Indigenous Peoples: Understanding and Resources
An Invitation from the MSC Indigenous Neighbors Working Group:
Since March 2021, MSC has been working to address concerns raised by representatives from the Wabanaki Tribal Nations regarding cultural appropriation in member camps. Shortly after, the full MSC Board participated in a transformative training session to learn about our Indigenous neighbors’ history and culture and offered similar opportunities to MSC members. Current efforts have us offering educational resources to member camps; among these is the Indigenous Appropriation Assessment available here.
Maine’s territory has been home to Indigenous peoples for millennia – with only the four Wabanaki Tribal Nations—the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot—surviving the violence of settler colonialism. Our camps operate on this land, and we all have the responsibility to learn, teach others and reconcile this history with our Indigenous neighbors, particularly because the harm inflicted continues to impact their communities to this day.
With deep conviction, MSC feels that it is vital for camps to proactively address the camping movement’s historical practice of appropriation. Some elements of this pattern may be obvious to us. Other habits – many based on caricatures and assumptions we absorbed as children – may require more examination to assure that we’ve got it right. A cultural assessment allows us to do just that.
Engaging with the Indigenous Appropriation Assessment is a first step and a significant one. As campers, parents, staff, alums and others take note of progress in our camps, we’ll have further opportunities to provide education for all community members. Be patient with the process as it will take time; we all have much to learn. Below we have provided many resources to help guide you.
Indigenous Appropriation Assessment Tool:
Resources About the History of Indigenous People in What We Now Call Maine:
As part of the celebration of 200 years of Maine statehood, the Maine Historical Society undertook this exhibition which examines different paths of experiences in Maine. According to the Historical Society, “There are difficult histories to reckon with, and some items might shock visitors. In collaboration with a network of advisors from around the state, we invite you to view Maine’s history plainly, to work toward healing through truth, and ‘Begin Again,’ envisioning a more equitable experience that we know is possible for all of Maine’s residents in the future.”
According to the Portland Press Herald’s website, “In this series, Colin Woodard (the Press Herald’s State and National Affairs Writer) tells the epic, half-century saga of the Passamaquoddy people, a story of shocking injustices and triumphs. It holds a mirror up to Maine’s recent history, reflecting back a forgotten record of uninvestigated killings, state conspiracies, and a legal vacuum that has blocked an entire people from re-establishing their cultural and economic prosperity.”
Historical Timeline of Wabanaki-Maine relations by Wabanaki REACH
In this video, Maria Girouard, member of the Penobscot Nation speaks during the event “Genocide and Maine: Shining the Light of Truth.”
Dawnland, a film by the Upstander Project. “For decades, child welfare authorities have been removing Native American children from their homes to “save them from being Indian.” In Maine, the first official Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States begins a historic investigation. Dawnland goes behind-the-scenes as this historic body grapples with difficult truths, redefines reconciliation, and charts a new course for state and tribal relations.”
Resources About Acknowledging the Land:
Acknowledging the Land – is an article by Maria Girouard, Executive Director of Wabanaki REACH
Land Acknowledgments – is a document of resources for learning and teaching, created by Wabanaki REACH
Maine Summer Camp’s Webinar: Land Acknowledgement of Indigenous Territories facilitated by Dr. Darren J. Ranco, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Coordinator of Native American Research at the University of Maine, Orono.
The Complexities of Land Acknowledgments: Not Just ‘Checking A Box – A Maine Summer Camps Newsletter article written by Kris Millard.
Resources About Cultural Appropriation:
Here is the Summary of the American Psychological Association’s Resolution Recommending Retirement of American Indian Mascots. This document addresses the harm done to young people through racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals.
Here is a TedTalk in which Maulian Dana, Ambassador for the Penobscot Nation, articulates in a very personal way the harm of misappropriating Indigenous symbols and language.
Here is an ACA article which may help set the stage for you as you begin your Indigenous Appropriation Process.
In this campwire podcast, “ACA sits down for an honest conversation between Camp Winnarainbow Director, Yatiel Owens and Tumbleweed Day Camp Owner/Director, Liz Kimmelman to talk about the roles of camp communities in recognizing cultural appropriation with staff and campers.”
Here is an ACA article which illuminates the harm in camp programs which perpetuate stereotypes.
In this podcast episode, All My Relations “explores the topic of cultural appropriation – it’s become such a buzzword, but what is it, really?”
“In 2018 there were still over 2000 schools and professional sports teams with Native mascots, despite decades of activism and academic research demonstrating the harms of these images. In this All My Relations podcast episode, Matika and Adrienne are in conversation with Amanda Blackhorse, Navajo social worker and mother, who was the lead plaintiff in the supreme court case against the Washington Redsk*ns, and Stephanie Fryberg, who is the top psychological researcher on these issues and has demonstrated through lab experiments and surveys how harmful these mascots are to Native youth and how they reinforce negative stereotypes.”
As you consider integrating education about the Indigenous origins of activities you may offer in your camp program, remember that citizens of Tribal Nations are not a monolith. The history, culture, language, traditions of each Tribe are unique, and within each Tribe, each citizen is unique. Be careful not to generalize or perpetuate stereotypes.
Here’s a link to the Educator’s Hub of the Abbe Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate located in Bar Harbor and dedicated to the history and cultures of Indigenous people in Maine, the Wabanaki.
History of the Canoe:
History of the Game of Lacrosse:
Sweetgrass & Basketry:
Neuman Basketry of the Wabanaki Indians – (umaine.edu)
History of Dreamcatchers:
Children’s Picture Books to Add to Your Library:
The first blade of Sweetgrass by Suzanne Greenlaw and Gabriel Frey: “This sweet, authentic story from a Maliseet mother and her Passamaquoddy husband includes backmatter about traditional basket making and a Wabanaki glossary.”
The Canoe Maker by Jean Flahive & Donald Soctomah tells the story of Passamaquoddy culture keeper David Moses Bridges. “In this magical tale, David weaves Native American storytelling into the ancient art and spirituality of canoe making, including the heart-rending mythological legend of the partridge, the first canoe maker.”
Remember Me: Tomah Joseph’s Gift to Franklin Roosevelt by Passamaquoddy citizen Donald Soctomah and Jean Flahive: “Friendship, respect, and learning are the themes of this marvelous children’s book by Mainers Donald Soctomah and Jean Flahive . . . Together they tell a wonderful story of human kindness.”
Organizations in Maine:
Wabanaki REACH “supports the self-determination of Wabanaki people through education, truth-telling, restorative justice, and restorative practices in Wabanaki and Maine communities. Wabanaki REACH envisions a future when Maine and Wabanaki people join together to acknowledge truth and work collectively toward equity, healing, and positive change.”
First Light “is a bridge between conservation organizations and Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq Communities who seek to expand Wabanaki stewardship of land. First Light’s goal is to expand Wabanaki access and stewardship of land for prosperity and to create a stronger conservation movement that includes and reflects Indigenous expertise and perspective. All will benefit from this, and it all begins with the land.”
We’re committed to supporting camps as they learn about Indigenous history and culture and respond to Indigenous appropriation in their camps. As such, please share any questions on your mind and ideas you have for educational opportunities you would like us to offer.