From the Perspective of the First Mainers: Workshop Teaches Wabanaki History

wabanaki map bowdoin REACH

The Wabanaki map literally at the center of a recent Bowdoin workshop was imprinted, like a fabric mosaic, of images integral to the history of the Wabanaki people and their culture: a red eagle, a tri-colored dream catcher, fish, and mammals.

Over the course of the workshop, the Wabanaki map—the colorful storyboard in the middle of the room—was folded up and broken apart several times, representing the fragmented nature of Wabanaki history. By the end, the pieces were rolled out and put back together, as if to symbolize the resilience of the Wabanaki up to the present day.

“We are working toward truth, healing, and change with educational programs that teach how the process of colonization happened and continues to happen here,” said Kates.

Diana Furukawa ’18 helped facilitate the recent afternoon event in the Edwards Center for Art and Dance with Maine-Wabanaki REACH, a nonprofit engaging non-native people in restorative justice for the Wabanaki. The Wabanaki refers to five nations—the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot—who are from the Northeastern part of the country, including Maine.

Furukawa currently works at the public library in Millinocket, Maine, helping with community-led grassroots revitalization efforts in the Katahdin area. To bring the Wabanaki  event to Bowdoin, Furukawa partnered with Barbara Kates, REACH’s community organizer.

“We are working toward truth, healing, and change with educational programs that teach how the process of colonization happened and continues to happen here,” said Kates.

Read the full press release here.

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Wabanaki REACH Brings Awareness to Campus

Walking into a sunlit room with a circle of chairs arranged in the center, 20 local Maine residents and students gathered together to learn about the indigenous people of Maine.

Located in the Woolley Room at the DTAV Community Center, the workshop was held to bring awareness to the struggles that indigenous people in Maine face to this day. The event was held on Friday, Oct. 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and included many different exercises and activities. Some of them included moments of silence for those who have passed away, other activities involved discussing Native Americans and their culture, interactive learning activities and many other exercises that helped the group get a better understanding of how Native Americans were treated at the time when America was discovered and taken over by Europeans, and how they are treated today.

Maine is a historic state with many Native Americans indigenous to the Penobscot River and surrounding areas. The leaders of the Wabanaki REACH group, Barbara Kates and Paul Strickland, wanted to emphasize how important the Native Americans were to this land, and how important they still are.

The discussions and talks were navigated and mediated by Kates, the Maine Community Organizer, as well as Strickland and other members of the group. They also brought to light different topics such as the removal of Natives from their lands and rivers, and how the Native American population in Maine has slowly diminished over time.

Read the full report by Bria Lamonica in the University of Maine’s student newspaper Maine Campus.

Maine Forum: Education Continues on Wabanaki Plight

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In 2015, a report focusing on Maine Wabanaki children and decades of discriminatory practices in the child welfare system was meant to spark changes and begin the healing process for the state’s native tribes. For Wabanakis and members of Maine-Wabanaki REACH, a group tasked with implementing the report’s recommendations, that process is far from over.

Speaking during a Great Falls Forum in Lewiston on Thursday, Maine Wabanaki REACH Community Organizers Barbara Kates and Tom Reynolds underlined the importance of the work that had been accomplished but said more outreach and more education is needed.

The pair led a presentation titled “Truth, Healing and Change: Why Maine Needed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” which refers to the Maine Wabanaki State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in 2013.

Read the full story by Andrew Rice in the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal.

Photo by Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal.

This is a followup to this post on Sokoki Sojourn.

Maine Forum to feature Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Commission

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The Great Falls Forum on Thursday, March 16, will feature Penthea Burns and Barbara Kates from Maine Wabanaki REACH. The program will take place from noon to 1 p.m. in Callahan Hall at the Lewiston Public Library. The presentation is titled “Truth, Healing and Change: Why Maine Needed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

REACH — Reconciliation-Engagement-Advocacy-Change-Healing — began as a collaboration of state and tribal child welfare workers who knew from their work together that major inequities existed in the way that the state dealt with family issues within Maine’s Native-American communities. Through their advocacy, they were able to establish the Maine Wabanaki State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2013.

The commission released its findings and recommendations two years later and since that time, much of the work directed at healing and change has been led by Maine Wabanaki REACH. Burns and Kates will talk about the founding of REACH and discuss the historical treatment of Native-American children that led to the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Penthea Burns, senior associate at the Muskie School of Public Service, co-directs Maine-Wabanaki REACH.  Since 1999, she has been working with the Wabanaki tribal child welfare programs and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to improve Maine’s compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Barbara Kates is a community organizer for REACH and is involved with designing and delivering community presentations and ally building workshops to increase understanding of Maine’s shared history with the Wabanaki people.

Admission is free to all Forum events and no reservations are required. This program is a bring-your-own brown-bag lunch. Coffee, tea and bottled water will be available at the library.

The Great Falls Forum is co-sponsored by Bates College, Lewiston Public Library and the Sun Journal. The Lewiston Public Library is at 200 Lisbon St. at the corner of Pine Street.

More information on Thursday’s lecture or other upcoming events in the Great Falls Forum series is available by contacting the Lewiston Public Library at 207-513-3135 or www.LPLonline.org.

Link to original article in the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal.