By Barbara Kates
My phone rings. “Hello” I say, “This is Barbara.”
“Is this REACH – the people who teach about Indians?”, he asks.
I take a breath. “Are you calling about the Maine-Wabanaki REACH Ally Workshops? They are about the shared history of Wabanaki and Maine people, privilege, and ally work.” “Yes, that’s it” he responds, “I just finished a book about white privilege and I need to understand more and need to know what happened here.”
This conversation is typical for REACH’s Maine community organizers. People call us because something turned their heads: reading a book, attending a REACH presentation, seeing friends’ actions on Facebook, or participating in environmental advocacy. They begin to see the link. It is the link to how we became Americans with a particular world view and expectation. It is the link to our privilege and responsibility.
I encourage and support other non-Natives to follow the link and learn more about who we are and who we can be. For workshops, we gather in groups of 10-30 people and share, watch films, consider history, remember events in our own lives, and look for the ally path. Sometimes it feels like we are treading water in the waves and after each wave goes over our heads we need to re-orient ourselves. But reorient we do and I so love the end of the workshops, when we are done but many people hesitate, still staying in their seats. In that hesitation they recognize the responsibility to bring what they learned into their lives and relationships. As one woman said quietly to me, “What will I tell my husband when I get home?” And truly that is it. This work of understanding more and knowing what happened here changes our relationships – to each other and to the land and waters.
I am grateful for the many people who make that phone call or send that email and trust REACH’s process of learning together.