2024 Yesàh Language & Lifeways Gathering

This program is made possible by the following funders and community partners: Mellon Foundation, Monuments Across Appalachian Virginia (MAAV), Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Indigenous East, 7 Directions of Service, NDPonics and the Yesa:sahi Language Project  

This gathering is part of the MAAV Yesa:sahi Language and Sacred Places Project - Learn more here

Registration is now closed. If you have any questions, please email the Project Coordinator, Dominique Daye Hunter at 

For those registered, please take the Participant Pre-Survey below to assist us in program evaluation and accommodating participant needs! 

This event will take place from July 11-14, 2024 at Virginia Tech and is FREE for Yesàh community members. Lunch will be provided each day as well as breakfast and dinner on select days for all participants (see agenda below for details)

The gathering will be held at O'Shaughnessy Hall located at 530 Washington St SW, Blacksburg, VA 24061 (and various locations on campus - see agenda for details) 

Parking is available in Owens Lot or along Washington Street.  See VT Parking Map Here.  All participants will be given a parking hang tag pass at check-in for Thursday and Friday. Parking on Saturday and Sunday is FREE.   

The gathering will feature 4 days of experiential language learning through an interactive and immersive approach that integrates history, culture, storytelling and traditional food and lifeways.

The gathering structure will generally follow the below format (Please see full agenda below for more details):

Breakfast (provided)  8-9am (no breakfast Thursday)

Morning Session 9 - 12pm (10am start Thursday)

Lunch (Provided)  12-1pm 

Afternoon session 1pm -  4pm  

Evening Session 6-8pm (no evening session Sunday)

This is a family-friendly event: All ages are welcome to participate. Language-focused youth programs and engagement activities will be available for youth 18 and under during the adult classroom-based language lessons. See agenda below for exact times when the youth classrooms are openParents sign children in and out each day. Parents are responsible for supervising their children on all field trips outside of the classrooms. 

Travel & Accommodations

We recommend booking your hotel as soon as possible. Our host hotel is the Inn at Virginia Tech, which is located on-campus and has offered our language gathering participants a discounted room rate. See below for a full list of options and instructions. 

The Inn at Virginia Tech* (host hotel): In order to receive the discounted room rate, reservations must be made using the following link (Summer Language Program) or telephoned directly to the Hotel Reservations Department at (540) 231-8000. Callers must identify their affiliation with the "Summer Language Program." Rates cannot be altered or changed at check-in or check-out for guests who fail to identify their affiliation at the time the reservation is made.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Blacksburg - University Area (an IHG Hotel)

Residence Inn Blacksburg- University*

Hyatt Place Blacksburg/University 

*accepts service and emotional support animals

For those flying into Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA), we recommend using the SmartWays shuttle bus ($4 each way, $2 reduced fare for those that qualify) that transports from the airport to the Virginia Tech campus and other areas in Blacksburg. Please visit 

Gathering Agenda 

Check back for updates, schedule is subject to change. 

This event is rain or shine! Please dress for the weather and bring comfortable and appropriate outdoor clothing. We may make some adjustments to the schedule based on the weather which will be announced at the gathering. 

Can't attend all days of the gathering? No worries! We are offering a Zoom option for the classroom language lessons each day so no one has to miss a lesson!  See Zoom links below. 

Main Classroom Language Lesson (Instructor: Dr. Marty Richardson) - JOIN BY ZOOM:

Yesa:sahi Conversation Practice Lesson (Instructors: Dr. David Kaufman, Martin Saniga) - JOIN BY ZOOM:

Facilitators / Instructors 

Planning Team: Desiree Shelley (Monacan Indian Nation), Alexandra Sutton-Lawrence, PhD (Saponi Nation of Ohio), Dominique Daye Hunter (Saponi), Marvin (Marty) Richardson, PhD (Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe), Crystal Cavalier-Keck, PhD (Occaneechi Band of Saponi Nation), Donna Westfall-Rudd, PhD

Language Instructors: Marvin (Marty) Richardson, Dave Kaufman, PhD,  Martin Saniga (Sappony Indian Tribe) 

Workshop Presenters / Facilitators: Victoria Ferguson (Monacan Indian Nation), Bryce Burrell (Mississippi Band of Choctaw), Alexandra Sutton-Lawrence , Dominique Daye Hunter, Desiree Shelley, Jason Keck (Choctaw), Shaheen (Aki) Hedgepeth (Saponi Nation of Ohio)    

Education Staff: Crystal Cavalier-Keck , Alicia Gear (Monacan Indian Nation), Meghan Alexandre, Anahi Sanchez 

Support Staff: Aaron Lawrence, Robert Rice (Saponi Nation of Ohio), 

Thursday, July 11, 2024  

O'Shaughnessy Hall - 530 Washington St SW, Blacksburg, VA 24061 

Theme: Yesah Homelands and Identities 

(Where is home? How do we identify and connect with our landscapes?) 

10:00 am: Registration and t-shirt pick up 

10:50 am - Children and Youth Classrooms Open 

11:00 am: Welcome and Introductions session

12:30 - 1:30 pm:  Lunch (Provided) 

1:30 - 3:30 pm: Language Lessons

3:30 - 5:30 pm: Interactive Community Workshops 

5:30 pm - Children and Youth Classrooms Close

5-6:30 pm - Evening Break 

6:30 pm - Dinner (Provided)

6:00pm - 8:00 pm - Community Social Activities 

Friday, July 12, 2024 

O'Shaughnessy Hall - 530 Washington St SW, Blacksburg, VA 24061 

Theme: Wild Cultivated Foods and Indigenous Landscapes 

8:00 am - 8:30 am - Breakfast (provided)  

8:30 -8:45 am - Board Vans and carpool vehicles to transport to Pandapas Park Day Use Area (approximately 8 min drive from campus) *

*Space on vans is limited to those that are not able to carpool. Children that require car seats (pre-kindergarten / approx. 5 and under) can not be transported in vans and must carpool with parents separately 

Driving Directions (google map) 

9:00 am - Morning Session: Field Trip to Pandapas Day Use Area - What to expect at the park  (Trail and parking info, photos and wildlife descriptions) 

Activity: Plant walk and forest visit. 

*Youth under 18 must be accompanied by an adult at all times on the trip. 

* Alternative activities at O'Shaughnessy Hall for individuals with very limited mobility

12:00 - 12:15 pm - Board vans and carpool vehicles to return to O'Shaughnessy Hall

12:30 - 1:30 pm:  Lunch (Provided) at O'Shaughnessy Hall

1:20 pm - Children and Youth Classrooms Open 

1:30 - 3:30 pm: Language Lessons

3:30 pm - Middle and Highschool Youth Classrooms Close

3:30 - 5:30 pm: Interactive Community Workshops 

5:30 pm - Children's Classrooms Close

5-6:00 pm - Evening Break 

6:00 pm - Dinner (Provided at O'Shaughnessy)

6:00 pm - 8:00 pm - Community Social Activities 

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Turfgrass Research Center - 615 Southgate Dr, Blacksburg, VA 24060 

Yesah Foodways and History - Four Daughters and the Lunar Agricultural Calendar 

Amai: Mi:nosa 

MEET AT THE TURFGRASS RESEARCH CENTER (Address: 615 Southgate Dr, Blacksburg, VA 24060)  

8:00 am - 9:00 am - Breakfast (provided at Turfgrass Research Center Pavilion)  

Driving Directions (google map) 

9:00 am - Morning Session: Field Trip to Indigenous Community Garden - Learn more about the garden here (What's growing?, Indigenous heirlooms, foods, and recipes and recipes and other garden activities

Activity: Indigenous Community Garden Visit and Pottery Workshop 

Participants will...

Indigenous Community Garden Visit - facilitated by Bryce Burrell 

Yesah History and Foodways through Pottery Workshop - facilitated by Victoria Ferguson 

Youth will have the opportunity to practice pottery making and harvesting from the garden

*Youth under 18 must be accompanied by an adult at all times on the trip.

12:00 - 1:00 pm:  Lunch (Provided) at Turfgrass Research Center

1:00 pm - Board vehicles and carpool to O'Shaughnessy Hall 

1:15 pm - Children and Youth Classrooms Open 

1:30 - 3:30 pm: Language Lessons (at O'Shaughnessy Hall) 

4:00 pm - Children and Youth Classrooms Closes

3:30 - 5:00 pm - Afternoon Break 

5:00 - 6:00 pm - Southeastern Indigenous and Eastern Siouan Cooking Demonstration (at O'Shaughnessy Hall Kitchens) 

6:00 pm - Dinner (Provided at O'Shaughnessy Hall) 

6:00 pm - 8:00 pm - Community Social Activities 

Sunday, July 14, 2024

O'Shaughnessy Hall - 530 Washington St SW, Blacksburg, VA 24061 

Theme: Lifeways and Water 

Mani Eni:se 


8:00 am - 9:00 am - Breakfast (provided)  

9:00 am - Photographs & Announcements: Upcoming Events + Digital Gathering Space 

9:15 am - Children's and Youth Classroom Opens 

9:15 am - 12:00 pm - Language Lessons (at O'Shaughnessy Hall) 

*Parents with children 5 and under must accompany them on the walk. 

12:00 pm - Children and Youth Classrooms Close

Afternoon Activities at Solitude 

12:00 - 1:00 pm:  Lunch (Provided at Solitude) 

1:00 pm - Eastern Woodland Stick Ball Demonstration - facilitated by Bryce Burrell and Jason Keck 

2:00 pm - Yesah / Tutelo Social Dances - led by Martin Saniga and Rufus Elliot

3:00 pm - Closing Ceremony, Gratitude and Sharing 

4:00 pm - Program Concludes