Honoring Native American History and Culture

From the President’s DEI Council

The University of Maine at Augusta is honoring Native American history and culture throughout the fall semester. This month we recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In 2019 Maine became one of fourteen states to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on what had previously been Columbus Day. University of Maine at Augusta student Jenn Moody, a member of the Mvskoke Nation, shares why the change from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an important step forward.

“As more states in this country recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, it starts to illuminate the generational obscurity of Native peoples and its consequences. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a time to reflect on how false historical narratives surrounding the celebration of Columbus Day were and still are very harmful toward Native communities. As much as a celebration as it is a commemoration, Indigenous Peoples’ Day also challenges detractors to acknowledge the facts surrounding Christopher Columbus and the violent history of colonization. The celebration of Christopher Columbus dignifies his brutal occupation of the Caribbean islands and his part in the following near genocide of North, Central, and South American countries Native populations.

Instead of romanticizing the myths of Columbus’s “discovery of the Americas”, the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day briefly lifts the invisibility Native communities are still faced with. This celebration has the capacity to be a step in the right direction for breaking down bias and discrimination against Indigenous peoples. It lifts Indigenous perspectives for all people to understand the resistance and resilience of these communities – despite the ravages of colonization on their people, cultures, and their lands. It is vital to recognize Indigenous peoples as the original guardians of this continent and now where they are because of colonization. Acknowledgement of these hard truths by non-Indigenous people is a step forward in healing the atrocities of the past. This is a time to honor Native lives and cultures that colonialism silenced or attempted to push into extinction.”

– Jenn Moody, Junior in the BS in Cybersecurity program

UMA Events Honoring Native American Culture and History

UMA kicked of the semester with the Honorable Donna Loring, former Senior Advisor on Tribal Affairs to Governor Janet Mills, delivering the Keynote Address at UMA’s Virtual Convocation ceremony.

In September, the Maine’s Mid-Century Moment series hosted a panel discussion exploring cultural and political issues that affected Maine indigenous communities. Donald Soctomah, a Passamaquoddy historian, and Bunny McBride, scholar and public historian of Maine indigenous culture, joined Donna Loring as panelists.

Upcoming is a virtual Maine State Forum on the Penobscot Nation Tribal Court, featuring Chief Judge Eric Mehnert and Clerk of the Court Rhonda Decontie. This event will be on Monday, November 8, from 6:00 – 7:30 pm. It is free and open to the public (a link will be provided on the UMA Events Calendar and through other announcements). The forum sets the stage for a new spring course JUS 315E Tribal Law, scheduled for 4:00-6:45 pm on Thursdays.

Recommended Videos from the Sunlight Media Collective

The Sunlight Media Collective is an organization of Indigenous and non-Indigenous media makers and activists, including Wabanaki tribal members, working to document and present stories affecting Wabanaki people and highlighting Wabanaki perspectives, with a particular emphasis on the intersection between environmental issues and tribal rights.

The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory (45 min)

The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory traverses the landscape of deal-making and deal-breaking which has historically defined tribal-state relations in Maine. Spanning from the 1700’s to the present-day legal battle being played out in Penobscot Nation v. Mills, the film illustrates the history of Penobscots’ tenacious fight to retain their territory and their inherent, treaty-reserved sustenance fishing rights for future generations. The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory features the Penobscot people’s traditional, centuries-long stewardship to ensure a healthy ecosystem for all of Maine. It tells the urgent, inspiring story of a struggle for justice and cultural survival in the face of an astonishingly open abuse of state power.

The Saga Continues (7 min)

The Saga Continues is a August 2021 update to the Penobscot River case written by Maria Girouard (Penobscot Nation), an historian with a particular interest and expertise in the Maine Indian Land Claims.