Blog: Voices of Decolonization

Thank You For a Great Year!

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Dear Friends of Maine-Wabanaki REACH,

We've been thinking about where we've come from and a lot about what's next. We wanted to share our thinking with you and let you know how you can help.

Thanks to everyone who has already contributed to our end of year fundraising request! If you have yet to make a contribution, we ask you to take a moment right now to visit our website and make your contribution.

Here are five reasons to thank you for an amazing 2017!

  • 1,467 non-Native and Wabanaki people participated in 46 learning experiences (presentations, panel discussions, workshops, and interactive activities) on the shared history of Native and non-Native people in Maine.
  • 104 people from Wabanaki communities participated in 3 regional Restorative Justice events.
  • 93 Native inmates have participated in 66 healing circles in 6 prisons.
  • 100 Wabanaki people participated in our annual wellness gathering, while 95 non-Native people participated in an annual convening focused on decolonization.
  • 63 non-Native and Wabanaki people participated in 3 Decolonizing Faith workshops.

In gratitude, we share thoughts from some of the 1,800 people that REACH has interacted with this year:

“I learned accurate history about my people. The facts ripped my heart out.  I am an activist now.  This experience totally gave me direction.  I educate fellow Natives every chance I get.  My children can tell you about so many different things.  My education is rubbing off on them.”
~ Caroline, Passamaquoddy tribal member

“I am aware of the history but seeing it and feeling it was rather upsetting.  Through the interactive activity, I saw and felt history.  It made me see that people outside of my race are interested in hearing these stories.  It makes me think that not everyone thinks that we, as Native Americans, ‘need to get over it.’”
~ Kylie Neptune, Passamaquoddy tribal member

“As a pre-k to 8th grade science, math and reading teacher in a border town, this knowledge is important to me personally and something I need to be able to communicate to my Native and non-Native students.  I still feel the power of what I experienced. I have found ways to celebrate Native history and culture through the natural sciences.”
~Anne Maghie, non-Native

“I appreciate that Native people are bringing ‘home’ to me.”  “This is a piece of life that I was missing.”  “I am learning about my ancestors.  I hope to learn the language, keep myself smudged and clean with sweet-grass.”  “I missed out on my teens and adulthood and I’m finally catching up.” “What we say matters.  We matter.”  “I am learning how to be together with other Natives; how to embrace being Native.”  “The circles have given me something positive to look forward to.”
~ from incarcerated participants of Wabanaki Healing Circles

“I believe we can change as a people and a culture. As the number of people attending REACH workshops grows so does the awareness of the land we walk on and the people of this land.  It is changing an uncountable number of daily conversations in small and significant ways.  REACH is giving my community a way forward.”
~ Simon Beckford, non-Native

“The workshop encouraged me to read more on Native education, bi-lingual education, cultural preservation and Native language meaning.   In my circles, I am one of the people who raise the questions about Native people.   I am very appreciative of the fact that I have been able to participate in this growing community.”
~ Andrea Mercado, non-Native

Please join us as we build resources for 2018 to continue this crucial healing and educational work.  Our total budget for 2018 is $175,000 and much of this is funded through private donations.  These are examples of how your donations will support our work.

  • $100 provides support to Wabanaki families to visit their relatives in prison.
  • $300 supports Maine community educational presentations.
  • $600 makes wellness events possible in Wabanaki communities.

$1200 supports healing circles for Wabanaki prisoners.

All donations of any amount are welcome.

As you make your donation, please consider forwarding this letter to others in your community so that they can support the effort.

To donate now click here: http://www.mainewabanakireach.org/donate

“What most appeals to me about my work with Maine-Wabanaki REACH is highlighting community strengths and creating opportunities for sharing our ideas, knowledge, work and compassion.
~ Maria Girouard, Penobscot Nation, Health and Wellness Coordinator

To learn more about Maine-Wabanaki REACH, click here: http://www.mainewabanakireach.org/

"We are glad you are here.  Our ancestors have been expecting us."

Maine-Wabanaki REACH
http://www.mainewabanakireach.org/

 

Thanksgiving in Your Home

 By Rabbi Erica Asch, Temple Beth El Augusta

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 We encourage you to use this Thanksgiving Prayer at your tables as you gather in gratitude for the blessings of abundance you reap and sow. We offer you a bit of the background story to help you talk about what you have learned in todays service

Background: Thanksgiving is traced to a 1621 celebration in Plymouth. This feast by the Pilgrims was sparely documented. For many years, Thanksgiving observances varied from state to state. In 1863, President Lincoln, influenced by Sarah Joespha Hale, declared Thanksgiving an official holiday. He felt that Thanksgiving would foster a sense of unity between North and South during a time of war.

While for many European Americans Thanksgiving is a time of joyous celebration, it is not the same for native peoples. The arrival of European settlers brought devastation to native communities. Up to 90% of the native population were killed by disease. European settlers forced Native Americans off their lands and into reservations. They killed countless people and signed false treaties. Native children were taken from their families and forced into schools where they were forbidden to speak their language or practice their religion. This devastation still impacts native communities today.

 A Thanksgiving Prayer

As we gather around our tables, on this holiday of Thanksgiving, we pause.

We give thanks for the many blessings in our lives.

 

For the blessing of sustenance

The food on this table,

the people who labored to in fields and warehouses to bring it to us,

those who prepared this meal with love.

 

For the blessing of community

The opportunity to gather with family and friends

the ability to share our joy with others,

the support we find in hard times.

 

For the blessing of freedom

Shelter to protect us from the harsh winds of winter,

health to enjoy this meal together,

the ability to worship as we wish.

 

For the blessing of awareness

The ability to acknowledge the suffering and tragic losses of the native peoples,

the opportunity to raise our awareness

the chance to begin on a better path.

 

While we give thanks, we are also mindful

Of those who live with scarcity and do not know what they will eat tomorrow

Of those who sit alone, without a supportive community surrounding them

Of those who do not have adequate shelter

Of those who are not yet ready to leave their current way of thinking.

 

As we join together today in celebration, we know our joy is not complete.

We remember the oppression native peoples faced, and continue to face, at our hands.

We acknowledge the benefits we have gained, even if we were not directly responsible.

We take this opportunity to begin again.

 

As we enter into our Thanksgiving meal, we pause.

We acknowledge the suffering that has occurred.

We give thanks for our ability to turn towards a different path.

We take responsibility for creating the world in which we want to live, today and every day.

 

Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

 

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Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

 (The words in bold are not meant to be spoken)

The Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address is an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and her inhabitants. The children learn that, according to Native American tradition, people everywhere are embraced as family. Our diversity, like all wonders of Nature, is truly a gift for which we are thankful.

When one recites the Thanksgiving Address the Natural World is thanked, and in thanking each life-sustaining force, one becomes spiritually tied to each of the forces of the Natural and Spiritual World.  The Thanksgiving Address teaches mutual respect, conservation, love, generosity, and the responsibility to understand that what is done to one part of the Web of Life, we do to ourselves.

 Greetings to the Natural World

 The People

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Earth Mother

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Waters

We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms‐waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Fish

We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.

 Now our minds are one.

 Plants

Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Food Plants

With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Medicine Herbs

Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Animals

We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.

 Now our minds are one

 The Trees

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Birds

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds‐from the smallest to the largest‐we send our joyful greetings and thanks.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Four Winds

We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Thunderers

Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We are thankful that they keep those evil things made by Okwiseres underground. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Sun

We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.

 Now our minds are one.

 Grandmother Moon

We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night‐time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Stars

We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send greetings and thanks to the Stars.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Enlightened Teachers

We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to these caring teachers.

 Now our minds are one.

 The Creator

Now we turn our thoughts to the creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.

 Now our minds are one.

 Closing Words

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

 Now our minds are one.

 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

By Barbara Kates

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Across the country, individuals, organizations, and governments are recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  It is a change intended to honor Native Americans instead of honoring Christopher Columbus for all that he did and all he represents. Ceasing celebration of Christopher Columbus is an acknowledgement that Columbus led his men in heinous acts of murder and torture of thousands of Indigenous children, women, and men. Columbus represents the human destructiveness of colonial invasions and domination – and the beginning of the genocide of Indigenous people in this hemisphere.

Now we ask ourselves, what does it mean to honor Indigenous people?  We answer this question within the context of a dominant culture that insists on maintaining its own narrative about Indigenous people and refuses to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that the narrative has been filled with lies including the lies of ‘honoring’ Native people through Indian mascots, favorite children’s literature, movies, place names, and more. 

We have a lot to learn about how to honor Indigenous people. 

When communities replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we see the cracks in the false narrative and an opening for the truth to shine in.  We celebrate those who have been and are working to open those cracks for more education, healing, and change.

Maine communities are beginning to focus on the work that needs to be done in their own neighborhoods, recognizing that dismantling white supremacy and racist structures is the responsibility of non-Native people, not an additional burden to be borne by Native people.   People across this territory are taking it upon themselves to dismantle historical lies and myths that have shrouded the truth. Across Maine people are seeking to honor Indigenous people by:

  • learning about the collective histories and current relationships of Native and non-Native peoples through workshops, presentations, sermons, readings, films, and conversations.
  • connecting deeply with the land and waters and the responsibility we have to protect and restore the health of the earth
  • taking action for the land and waters
  • taking action to stop the state from continuing to take away territory, health and opportunity from Wabanaki people

Columbus Day was created to reinforce a limited narrative that our country was founded by brave explorers and settlers. That narrative told us that wars, slavery, and other forms of oppression were unfortunate by-products of the overall success of this earlier age.  In this narrative, genocide does not exist in America. When we gather to learn the full narrative, the full truth, we are involved in shaking the foundation of racism in this country. When we gather to deepen our commitment to health of the land and waters, we are creating a future for generations to come. When we take action, we honor Indigenous people.

Together - we are writing our Grandchildren’s history – one that they will be proud of.

I Have Good Work To Do Part 2: The TRC and REACH (Continued from May 4, 2017 blog post)

 By Jeffrey Hotchkiss

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I was seeking. I thought about traveling out to Pine Ridge in South Dakota, near where the massacre took place, but cost and doubt prevented me. What would I do? Would I make a guilty white nuisance of myself? In my own neediness, would I inflict worse trauma?

By now, it was clear my intense guilt was a stage, a beginning, a motivation. The feeling of guilt was being replaced by expanding awareness of our harmful colonial history and its present day persistence. I was starting to learn about indigenous efforts, projects and movements that were bringing strength and hope. Instead of desperately trying to unburden myself, I could support their work - if and when invited to do so.

I found a group attempting to build a prenatal clinic at Pine Ridge and made several donations to them. It seemed appropriate to try to do some good for children there. But the project had lots of obstacles and has since folded.

I waited. And I continued to study and learn.

One day, I read in the newspaper that the chiefs of all the Wabanaki tribes in Maine, sat down with the governor to sign a declaration of intent to form the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Its agreed on purpose was to inquire into the effects of Maine's failure to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 and to understand how this affected Wabanaki children and families. I read in particular about Denise Altvater of the Passamaquoddy Tribe who, with her sisters, was separated from her family and community. They experienced horrific abuse in foster care after being taken from their childhood home by DHHS caseworkers.

There it was. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) dealing with trauma to Native American children, not only in the U.S. but right in the state I was living in. I hoped there would be ways I could help.

I eagerly awaited further news. In June 2012, the signing ceremony for the TRC’s mandate was held in the Maine state capitol. Shortly afterward, I watched a TV interview with Denise Altvater, Esther Attean of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and Martha Proulx from DHHS. Their stories reinforced my intention and I watched for the opportunity to volunteer to help the TRC do its work, in whatever capacity they would invite me.

Two years later, I saw a notice for volunteer training – I immediately signed up.

That was almost three years ago. Since then, everything that has happened has affirmed the wisdom of becoming involved with the TRC and REACH. I do not need to tell you all the details, as there are ample resources on their Facebook pages and websites that tell their story.

I found good work to do in supporting their purpose of decolonization. I unexpectedly have found community and connection with people throughout Maine and beyond. It turned out that hundreds of other people in Maine were motivated in ways similar to mine, and our numbers are growing as REACH staff host new trainings almost every month.

As elderhood hurtles toward me, I continue to learn and grow. I have read and heard so many stories that were ignored or glossed over in my formal education. The true history of my ancestors' treatment of the people native to this continent brought pain with awareness. I have met and learned from people who embody this history. The truth freed my soul to begin healing. I know now that I live on Wabanaki land, as a descendant of invaders, learning to be a respectful guest.

It feels good to know that I am helping to make a better world for all of our grandchildren. My deepest thanks go to all the people who have created this good work – those who are leading and those who work alongside me.

 

Here I See

Benjamin

covered with rock dust

            in his frock coat

                        with watch fob

            eyes deep

                        with pain & grief

He carries

            a shovel

                        over his shoulder

 

called forth, he asks

“Now, what [will you] have me do?”

I look to

            where

            Spotted Elk

            is kneeling,

                        bent

                        over a broken child

Ben and I

Sit

            at a distance,

                        to wait

                        until we know

We can wait for the end of time

By Jeffrey Hotchkiss

 

 

REACH Blog by Jeffrey Hotchkiss

On May 4, we posted part 1 of a moving post written by Jeffrey Hotchkiss, in which Jeffrey shared some of what he has learned about himself and his family as it relates to the Indigenous people of this land.

He took us to Wounded Knee and to his internal process of grappling with his desire to find peace quickly and his resolve to stay with the discomfort of longer term change. Part 2 was to follow the next week. Life being what it is and we humans being who we are, that didn’t happen.

We extend our apologies to Jeffrey and to those of you who awaited reading what Jeffrey had to say. We are re-posting both blogs today – in succession, so you can refresh your memory with what’s been said and read for the first time what follows.

Deepest gratitude to Jeffrey for sharing and moreover for being committed to decolonization for the benefit of Indigenous peoples. With love,

Penthea Burns, REACH Co-Director

 

"I Have Good Work To Do" by, Jeffrey Hotchkiss

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April 2017

Awakening is hard

Imagine

someone yanks off the covers

flings me

through the open window

into the cold deep snow

face first

bleeding from the holes in my body

Over and over again

Until I find good work to do

And do it.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As elderhood rolls toward me like an oncoming train, I have good work to do.

Grandchildren have blessed me, my paycheck job is fun and easy, I am building a holistic healing cooperative, and I am studying decolonization – of myself and the world around me.

I am very thankful to the people of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Maine Wabanaki REACH, for giving me the chance to do that studying.

It's been a long and often strange, often agonizing, ultimately wonderful trip.

Part 1 – Wounded Knee

The first decade of this century, wherein

I learned how to fly through the air, land softly and roll to my feet, then learned hands-on healing for myself and others, endured the loss of five loved ones in as many months including an old friend from prep school who fell from the sky when the North Tower collapsed on 9-11, opened up to a profound Earth connection, began exploring the history of indigenous peoples who always had that connection, experienced a sweat lodge, then experienced horror at the criminal travesty in Sedona when James Arthur Ray crammed sixty people into a so-called sweat lodge and killed three of them, read what Arvol Looking Horse had to say about it and realized that white people were stealing and profiting from Native spiritual traditions the same as we'd done with the land, continued to deepen and teach my healing practice, recovered memories of early trauma and left the corporate world for a deeper more financially humble healing odyssey complete with flashbacks and panic attacks, earned an EMT license and adventured on an ambulance partly as a way of rescuing myself, and became more and more convinced that European society had taken a horribly wrong turn somewhere back in time that caused us to commit global genocide in order to advance an inhuman and inhumane way of living,

ended with

one evening when

my son said, “Hey Dad, come look at this!”.

On Youtube I saw Keith Carradine explaining the revolutionary-for-its-time workings of the Hotchkiss Mountain Gun, a breech-loading rifled light cannon operated by three soldiers with a firing rate of four or five 1.65-inch shells a minute, deadly accurate up to a mile away. Then, the words “Wounded Knee” came up, and Carradine explained how four Hotchkiss guns so efficiently killed hundreds of Lakota men, women and children more than a century ago.

Everything stopped.

Piercing guilt consumed me. A member of my family had done bloody wrong to a whole nation. My siblings and I had grown up being told of “great-great-uncle Benjamin” whose company made machine guns and limousines for the French government. His widow had used his arms fortune to found the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. When I was applying to prep schools, I had seen his portrait there; it strongly resembled my grandfather. I felt I had inherited a blood debt. It demanded to be honored.

When faced with a crisis, I first learn as much as I can about its history and dynamics. So I started to read, everything I could get my hands on about the Wounded Knee Massacre and the use of my great-great uncle's weapon – online, in books, and in correspondence with libraries, genealogists and military archives.

Here are a few of the things I learned:

- There are many accounts of this massacre and the events leading up to it. They are all gut-wrenching. If you decide to read any of them, provide for your emotional self-care.

- Although the Army and the press for years called it a battle, Wounded Knee was clearly a massacre. Most of the soldiers who died were killed by friendly fire. The soldiers rolled the Hotchkiss guns to the mouths of ravines where Lakota were seeking shelter and fired indiscriminately. The soldiers' shooting went on for hours. There is ample other evidence of the murderous intent of the soldiers and their officers.

- The chief leading this band, named Spotted Elk, nicknamed Bigfoot, had a reputation for peacemaking among his people. He was very ill with pneumonia and lying on the ground when he was shot. His daughter was killed in front of him. He had tried so hard to bring his people to safety.

- Twenty Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to soldiers for the massacre. These medals have yet to be rescinded.

- There were political influences in play, having to do with presidential reelection, converting territories to states to compete for the Electoral College and Congressional representation, and extreme pressure to solve “the Indian problem” once and for all. The settlers were very nervous about a religious revival among the Plains Indians (look up the Ghost Dance).

- Benjamin Hotchkiss was not, in fact, my great-great-uncle, instead was a very distant cousin on a different branch of the family tree going back to the 1630's. This was a surprise but not much of a relief. My family name was still known as “Hotchkill” among survivors who told their stories after the massacre.

- The Army first used the Hotchkiss Mountain Gun against the Nez Perce, to break a stalemate at the battle of Bears Paw Mountains in 1877, thirteen years before Wounded Knee. Its first shell buried a mother and her daughter under a collapsing bank of soil.

- Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart, Hunkpapa Lakota, descendant of a Wounded Knee survivor, developed the theory of historical trauma, later called intergenerational trauma, and documented its effects. I viewed many of her lectures on Youtube, and found them very enlightening and helpful. It was very clear from her work that today's descendants carry strong echoes of the trauma inflicted on their ancestors.

No matter how distressed or agonized I felt about the moral effect of this great crime rolling down to my generation, that was as nothing next to the effect on the victims and survivors. Here was the demonstration of white privilege, in stark relief. Whole family lines among the Minneconjou and Hunkpapa Lakota were cut short. Hotchkisses survived and thrived, expanding our family tree in all directions, with a gun, a school, and a limousine named after us. There is no “fixing” that, no “white messiah” possible, although that did not prevent me from daydreaming about healing it all – everyone's pain - with the wave of a fantasized wealthy hand.

Although I made a couple or three attempts to connect with Lakota people who were leading the way to healing, in the spirit of being helpful if I could – no, let me be honest, it was in a desperate attempt to expiate my painful white guilt – after a couple of years of learning and praying and dreaming, I understood that I had a lot of my own contemplation and work to do, and so it would be enough if I were to simply hold this awareness within me for the remainder of my life. If the survivors and their descendants had to live with it, then so did I.

Contemplation kept circling back to this: it's all about the children. I read and learned about many ways the children died that day, and about some who miraculously survived. Courageous warriors rode unarmed, to and from the killing ground, taking as many children to safety as they could, until they themselves fell to the soldier's guns. Four infants were found alive the day after, protected from the bitter cold by the bodies of their mothers. At least one was adopted into a white officer's family.

I saw that children and innocents had been killed, not as an accident, but as a matter of policy fueled by white settlers' fear, white politicians' calculations and my European ancestors' insatiable hunger for conquering peoples with darker skins and different religions.

I entered this current decade in a moral and spiritual emergency. My family connection to Wounded Knee wasn't the only revelation that threw me off balance, but it led the way. If I were to honor the greatest values and principles of common human decency that I used to think all of us “Americans” grew up with, I needed to find ground to stand on.

…Please return for Part 2 of this blog, “I Have Good Work to Do”

Wellness in Community: Speaking our Truths

By Maria Girouard, REACH Coordinator, Health, Wellness & Self-Determination

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I had the privilege of being part of a young Passamaquoddy woman’s final graduation project.  She focused her attention on the topic of racism and presented a variety of stories about racism inflicted against native peoples of her community. Some of these stories were written and read aloud.  Some were audio recorded and accompanied by a picture portfolio. One storyteller was a guest speaker - an Elder, dressed up and eager to share.

Stories are powerful in helping us to listen with our hearts. “Storytelling employs a different kind of listening.  The body releases, settles back, is more open and less anxious.  We take in the story before screening the content”  whereas with information that is “asserted or presented cognitively, we immediately engage a screening device to determine whether we agree or disagree.” [Kay Pranis, The Little Book of Circle Process: A New/Old Approach to Peacemaking, Good Books, NY, NY, 2005]  As children ran around us and played, we heard stories about people's first memories of the sting of racism.  Most stories shared were memories from when they were just young children.  

The storytelling took place in a home.  I sat on a couch.  A little girl about four or five years old snuggled her way in between me and another adult, cuddling and petting a tiny puppy, and keeping quiet as the Elder recounted her story of being a little girl herself…. She and her sister had been excited, the Elder said.   A delivery truck had pulled up in their community of Sipayik - a small, remote community where not much ever happened.  They raced up to the parked truck to greet the man who sat in the driver's seat. She remembered that they had wanted to ask him questions.  As the eager girls smiled up at him, the driver rolled down his window and spit a mouthful of soggy, chewed up crackers into their face and hair.  He hollered with expletives at them to to get away from his truck and called them names that the Elder still remembers to this day.  She described how she and her sister sat the rest of the afternoon picking chewed up crackers from each others hair.

The little girl next to me on the couch held up the puppy for me to see.  She had a beautiful smile.  I couldn’t help but smile back.  I wondered what kind of person could spit crackers into the face of a little girl like that.

“It’s a feeling.  A tension you can just feel,” a woman described while holding her clenched fist in front of her stomach.  I knew what she meant.  There were stories shared about being watched, followed, confronted, and humiliated in local stores. Of being “in town” with a parent who was denied a haircut because they were a “dirty Indian.”  Even as small children unaware of the dynamics of race or racism, they still could feel the feelings.  Feelings of scorn, hatred, and disgust aimed at them or their loved ones, the confusion of not understanding why, and the reciprocating feelings of anger and quiet indignation.  

“It made me feel like everybody hated me.  It made me feel like I didn’t even want to go anywhere.”  On one of the audio recordings a young man described fights that were common place; how they all had to have each other’s backs because they knew how it felt to be attacked and they also knew they might be the ones needing help the next time. A photograph of the speaker was passed around as we listened to his recorded voice recount matter-of-factly tales of unfortunate violence.  I stared into his picture.  He looked tough but tired.

Amber Gabriel said that the reason she chose the topic of racism for her final project was because she sees racism happening everyday all around her, and she wanted people’s stories to be heard.   Like Maine-Wabanaki REACH, Gabriel understands the importance of speaking truth and holding space for difficult conversations.  Only by truths falling on compassionate ears will we be able to move toward healing and change. I commend her for her bravery in selecting her topic choice.  I hope we can continue to elevate the conversation about racial hurts and their impact on the psyches of our family, friends, neighbors, and communities.       

Amber Gabriel is a Passamaquoddy from Sipayik and a 2017 graduate of Wayfinder School Passages.

I Have Good Work to Do

By Jeffrey Hotchkiss, REACH Volunteer

 wksketch_(002).jpg

April 2017

Awakening is hard

Imagine

someone yanks off the covers

flings me

through the open window

into the cold deep snow

face first

bleeding from the holes in my body

Over and over again

Until I find good work to do

And do it.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As elderhood rolls toward me like an oncoming train, I have good work to do.

Grandchildren have blessed me, my paycheck job is fun and easy, I am building a holistic healing cooperative, and I am studying decolonization – of myself and the world around me.

I am very thankful to the people of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Maine Wabanaki REACH, for giving me the chance to do that studying.

It's been a long and often strange, often agonizing, ultimately wonderful trip.

Part 1 – Wounded Knee

The first decade of this century, wherein

I learned how to fly through the air, land softly and roll to my feet, then learned hands-on healing for myself and others, endured the loss of five loved ones in as many months including an old friend from prep school who fell from the sky when the North Tower collapsed on 9-11, opened up to a profound Earth connection, began exploring the history of indigenous peoples who always had that connection, experienced a sweat lodge, then experienced horror at the criminal travesty in Sedona when James Arthur Ray crammed sixty people into a so-called sweat lodge and killed three of them, read what Arvol Looking Horse had to say about it and realized that white people were stealing and profiting from Native spiritual traditions the same as we'd done with the land, continued to deepen and teach my healing practice, recovered memories of early trauma and left the corporate world for a deeper more financially humble healing odyssey complete with flashbacks and panic attacks, earned an EMT license and adventured on an ambulance partly as a way of rescuing myself, and became more and more convinced that European society had taken a horribly wrong turn somewhere back in time that caused us to commit global genocide in order to advance an inhuman and inhumane way of living,

ended with

one evening when

my son said, “Hey Dad, come look at this!”.

On Youtube I saw Keith Carradine explaining the revolutionary-for-its-time workings of the Hotchkiss Mountain Gun, a breech-loading rifled light cannon operated by three soldiers with a firing rate of four or five 1.65-inch shells a minute, deadly accurate up to a mile away. Then, the words “Wounded Knee” came up, and Carradine explained how four Hotchkiss guns so efficiently killed hundreds of Lakota men, women and children more than a century ago.

Everything stopped.

Piercing guilt consumed me. A member of my family had done bloody wrong to a whole nation. My siblings and I had grown up being told of “great-great-uncle Benjamin” whose company made machine guns and limousines for the French government. His widow had used his arms fortune to found the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. When I was applying to prep schools, I had seen his portrait there; it strongly resembled my grandfather. I felt I had inherited a blood debt. It demanded to be honored.

When faced with a crisis, I first learn as much as I can about its history and dynamics. So I started to read, everything I could get my hands on about the Wounded Knee Massacre and the use of my great-great uncle's weapon – online, in books, and in correspondence with libraries, genealogists and military archives.

Here are a few of the things I learned:

- There are many accounts of this massacre and the events leading up to it. They are all gut-wrenching. If you decide to read any of them, provide for your emotional self-care.

- Although the Army and the press for years called it a battle, Wounded Knee was clearly a massacre. Most of the soldiers who died were killed by friendly fire. The soldiers rolled the Hotchkiss guns to the mouths of ravines where Lakota were seeking shelter and fired indiscriminately. The soldiers' shooting went on for hours. There is ample other evidence of the murderous intent of the soldiers and their officers.

- The chief leading this band, named Spotted Elk, nicknamed Bigfoot, had a reputation for peacemaking among his people. He was very ill with pneumonia and lying on the ground when he was shot. His daughter was killed in front of him. He had tried so hard to bring his people to safety.

- Twenty Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to soldiers for the massacre. These medals have yet to be rescinded.

- There were political influences in play, having to do with presidential reelection, converting territories to states to compete for the Electoral College and Congressional representation, and extreme pressure to solve “the Indian problem” once and for all. The settlers were very nervous about a religious revival among the Plains Indians (look up the Ghost Dance).

- Benjamin Hotchkiss was not, in fact, my great-great-uncle, instead was a very distant cousin on a different branch of the family tree going back to the 1630's. This was a surprise but not much of a relief. My family name was still known as “Hotchkill” among survivors who told their stories after the massacre.

- The Army first used the Hotchkiss Mountain Gun against the Nez Perce, to break a stalemate at the battle of Bears Paw Mountains in 1877, thirteen years before Wounded Knee. Its first shell buried a mother and her daughter under a collapsing bank of soil.

- Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart, Hunkpapa Lakota, descendant of a Wounded Knee survivor, developed the theory of historical trauma, later called intergenerational trauma, and documented its effects. I viewed many of her lectures on Youtube, and found them very enlightening and helpful. It was very clear from her work that today's descendants carry strong echoes of the trauma inflicted on their ancestors.

No matter how distressed or agonized I felt about the moral effect of this great crime rolling down to my generation, that was as nothing next to the effect on the victims and survivors. Here was the demonstration of white privilege, in stark relief. Whole family lines among the Minneconjou and Hunkpapa Lakota were cut short. Hotchkisses survived and thrived, expanding our family tree in all directions, with a gun, a school, and a limousine named after us. There is no “fixing” that, no “white messiah” possible, although that did not prevent me from daydreaming about healing it all – everyone's pain - with the wave of a fantasized wealthy hand.

Although I made a couple or three attempts to connect with Lakota people who were leading the way to healing, in the spirit of being helpful if I could – no, let me be honest, it was in a desperate attempt to expiate my painful white guilt – after a couple of years of learning and praying and dreaming, I understood that I had a lot of my own contemplation and work to do, and so it would be enough if I were to simply hold this awareness within me for the remainder of my life. If the survivors and their descendants had to live with it, then so did I.

Contemplation kept circling back to this: it's all about the children. I read and learned about many ways the children died that day, and about some who miraculously survived. Courageous warriors rode unarmed, to and from the killing ground, taking as many children to safety as they could, until they themselves fell to the soldier's guns. Four infants were found alive the day after, protected from the bitter cold by the bodies of their mothers. At least one was adopted into a white officer's family.

I saw that children and innocents had been killed, not as an accident, but as a matter of policy fueled by white settlers' fear, white politicians' calculations and my European ancestors' insatiable hunger for conquering peoples with darker skins and different religions.

I entered this current decade in a moral and spiritual emergency. My family connection to Wounded Knee wasn't the only revelation that threw me off balance, but it led the way. If I were to honor the greatest values and principles of common human decency that I used to think all of us “Americans” grew up with, I needed to find ground to stand on.

…Please return for Part 2 of this blog, “I Have Good Work to Do”

Learning Together

By, Barbara Kates Maine-Wabanaki REACH Community Organizer

I am learning about decolonization- wondering what does decolonization mean for Wabanaki people; for me, as someone who is not Native; and for my community.  I realize pretty quickly that in order to decolonize myself and my community, I need to first understand colonization. What is the history and how does it thread through our economic, political, social, educational, religious, health, legal – well, pretty much all the systems we have.  This is going to take some time and I will need help.

Maine-Wabanaki REACH creates learning events and tools, and gathers people and resources to focus our attention on right here in Wabanakiland Maine.  In this process, hundreds of people participate, offer insight, share their experience, and suggest paths forward and further education. This is how we learn together.

You are invited to participate in developing REACH’s newest learning tool – currently known as the Interactive Learning Exercise.  This tool will be a structure for group learning, where everyone actively participates as we sit, walk, and/or talk through historical events of colonization of Wabanaki territory. We experience and witness the impacts of these events. Then we have circle time to reflect and share our experience. 

REACH needs the help of people to participate in this Interactive Learning Exercise to let us know what is working and what needs more attention.

How can you help?

OR

  • You can organize an event in your community. To organize one, you need to help us recruit 25-35 people who are willing to commit 90 minutes together.  We need four of those people to volunteer to read to the group.  We need a large accessible room and chairs where everyone can sit in a circle. 

If you want more information, contact Barbara@mainewabanakireach.org.

We have facilitated the Interactive Learning Exercise twice and already learned it has an impact on participants.  Non-Native people have told us “It’s eye opening” and “re-enacting the history of Native people in Maine made tangible events few of us knew a lot about and otherwise would not need to engage with beyond a surface level.” Wabanaki people have said that it was important to be part of people learning the history of what happened here. 

We know we have more work to do and are trying out variations each time we offer it.  We are creating a great tool to share. REACH will make it available on our website so any community can download the directions and script to experience and learn together about colonization.

Decolonizing Faith: Community Presentations and Workshops

By Maggie Edmondson, Winthrop Friends Meeting

Children_-_Kickapoo_Village_-_Blog_Pic.pngPicture shows children in Kickapoo Village, Oklahoma, circa 1980. Friends ran Indian day schools and boarding schools here in about 30 locations. Photo used with consent from "Towards Right Relationship with America's Native Peoples"                              

I am a Quaker, working with a small Interfaith Council on Decolonizing Faith.  We have recently offered a workshop on “Colonization and the Role of the Churches” with plans for future offerings.  As part of our work we have invited a Quaker, Paula Palmer to visit Maine and share her research into Quaker involvement in the Indian Boarding Schools, as a model for other religious groups to do similar work.  The Indian Boarding Schools had the express aim of “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” and were run by various religious groups.  Not only did they try to eradicate all traces of indigenous identity and culture, the children often suffered physical and sexual abuse – many died in the boarding schools.  Our churches were a part of the colonizing attitude of European Christian superiority which assumed a natural right to impose its values upon whatever land and peoples it encountered and to take what it wanted in the process.  The questions are “Who are we today?” “Who do we want to be?”  “Will we join in honest exploration of our churches’ roles in colonization of this land and its people?” “Will we seek ways to contribute to healing and building new relationship?”Every religion places an emphasis on truth and integrity.  As people of faith, something we have to face, is the truth of our churches’ involvement in the devastation of indigenous peoples.  It’s a wound and an injustice which calls first for honest acknowledgment that it happened and then for repentance, work toward healing, and building of new relationship.  We are in the Christian season of Lent when often the focus is on “giving up” something, but the Hebrew word “teshuvah” literally means “to turn”.  Once we were going this way, now we have decided to turn and go another way.   We are called “to turn” and “go another way” in our relationship with the native people of this land.  Our churches have work to do to look at the part we played for instance as Indian Agents, as directors of Indian Boarding Schools, and also to look at how our theology perpetuates a religion of empire and domination rather than a religion of equality and mutual respect.  

Penobscot woman, Maria Girouard speaks of the Seven Fires Prophecies within her native heritage.  The prophecies speak of eras through which native peoples were going to have to live, with each era being one of the “fires”.  The seventh fire speaks of a time when the world is physically and spiritually polluted, but beyond that there is a great hope prophesied, a time of great healing.  “Many” she says “believe we are entering the time of the great healing now, but the great healing is not a spectator sport.  It’s a critical call to action.  All peoples, of all races and religions must come together and work for the good of all.  And in order for any change or healing to take place the truth must be told, and received by compassionate ears.”

Paula Palmer’s presentation “Quaker Involvement in Indian Boarding Schools” is open to the public and is on Tuesday April 18, 7:00 p.m. at Jewett Hall, UMA.

Paula will lead an interactive workshop, “Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change,” on April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in Orono.  To register for this workshop, go to: This Link