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Diversity Committee explores Maine-Wabanaki relations

On Dec. 7, the University of Maine Psychology Department’s Diversity Committee hosted the event “Truth, Healing, and Change in Dawnland.” Focusing on the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), this presentation aimed to offer attendees an understanding of relationships between native and non-native people in Maine.

Barbara Kates was the main speaker at this event. Kates is the lead consultant for her company, Barbara Kates Consulting, and works with the Maine Wabanaki Reconciliation Engagement Advocacy Change Healing (REACH) program.

REACH focuses on advancing and strengthening the well-being of Wabanaki people and providing education on their history and relationship with Maine.

Kates has presented for REACH at the University of Maine in the past, as well as at UMaine Presque Isle, UMaine Machias, UMaine Augusta, Bowdoin College, Bates College, Unity College, Colby College and the College of the Atlantic.

Kates discussed the TRC and how people can learn from the Commission’s work with a particular focus on colonization and decolonization. She shared the history of the Wabanaki culture in Maine and how and why TRC came to be the first reconciliation commission in Maine.

She emphasized that it is important to gain awareness about the relationship between Wabanaki and non-native people in Maine.

Kates discussed recent events and issues in Wabanaki-Maine relations, such as the conflict between the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Maine regarding subsistence fishing requirements and the continuing blocks to the Maliseet casino.

“There’s lots of different issues,” Kates said. “Amongst all the issues is the issue of what happens in the child welfare system.”

According to the report of the TRC, Wabanaki children in Maine entered foster care at a rate 5.1 times that of non-Native children between 2002 and 2013.

The Diversity Committee is a student-training group on campus that works to prepare “psychologists who are competent to serve a diverse public,” according to the organization’s website. The group coordinates “multicultural competency training experiences,” which include the annual Stanley Sue Distinguished Diversity Lecture Series.

Natalie Holbrook, a sixth-year graduate student in the Developmental-Clinical Track of the doctoral program in clinical psychology, is the chairperson of the committee that organized this event.

“Our mission,” Holbrook said, “is to learn as much as we can about the culture — as we seek to gain knowledge about and exposure to as many areas of diversity as possible.”

This event was part of the department-wide colloquium. It was structured as an opportunity for students and members at the event to ask questions and, specifically, for psychology students to ask about implications of the subject on their clinical work.

To learn more about this event and the Maine-Wabanaki REACH program you can go to or contact Thane Fremouw at

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