The Wabanaki People Are Taking Back Their Narrative

Cultural preservation is self-preservation for Native communities. An upcoming film from the Upstanders Project, “Dawnland,” explains just that.

The documentary, now in post-production, follows the journeys of those involved in a truth and reconciliation process in Maine involving the Wabanaki people. The documentary examines the history and the implications of the removal of Native children from their homes in the US.

From boarding schools in the 1800s to foster care today, Native children have repeatedly been separated from their families. In Maine, the Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission formed in 2012 to trace the abuses experienced by Native children since the Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted in 1978.
As early as 1975, a US Senate report found that Native children were 19 times more likely to be removed by child welfare workers than non-Native children. Today, Native children are still twice as likely to be taken from their homes and placed in foster care. Research has suggested this practice can lead to even greater isolation and erasure of indigenous culture.

The stories of Native children in foster care are peppered with horrific and unusual punishments, including not receiving food and being subject to physical harm as well as emotional and sexual abuse.

To tell these stories today, “Dawnland” has tapped advisers and consultants to help ensure the representation of the Wabanaki is accurate. Chris Newell is one of the advisers — he ensures the film is “culturally competent to the collective cultures of the Wabanaki territory.” Newell — born and raised in Motahkmikuhk, an Indian township in Maine — considers the story of Dawnland not his own, but rather the story of many of the people he grew up with.

Hear more about cultural preservation in “Dawnland,” by listening to the audio above.

Future Folk shares the stories of communities through the music that they make. It is a co-production of PRI’s The World and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Advertisements

This Centuries-Old Canoe Was a Critical Element of Wabanaki Life

wabanaki canoe brunswick maine press herald

One of the oldest-known examples of a Native American birch-bark canoe is on display at a museum in Maine, where indigenous tribes have used them for thousands of years.

The canoe put on display Thursday dates to the mid-1700s, said members of the Pejepscot Historical Society. It’s an example of the type of canoe that was critically important to the history and culture of the Wabanaki, the first people of parts of northern New England and Atlantic Canada.

This type of canoe was “extremely important for your family’s survival” for the Wabanaki people, said the Penobscot Nation’s tribal historian James E. Francis Sr. The Penobscot, one of four Wabanaki tribes still existing in Maine, still builds them today.

Bangor to Designate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Columbus Day

Bangor City Hall

The Bangor City Council on Monday night voted to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of every October — a day the federal government has designated to honor Christopher Columbus.

Bangor follows a growing number of cities and states that have decided to shift the focus from Columbus to the people who lived here before the arrival of European explorers and colonists.

Belfast was the first Maine city to take that step in 2015.

The city council’s resolve, which was approved in a unanimous vote, came at the request from members of the Penobscot Nation, whose Tribal Council member Maulian Dana Smith led the effort. She worked with Councilor Sarah Nichols, who brought it forward to the full council.

See the complete article in the Bangor Daily News.

Text of the Bangor, ME Indigenous Peoples’ Day Proclamation

Bangor ME Indigenous Peoples Day text

Link to City Council agenda for Monday, Aug. 28, 2017 with draft proclamation (page 13). The Council adopted it unanimously that night. Maulian Dana Smith of the Penobscot Nation Council helped to spearhead this effort for her People.

Bangor, ME Adopts Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Bangor Maine City Hall

The Bangor City Council on Monday night voted to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of every October — a day the federal government has designated to honor Christopher Columbus.

Bangor follows a growing number of cities and states that have decided to shift the focus from Columbus to the people who lived here before the arrival of European explorers and colonists. Belfast was the first Maine city to take that step in 2015.

The city council’s resolve, which was approved in a unanimous vote, came at the request from members of the Penobscot Nation, whose Tribal Council member Maulian Dana Smith led the effort. She worked with Councilor Sarah Nichols, who brought it forward to the full council.

Supporters of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Maine and other parts of the nation have said that honoring Columbus on the second Monday in October essentially glorifies colonization, racism and genocide.

Read the full story in the Bangor Daily News.

Wabanaki Confederacy 2017 at Kejimkujik Mi’kmaki

hugh akagi paasamaquoddy wabananaki confederacy 2017

Hugh Akagi thought about the future of the Wabanaki Confederacy while the partial eclipse was happening Monday afternoon.

The chief of the Passamaquoddy people in Canada had travelled from his home in St. Andrews, N.B. to Kejimkujik National Park near Maitland Bridge, N.S., to take part in the Wabanaki Confederacy’s four-day annual summer gathering.

Akagi and 40 other Indigenous people gathered at the national park Monday afternoon to take part in a traditional ceremony to light the sacred fire to start the confederacy’s event. They all watched as several people spent nearly an hour trying to light the fire with a single flint during the partial eclipse.

“I’m thinking the fire needs to come to life, the confederacy needs to come back to life,” Akagi explained following the ceremony.

“The confederacy has gone through some pretty dark years, pretty rough times as every individual tribe, every Native person has,” he said.

“How do we rekindle that fire, how to bring it to life? How do we bring back the songs?” he asked.

Read the full story from kukukwes.com.

Separating the Penobscot From Their River

Penobscot-Indian-Nation-Rally-June-30-2017-–-Courtesy-Penobscot-Indian-Nation

On June 30, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that severs the Penobscot Indian Nation  from the waters of the Penobscot River, a ruling that Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis says is reminiscent of federal termination policy—or worse.

“The river and our relationship to it and the 200 islands [that form the reservation] are the core of our cultural identity. If our ability to protect the river is taken away, we lose a big part of who we are,” Francis told ICMN.

Read the full story by Tanya Lee in Indian Country Today.