COVID-19 Issue Spotlight: Supporting Maine’s Tribal Communities
Supporting Maine’s Tribal Communities
Wabanaki leaders are continuing to provide critical support to Wabanaki peoples, responding to many challenges that this pandemic has caused and exacerbated. This week we’re highlighting a number of powerful organizations led by and serving the indigenous communities in Maine. Here’s an overview of what you’ll find in this issue:
- Wabanaki Sovereignty
- Supporting Wabanaki Artists
- Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocacy
- Vital Community Support Continues
- What you can do
The unanticipated early closure of the legislature left unfinished the important legislative work of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement. Sunlight Media Collective has been archiving these hearings, which you can explore on their website. The Task Force had put forth 22 critical recommendations for approval via LD 2094, “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act,” which remains unresolved. Earlier this week, Drummond Woodsum offered an overview and update on the status of the legislation and hosted a conversation about this work with representatives from the Tribes in Maine. They have generously shared the slides from the session.
Sunlight Media Collective
The Penobscot Nation et al. v. Maine Attorney General Frey (formerly Penobscot nation et al. v. Attorney General Mills) will be reviewed en banc by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. This type of review is usually reserved for complicated or unusual cases and has up to 23 judges involved in the decision-making. Sunlight Media Collective will be covering the process from start to finish.
Supporting Wabanaki Artists
This Saturday, May 16th, is the Digital Abbe Museum Indian Market. This is a wonderful event that usually takes place is downtown Bar Harbor, but this year – due to social distancing requirements – the market will take place virtually.
Event cancellations throughout the country are having a significant impact on artists, jeopardizing sales and opportunities to expand their audience. The unavoidable
cancellation of events will have a negative impact on the economic sustainability of artists who come to count on these markets and their relationships with collectors old and new. The hope is that through this event, the Abbe Museum can spotlight these amazing artists and help create more opportunities for them as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.
Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocacy
Wabanaki Women’s Coalition
Wabanaki Women’s Coalition is providing support and technical assistance and resources to the five Wabanaki Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocacy Centers. This is a difficult time for all, but it is most difficult for those living in a home with an domestic and/or sexual abuser, it is imperative that services remain available. The five Wabanaki Advocacy Centers have remained open and available to those members of our community. Three of the five Centers operate emergency shelters for victims/survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking, and sex trafficking. The Wabanaki Women’s Coalition has been able to provide funding to the Centers for emergency uses such as responding in the middle of the night to victims.
Vital Community Support Continues
Eastern Woodlands Rematriation Collective
Eastern Woodlands Rematriation Collective’s work of restoring indigenous food systems has taken on new vigor this spring. They are prioritizing sourcing seeds, seedlings, perennial foods/medicines, trees, and fresh produce from Indigenous food producers as they coordinate across Wabanaki territory with tribal food pantries and gardens to support their expansions, as well as supporting food security efforts of members’ families and kin. Their weekly Community Care webinar series brings Indigenous folx together for collective support and traditional medicine teachings.
Four Directions Development Corporation
The Wabanaki communities of Maine are located in some of the most rural areas in the state with limited access to diverse jobs, higher education, financial services, and even reliable internet. Four Directions Development Corporation works to bridge these gaps in resources by offering financial and educational support to both individual tribal members, and tribally-owned organizations. With the additional COVID-19 concerns putting these communities on high alert, these types of supports are needed now more than ever.
Maine-Wabanaki REACH’s online programming team has been busy working to adapt to the challenges of providing ways to engage in truth, healing, and change without bringing people together physically. As June 2020 marks five years since the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its report, they have designed a program that provides an intimate look back and forward in our decolonization journey. Five Years Later, A Conversation with Maine-Wabanaki REACH is currently being piloted and will be ready to launch more broadly in June via zoom.
Nibezun resides on sacred Wabanaki land along the Penobscot River and is dedicated to preserving and promoting all aspects of Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, and Abenaki ceremonies, traditions, customs, and language through practice and education. During these past weeks and months of COVID-19 with some gatherings such as Healing Turtle Island postponed and other on-site programs and events cancelled they have focused their efforts on their food sovereignty and sustainability initiatives. Through a partnership with Fedco Seeds they have been distributing hundreds of fruit and nut trees to their Wabanaki tribes and others. They have also found new ways of connecting online to offer programs on Wabanaki language, medicine, cooking, Tai Chi and art.