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The University of Maine General Student Senate host discussion with the Chair of Native American Programs

On Tuesday, Feb. 15, the University of Maine General Student Senate hosted Darren Ranco, the chair of the Native American programs and the associate professor of anthropology. 

Ranco met with the senate over Zoom to discuss the importance of land acknowledgement and explained why such an acknowledgment should be a part of the student senate meetings. 

“To me, the land acknowledgment work is a part of decolonization,” Ranco said. 

He went on to describe the decolonization as the movement, which seeks to reverse the effects of colonization on Indigenous people. 

The student senate reached out to Ranco to see what efforts can be made to be more involved with the local Indigenous community. He suggested that they begin by including the UMaine land acknowledgement in senate meetings. 

“They are a necessary first step toward honoring the original occupants of a place. They also help people recognize and respect indigenous peoples’ inherent kinship beliefs when it comes to the land, especially since those beliefs were restricted for so long,” Ranco said.

Aside from moving forward with adding the land acknowledgment to senate meetings, GSS plans to follow up with Ranco about what else they can be doing in support of the Indigenous community within and surrounding UMaine. 

The Advisor to Student Senate, Lauri Sidelko, also gave an important message to the senate. 

“Being in the position that I’m in, working in the student life office, I get to see a lot of things that happen across campus, I would like to remind everyone that it is our expectation and our hope and our dreams that you will all take care of each other … Bystander intervention saved at least two people’s lives over the past week,” Sidelko said.

Sidelko is referring to multiple incidents in the past three weeks of young women being found around UMaine’s campus in states of extreme inebriation, with several students nearly freezing to death. Her hope is that the student senate will encourage each other and the student body to look out for one another and step up if someone is in a vulnerable situation and needs help. 

“I think the reason we really haven’t had some tragic incidents in the last few weeks is because students helped each other out, and so if you ever get that feeling where you think to yourself ‘could I do something here’ that automatically means that you should,” Sidelko said. 

A representative from the Caribbean and LatinX Student Alliance spoke during the senate meeting, seeking $4000 for their upcoming Hair Care Fair. 

“We didn’t want to see this event die because it is so vital to so many students on campus, so with help from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, we’re going to try to put on Hair Care Fair again,” Aurianne Fitz-Marquez, the president of the club, said. 

Hair Care Fair is a part of multiple events that UMaine is hosting in observance of 

Black History Month. Fitz-Marquez highlighted the complete lack of nearby hairstylists that specialize in taking care of curly or textured hair. 

“It is really hard for Black, Caribbean, African American and African students to find places where they are comfortable getting their hair done,” Fitz-Marquez said. 

Fitz-Marquez also emphasized how this issue is even more important during the dry, frigid Maine winters, which can be very damaging to curly and textured hair. The funding for the Hair Care Fair pays to bring in stylists that specialize in protective hairstyles.

“I don’t think the importance of Hair Care Fair can really be overstated,” Frank Kelly, the vice president for financial affairs of UMSG, said. “This is a really important thing to help make a lot of our students that come from out of state and come from communities of color feel more at home and give them a little bit of sense of belonging.”

Senator Alexis Plater also gave her thoughts on this event. 

“Being a person, likely the only one in this room, that has any kind of Black representation, you all should recognize the privilege you have,” Plater said.

Plater revealed that she has lived in the area for around two years and has never gotten her hair done because, due to the lack of representation in the area’s salons, and she does not trust stylists to cut her hair. 

“Hair is something that all of us treasure, it’s a really important part of a lot of people’s identities so this is something that I feel is really important,” Plater said. 

After a period of discussion, the student senate approved the funding request to hire hairstylists for this event. The Hair Care Fair will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 23, in the Wooley Room in DTAV. 


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