Circle of Courage

This highly regarded after-school initiative draws on the writings of Acclaimed Native American Author Larry Brendtro (Reclaiming Youth At-Risk) who, with colleagues, first introduced this holistic model. While we (Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi, St.Francis/Sokoki Band) believe in the tenets of belonging, generosity, independence, and mastery, these core values have been adapted to accommodate our own beliefs about children.

As we view children from an “at-promise” paradigm, conventional “at-risk” models are replaced by a strengths-based approach.

Brenda Gagne is the Coordinator of the Circle of Courage program.

Contact her at 802-868-3453 or email her at: circleofcourage @

A good example of our offerings is the DVD entitled:

“From Calumet to Crisis … and Back:

The Abenaki Circle of Courage Youth Group Examines the Sacred Use and Misuse of Tobacco.”

This 16 minute DVD invites the viewer to explore an after-school program designed for all children which in part — deals with the use of tobacco reduction. The outcomes are extremely positive and point to practices that may be beneficial wherever children’s health is an issue.

The 16 minute DVD has been placed on YouTube for Instant Access.

The Links below open in a new window (youtube)

From Calumet to Crisis and Back – Part 1   ( 6 minutes)

From Calumet to Crisis and Back – Part 2   (9 minutes )

However you may request a  DVD Copy which is of a higher quality for visual viewing.

Through a model that utilizes our traditional dance and other customs, students learn the difference between tobacco as a sacred herb used for ceremonies verses the social convention of cigarette smoking. Ultimately, there is a profound sense that when a community creates a context in which youth can thrive, they will.

The Abenaki Circle of Courage Afterschool Program puts the concepts of belonging, mastery, generosity, and independence into practice.

Children master skills in Native dance and crafts, experience belonging through working together as youth leaders, practice independence in completing artistic projects, and exhibit generosity through community service.

Project Director Brenda Gagne is an Abenaki Community member.  Brenda directs the “Circle of Courage” after-school cultural program for both Native and non-Native students in Swanton and Highgate, Vermont. She has been honored by the State of Vermont’s Department of Education for outstanding service.

Jeff Benay is the Director of Indian Education Programs for Franklin County and former long-time Chair of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Native American Affairs.  He has worked with Vermont’s Abenaki for nearly 30 years.