Nulhegan Abenaki Chief Don Stevens Appointed to State Racial-Justice Panel

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Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk-Abenaki Nation has been appointed by Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan to serve on the Racial Disparities in Criminal and Juvenile Justice Panel.

According to the attorney general’s website, the panel’s goal is to “develop a strategy to address racial disparities within the State systems of education, labor and employment, access to housing and health care, and economic development.”

Stevens, a Shelburne resident, said he has been working racial disparity issues for “many years. Mostly in the capacity as Chief and how it affects the Abenaki Community.”

He is working on cultural projects with Burlington’s mayor’s office, regularly attends Vermont State Police Fairness and Diversity meetings at Vermont Law School, and recently testified at hearings before the Vermont Legislature regarding bill S. 281 which researches systematic racism within the state government.

Though his area of expertise is focused on Native people and the Abenaki Nation, he said, “My goal is to take a look at policies and procedures within the criminal and juvenile justice system and offer insights on areas of improvement. There are specific areas within the Department of Corrections and Child Welfare Areas that need to be addressed in regards to Native peoples. As a minority myself, I hope to offer perspectives in whatever areas the panel decides to concentrate on.”

Link to original article in the Shelburne News.

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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.

Strength, Unity, Power: Contemporary Practices in Native Arts

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The University of Massachusetts, Amherst second-year graduate students in the History of Art & Archictecture Department invite you to an exciting upcoming event:

Strength, Unity, Power: Contemporary Practices in Native Arts

This symposium explores the cutting edge of what artists, museum professionals, and scholars today are doing to promote justice for Native American communities, both in the art world and beyond. The keynote address will be delivered by contemporary Native American artist, Wendy Red Star, and will be followed by a panel discussion withscholars, Dr. Sonya Atalay and Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, moderated by Dr.Dana Leibsohn.

The symposium is a free event hosted by the History of Art & Architecture department’s second year graduate students. Symposium Date & Time: 15 September, 4pm-6pm, Location: ILC S240 Reception Date & Time: 15 September, 6pm-7pm, Location: Campus Center 165

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.

Valdiviezo Addresses Social Justice at Second TF Educational Forum

laura valdiviezo turners falls forum

Laura Valdiviezo, an associate professor from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst College of Education, answered questions and spoke to the possible processes the school district might enact when deciding whether to keep or change the Turners Falls High School mascot, currently the Indians.

She spoke about the multicultural and social justice perspectives as it pertains to the current mascot debate. Valdiviezo presented several studies that showed negative effects of Native American mascots and logos on Native American students and discussed national organizations that have called for the end of use of Native American imagery with sports teams.

Valdiviezo said that either way, change should happen. Either the mascot itself will change or the school should take steps to incorporate local Native Americans into decisions about the mascot and how the school represents the “Indians.” She recommended collaboration and conversations with local Native Americans.

Read the full story by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder.