Ndakinna Staff

James Bruchac – Founder and Program Director of the Ndakinna Education Center

James Bruchac is an award winning author, traditional storyteller, outdoor educator, and Director of the Ndakinna Education Center. The oldest son of author and storyteller Joseph Bruchac, he and his family are citizens of the Nulhegan Coosuk Band of the Abenaki Nation.

As a writer, James has authored and co-authored over a dozen books for adults and children including such books as Native American Games and Stories, How Chipmunk Got His Stripes, When The Chenoo Howls, The Girl Who Helped Thunder, Scats & Tracks of The Northeast, Turtle’s Race With Beaver and Rabbit’s Snow Dance. Currently, James is working on the book North American Trails and Tales of the Grizzly, part of a larger series focusing on the legends, natural histories, personal interactions, and track-based knowledge of various North American mammals.

For over three decades James has traveled around the country visiting countless schools, storytelling festivals and environmental centers, as well as running hundreds of youth camps, sharing stories, wilderness skills, and Native American games through Ndakinna, .

James has a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Skidmore College, having done most of his undergrad work at Ithaca where he was a member of the 1988 Division III National Champion football team. A lifelong martial artist, he is a black belt instructor in both Kyokushin Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

For more information, please visit Jim’s Website at www.jamesbruchac.com

Joseph Bruchac – Executive Director

Joseph Bruchac lives in the Adirondack mountain foothills town of Greenfield Center, New York, in the same house where his maternal grandparents raised him. Much of his writing draws on that land and his Abenaki ancestry. He holds a B.A. from Cornell University, an M.A. in Literature and Creative Writing from Syracuse and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the Union Institute of Ohio. He is the founder and Co-Director of the Greenfield Review Literary Center from which The Ndakinna Education Center evolved. For more information, please visit Joe’s website, www.josephbruchac.com.

Jesse Bruchac – Language Director

Jesse Bowman Bruchac (born 1972) Began worked as a guest performer and instructor at the Ndakinna Education for over twenty years. He joined the Ndakinna staff as a full time instructor in 2018. He brings with him many skills that are close to our core mission including Native American storytelling, music, and teaching the Abenaki language. He is an accomplished musician with several albums of Native flute, drum and rattle music. Another new element that Jesse will bring to Ndakinna is is expertise in the Abenaki language. He is a fluent speaker and has been teaching it most of his adult life, including immersion weekends and monthly online classes through Ndakinna. Using simple interactive activities and songs, Jesse introduces participants in camps and other programs at Ndakinna to the original Native language of Ndakinna (an Abenaki word meaning “our land”). Jesse is also skilled in outdoor skills, having attended The Tracking Project’s Hawkeye training throughout his youth in New Mexico, and is certified in our ropes course. He has taught along side his brother, Ndakinna Director James Bruchac, for decades. Among his notable accomplishments, Jesse created and acts as webmaster of WesternAbenaki.com, a free online language learning portal. He has worked as a composer for the operetta The Purchase of Manhattan (2015), a translator for the AMC hit show TURN (2014), a short film by Alanis Obomsawin When All the Leaves Are Gone (2010) and as translator, dialect/dialogue coach and composer for the National Geographic movie Saints & Strangers (2015), a film which includes over an hour of translated dialogue in the Western Abenaki language and two months of on set actor training and filming in South Africa with over two dozen actors. He has traveled throughout the United States teaching both the Abenaki language and culture. The Ndakinna Education Center and teaches wilderness survival classes. He also is an active martial artist, an instructor and black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. For more information, please visit his website, www.jbruchac.com

Eric Jenks – Associate Director

Eric has worked or volunteered at Ndakinna since 1998. He is skilled at animal tracking, wilderness survival, Native American storytelling, photography and communications. As the Associate Director, Eric is involved with social media, press releases, community outreach, our camps, grant writing, and more. Eric has studied animal tracking and wilderness survival under James Bruchac, Vince Walsh, Jim Halfpenny, John Stokes and others across the country for more than twenty-five years. Besides working at Ndakinna, Eric has run his own photography business for over a decade (www.awasos.com), and shared his outdoor skills at other locations in the area – including Camp Northwoods at Skidmore College, and the Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops of Schuylerville. He has also worked as an outdoor educator for C5 Los Angeles while based in Hyattville, WY. Eric graduated from Skidmore College in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies concentrated in Biology, with a second major in Music.

Executive Officers & Board Members

Joseph Bruchac – Executive Director (see bio above)

Jesse Bruchac – Treasurer (see bio above)

Simon Ouderkirk – Board Chair

Simon is a product of the New York State public education system, holding multiple degrees from the Binghamton campus. Since graduating he has worked across industries, becoming an award winning journalist, a father, and an IBM recognized analytics innovator. Simon currently works as a data scientist with Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com.

Dr. Nicola Marie Allain – Board Secretary

Dean of the School of the Arts and Humanities, and a tenured faculty member in the arts, digital media, and learning and emerging technologies at SUNY Empire State College. Nicola is also a dancer/choreographer specializing in Asia/Pacific traditions. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Ottawa, Canada; a master’s degree in dramatic art with a dance and music emphasis from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Ph.D. in Media and Communication from the European Graduate School in Switzerland. Born in Great Britain and raised in Tahiti, French Polynesia, she is a former dancer and choreographer specializing in Asia Pacific and Mexican folkloric traditions. Her performances and creative works have been featured at arts, dance, music, cultural and storytelling festivals in the United States and Mexico. Her creativity is nurtured by the stories from her Polynesian ancestry and rich family history, which she shares in narrative memoir poems. Nicola also translates French poetry and philosophy, and researches Ancient Tahitian history, mythology, performance traditions, and ways of knowing to honor the memory of her ancestors. This research focuses on Asia/Pacific and Oceanic philosophy, culture, and performance traditions.

Michael Lambert – Board Member / Past Chair

Michael is originally from New York City and attended Queens College of The City University of New York where he received both his undergraduate (English and Communications) and graduate (Education) degrees. He retired from the Gloversville Enlarged School District in 2016 after 32 years of teaching Special Education and English. Michael’s lifelong interest in mythology led him, in 2002, to an association with the Joseph Campbell Foundation where he currently handles Rights and Permissions. Michael lives in a log cabin in the forest of Greenfield, NY.

Dr. Himanee Gupta-Carlson – Board Member

Himanee Gupta-Carlson is a writer and associate professor at SUNY Empire State College. She grew up in Indiana as the eldest daughter of immigrants from India, and inherited from her large extended family in India passions for natural healing methods, growing healthy foods, and simple flavorful cooking. She serves on the planning committee for the Greenfield Farmers’ Market and as an active volunteer with the Saratoga Farmers’ Market and the Franklin Community Center, where she coordinates a community garden for food pantry clients, a gathering and distribution program of produce from local farmers to the food pantry, and weekly newspaper and newsletter articles on food and farming projects in the greater Saratoga area. Her book Muncie, India(na): Middletown and Asian America is anticipated to be released by the University of Illinois Press in spring 2018, and she currently is working on a second book exploring community connections between Hip Hop philosophies, local food movements and small scale farming. She also raises goats, chickens, ducks, and a wide array of produce with her husband on their farm, Squashville Farm, in Greenfield Center.

Leah Boughton Parillo – Board Member

Leah started her career as a full-time musician, and still moonlights as a studio musician and writer. She serendipitously found marketing not long after obtaining a B.A. in Theology and Music from the University of Valley Forge, and she has been doing that in various roles for over two decades. Leah currently works as VP of Business Development and Client Growth at Saratoga Springs-based, SIX Marketing, and as the Uber driver for her two active children Gabriel and Gracie (who participate in many Ndakinna programs).

Brian Brumley – Board Member

Chris Martell – Board Member

Mark Oppenneer – Board Member

Mark is a web developer, veteran, storyteller, mythologist, and bread baker. Until 2018 he directed The Ethnos Project (www.ethnosproject.org), a digital humanities research portal and database that explores the cultural impacts of information and communication technologies on traditional cultures. His research interests include Indigenous knowledge management, storytelling and world mythic traditions, and the preservation of intangible cultural heritage. He holds a masters in Communication & Rhetoric and a masters in Liberal Studies (Mythology & Oral Traditions).


Cultural Advisory Committee

Roger Paul, Born in Motahkomikuk to an unwed Passamaquoddy mother who crossed over to the spirit world. His Maliseet father knew he had to disperse the children to protect them from the colonizing authorities. While growing up on various reservations throughout Maine and New Brunswick, he was shuttled between the communities to protect him. His older brothers and sister were not as fortunate. They were taken and sent to the residential school at Shubenecatie. Roger grew up speaking the local Wabanaki dialects and began learning English around the age of five He soon realized the public’s lack of understanding and connection to the indigenous peoples and especially those of northeastern North America. He has since chosen a path to help educate anyone interested, about the importance of indigenous Wabanaki People and their vital role in the communities in which they are ever-present. Roger is presently a masters student at MIT and working as a Wabanaki Languages teacher with the Penobscot Nation, the University of Maine at Orono, and the University of Southern Maine. He takes an active and diligent role towards the preservation, continuing growth, and prosperity of the Wabanaki language, culture, and people.

Kay Olan (Ionataie:was), a retired Ndakinna Board Member, Kay Olan is a Wolf Clan Mohawk educator and storyteller. Kay taught elementary school in New York State for over thirty-three years. Upon retiring from teaching, she moved to Kanatsiohareke, a traditional Mohawk Community located in central New York State where she coordinated cultural lectures, workshops and programs including the Kanatsiohareke Mohawk Language Immersion Program. She appeared in the Iroquois segment of the documentary “How the West Was Lost” which aired on “The Discovery Channel”. The Indigenous Women’s Initiatives acknowledged Kay Olan as a “2009 Jigonsaseh Woman of Peace”. Now semi retired, Kay still makes occasional visits to share stories at Ndakinna as well as serves as a part time cultural advisor.

Perry Ground is a Turtle Clan member of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. He has been telling stories for over 20 years as a means of educating people about the culture, beliefs and history of the Haudenosaunee. Perry learned most of the stories he shares from the elders of various Native American communities and feels that practicing and perpetuating the oral traditions of Native people is an important responsibility. Professionally, Perry has worked in several museums including The Children’s Museum of Houston, Sainte Marie among the Iroquois and Ganondagan State Historic Site. He has shared his stories in countless museums, libraries, classrooms, and festivals throughout the northeast and has guest lectured at numerous colleges. Perry is the former Project Director of the Native American Resource Center within the Rochester (NY) City School District.


In Memoriam

Joseph A.E. Joubert (1944-2020) – Board Member Emeritus

Joseph A.E. Joubert, known as Elie, is retired from 20 years active U.S. Naval service, with the rank of Command Chief Petty Officer. He received the Navy Achievement Medal awarded by the Secretary of the Navy. Elie served in a variety of Naval ships and stations throughout his career. After retiring, he established an additional career as NYS Division for Youth counselor at Tryon, N.Y., and was also house manager for ARC’s in Amsterdam and Saratoga Springs, NY. He takes exceptional pride in being an Abenaki Indian, born at Odanak Indian Reservation, P.Q., Canada. He also teaches the Abenaki language and culture in New York and New England. He is a very well respected Elder of his tribe and others of the W8banaki Confederation of Tribes.. He is trilingual, speaking French, English and the Abenaki languages.

Carol Bruchac (1942-2011)

Without Carol, we would not have Ndakinna (or for that matter, its Director, James). She was a constant source of guidance, organizational support, and wisdom. Along with her husband, Joe, she was the founder and Co-Director of the Greenfield Review Literary Center from which The Ndakinna Education Center evolved. Her vibrance, caring nature, and dedication to Ndakinna and her family will never be forgotten.