The Wabanaki Helped Us Secure Self-governance. It’s Time We Returned the Favor.

wabanaki drum group bangor daily news

A thoughtful column in the Bangor Daily News by Cassandra Cousins Wright.

This July Fourth, we celebrate our freedom as memorialized in the Declaration of Independence. Our ancestors declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While we celebrate securing these rights for ourselves as settlers, we ignore what we have done to our allies the Wabanaki people, the original people of this land, who helped us to secure these rights.

The Wabanaki flourished in what we recognize as Maine. The many distinct people who once called this area home have been reduced to four federally recognized tribes: the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation. The four resilient, surviving tribes battle the state government every day to live free as their beliefs, cultures, values, spirituality, traditions and ancestors inform them to live. Why does Maine and the United States withhold from them what we declared 241 years ago as the inherent rights of all human beings?

Abbe Museum Welcomes New Trustees

Gabe Frey Sarah Sockbeson Abbe Museum BDN

The Abbe Museum has added two new members to its Board of Trustees, bringing the total number of Trustees to 16. The new appointees, Gabriel Frey, Passamaquoddy, and Sarah Sockbeson, Penobscot, assumed their new roles on June 2, 2017. Abbe Trustees Jeff Dalrymple and Richard Cleary were elected to a third term.

“We are honored to have Gabe and Sarah join the Abbe’s board,” said Abbe Museum Board Chair Ann Cox Halkett. “Both bring talents and new perspectives that will complement and strengthen our energetic and engaged board. Their leadership will be especially important as the Abbe continues its commitment to decolonization and launches the first annual Abbe Museum Indian Market in Bar Harbor in May 2018.”

See the full story in the Bangor Daily News.

Dialogue Tour: American Flag Motif in Wabanaki Art

wabanaki flag basket abbe museum

Monday, July 3, 2017 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Location: Abbe Museum, 26 Mount Desert St, Bar Harbor, Maine

For more information: 207-288-3519; abbemuseum.org/events/?view=calendar&month=July-2017

The Abbe Museum’s education team will be hosting a specialized dialogue program surrounding the use of the American flag motif in Wabanaki art. Participants will be prompted with questions to guide the conversation and have opportunities to share insights.

The cost of participating is $9 and includes admission for the rest of the day at our two locations!

There are a limited number of spaces for this one of a kind program. Please register by emailing educator@abbemuseum.org or call 207-801-4081.

Original post in the Bangor Daily News.

Traditional Foods of the Wabanaki Coast

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Thursday, July 6, 2017 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Location: Abbe Museum, 26 Mount Desert Street, Bar Harbor, Maine

For more information: 207-288-3519; abbemuseum.org/events

In the Wabanaki homeland, the ocean is a central figure in the shaping of culture and worldview. The ocean has also been one of the most important Wabanaki food sources and has given life to communities for over 12,000 years. Join us at the Abbe as we welcome Kyle Pepperman from the Downeast Institute who will be on site with his aquatic touch tank! We will discuss marine life vital to Wabanaki culture and sustenance. This interactive program will also feature Abbe educators with artifacts and other materials used by Wabanaki people to harvest food from the ocean. This is sure to be a highlight of this summer!

Participation in this program is included with the price of admission and no prior registration is required.

Special thanks to the Downeast Institute, Kyle Pepperman, and Downeast Fisheries Trail.

See the original posting in the Bangor Daily News.

Workshop on Maine and Native People: Understanding Our Relationship

Maine-Wabanaki REACH will present a free workshop on April 29 from 9:30-4 in Brewer. This workshop has been well received across the state, with over 600 Mainers participating.

Maine and Wabanaki people are at an historical juncture in their long relationship; this workshop is an opportunity for non-Native people to reflect on our history in relation to Native people and our opportunities for the future. It includes a very brief history of US government relationships with Native people; awareness of white privilege; and an exploration of the concept of decolonization.

Maine-Wabanaki REACH is a cross cultural collaborative organization offering programming in Wabanaki and Maine communities. This workshop is co-sponsored by the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine.

Link to listing at Bangor Daily News.

Shaking Off Winter at 20th Annual Wabanaki Spring Social

wabanaki spring social bangor maine 2017

Men, women and children — many of them wearing their colorful tribal regalia — danced to the beating drums Saturday at the 20th annual Wabanaki Spring Social.

There also were prayers and blessings from elders, most in the traditional tongues of the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet tribes, as well as fry bread and hull corn soup, and Native American crafts and other products.

An estimated 700 members of the region’s Wabanaki Confederacy and other tribes were expected to gather at the Anah Shrine for the event, Susan Romero of Wabanaki Health and Wellness, a key organizer of the social.

Read the full report by Dawn Gagnon in the Bangor Daily News.

Where Are the Indigenous Voices in the Thanksgiving Story?

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From The Point (11/22/2016) in the Bangor Daily News (link here), by Sarah Shear, first published in The Conversation. This is worth printing in its entirety…

Thanksgiving is an important time, when schools teach the story of who we are and where we come from as a nation. My own students have told me about the Thanksgiving story they learned in school, which focused solely on the survival of the Pilgrims and the friendly meal shared with “Indians.”

In my research and experience as a teacher educator, I have found social studies curricular materials — textbooks and state standards — routinely place indigenous peoples in a troubling narrative that promotes “ Manifest Destiny” — the belief that the creation of the United States and the dominance of white American culture were destined and that the costs to others, especially to indigenous peoples, were justified.

As we consider history and its place in our schools, it is important to ask: how do state-mandated history standards represent indigenous peoples in social studies education? And, in this season of “Thanksgiving,” should we revise our curriculum to be more accurate and culturally relevant?

Placing indigenous peoples in the shadows of the past

From late 2011 through early 2013, social studies scholars Ryan Knowles, Greg Soden, Antonio Castro and I conducted a thorough study of state-mandated K-12 history standards across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. We analyzed the standards in two ways: the percentage of standards that included content about indigenous peoples pre-1900 versus post-1900, and how the standards presented the story of indigenous peoples in U.S. history.

We found 87 percent of the standards placed indigenous peoples in a pre-1900 context. In other words, these standards confined indigenous peoples to a distant past. This pre-1900 timestamp is significant because the turn of the 20th century saw increased American military conquests of indigenous lands and peoples as the country expanded west toward the Pacific Ocean. But the standards rarely, if ever, present these events and the loss of life and land from the perspective of indigenous peoples.

Other scholars have written about similar findings in their research. For example, University of North Carolina-Greensboro’s Wayne Journell found that 10 states — California, Georgia, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — conclude their coverage of indigenous cultures and histories around the “removal policies” of the 1830s.

Removal policies, led in large part by President Andrew Jackson, forcibly moved indigenous peoples off their lands. These policies, legalized under the Indian Removal Act, opened territories to American settlers traveling west. Our research on curriculum standards also found that while most states included the Indian Removal Act, many excluded any consideration of the consequences to indigenous peoples related to their forced removal.

Prentice Chandler, who researches race and racism in social studies education at the University of Cincinnati, articulates the problem of placing indigenous peoples in the distant past, in the following way: “The treatment of American Indians in history texts pushes them to the fringes of the story: Native Americans are seen as having cordial relations with whites, being obstacles for Manifest Destiny, and eventually succumbing to white progress, never to be discussed again, as though they never existed.”

Perpetuation of stereotypes

Along with controlling when indigenous peoples are included, standards and textbooks also dictate how their experiences are told. Historians Clifford Trafzer and Michelle Lorimer found that California social studies textbooks failed to include critical content about the kidnapping, rape, enslavement and murder of indigenous peoples during the Gold Rush era of the mid- to late-1800s. The texts instead focused on the exciting lives of American pioneers who traveled West in search of wealth.

In yet another examination of textbooks published between 1991 and 2004, social studies scholar Tony Sanchez found that although the quantity of content related to indigenous peoples increased over time, the quality — in terms of how accurately cultures and histories are represented — is lacking. For example, Sanchez found most descriptions of indigenous people’s clothing were stereotypical. Instead of including a variety of examples of cultural dress, the texts used generalizations, such as showing indigenous peoples wearing feathers and breechcloth.

Boarding school experiences

There are many other such glaring omissions. My own research looked at how textbooks published between 2011 and 2013 wrote about the “ boarding school era” — the period after the Civil War and into the 1900s during which the federal government used legal means to remove indigenous children from their homes. Six of the eight textbooks I studied wrote that these education policies were peaceful reforms.

These texts presented, above all, the perspectives of white American reformers. These reformers believed boarding schools should be used to Christianize and educate indigenous children in the white American way of life. The perspectives of indigenous peoples affected by this education policy were largely ignored. The textbooks did not include the stories of indigenous parents’ efforts to fight the removal of their children. Very few of the texts featured testimonies from indigenous children themselves — either positive or negative. There was little discussion of the lasting effects of these policies today. Even when indigenous peoples were included in the textbooks, it was only as short, simplified sidebars or at the end of chapters.

Bringing this to Thanksgiving

Francis Rains, a scholar of Native American studies and history at Evergreen State College, and Karen Swisher, an education scholar and former president of Haskell Indian Nations University, have asked teachers to consider the following when teaching about indigenous peoples: “We believe that we should be asking what should be taught, when it should be taught, and how it should be taught. Perhaps most importantly, we should be asking, Why are we teaching about ‘Indians’ or ‘Native Americans’?”

My students, all education majors, regularly talk about how they learned Thanksgiving as children. We discuss how the story many of us grew up learning in school neglects the voices and experiences of the indigenous nations whose lands were invaded by Europeans, including the Pilgrims.

The late Michael Dorris, first chair of Native American Studies at Dartmouth, articulated the problem with Thanksgiving in this way: “If there was really a Plymouth Thanksgiving dinner, with Native Americans in attendance as either guests or hosts, then the event was rare indeed. Pilgrims generally considered Indians to be devils in disguise, and treated them as such.”

This Thanksgiving, let us hear and learn the story of indigenous peoples — their past, present and future — through their voices and not through the voice of Manifest Destiny.

“In social studies we have an opportunity to invite students to rethink things, to offer alternatives, even of past events, as a means of learning,” Rains reflected. “As citizens of a country that prides itself on justice and democracy, we have an opportunity to help students understand the consequences of when justice and/or democracy fails.”

Sarah Shear is an assistant professor of social studies education at Pennsylvania State University. This piece was originally published on TheConversation.com.

The Conversation