools and materials. Students were introduced to the structures that Native Americans lived in and how they were built, as well as their types of foods and how they hunted, gathered, or grew them.

For recreation, one winter game the Abenaki played is called Snow Snake. They would slide hand-carved pieces of wood on top of the snow to see which would go the farthest. Ms. Cannon-Neel showed a snow snake to the students, along with other artifacts. Some were passed around, allowing students to touch and interact with pieces of history. The older classes ended their time learning a traditional dance and then performing it while Ms. Cannon-Neel sang and beat her moose hide drum. It was a wonderful cultural experience. 

Ms. Lucy Cannon-Neel takes great pride in sharing her Abenaki history. For more information concerning the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, visit their website at