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.
“I think it’s so important that students here on campus as well as in the surrounding local area become more educated and aware of the Native peoples around them,” Katarina Hojohn, a first-year student who’s passionate about this topic, said. “Being from a family who has Native relatives and ancestors, I believe that everyone should learn from what the indigenous people of this country can teach us, and students should learn the truth about how Native Americans have been treated.”
The event focused on giving Natives, and people who have Native relatives or ancestors, a chance to speak freely about their emotions during this rapidly declining period of Native American history. Non-natives were also welcomed and encouraged to attend. With discussion-based learning and a lunch break that gave the participants time to talk and get to know each other, the workshop gave non-Natives and Natives a chance to discuss ideas and personal stories with one another.
Specific time slots throughout the day were designated for certain activities that allowed for the group to experience what it was like to lose loved ones to reservation constraints and illnesses, as well as getting a glimpse into the life of local Native Americans today.
The group leaders spend their time traveling around nearby towns and cities to hold these workshops and to inform people of Native American culture here in Maine and how it is changing every day.
The Wabanaki REACH Workshop was sponsored by many programs and groups at the University of Maine including the College of Education and Human Development, the McGillicuddy Humanities Center, the Department of Anthropology and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
To find out more, please visit www.mainewabanakireach.org.