Falmouth forum aims to connect with native Mainers

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FALMOUTH — Residents will have the opportunity to learn about the relationship between native people and non-native people during an upcoming workshop.

Presented by the Maine-Wabanaki Reconciliation-Engagement-Advocacy-Change-Healing organization, the workshop will be held 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12. The location will be provided to those who register.

Barbara Kates, the organization’s Maine community organizer, said the workshop is an opportunity for those involved to talk about the shared history of native and non-native people in the United States, as well as looking at the shared histories of Maine communities and tribal governments.

The workshop includes a history of U.S. government relationships with native people; discussions of white privilege; and the responsibilities of allies who support the tribe.

Maine-Wabanaki REACH, which is based in Bangor, describes itself as a “cross cultural collaborative organization of Wabanaki and Maine people working towards truth, healing and change to support Wabanaki self-determination.” It supported the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the removal of Native American children from their families. The findings were preserved at Bowdoin College.

“People walk away with a shift in perspective,” Kates said of the workshop. “There’s a part of our history we don’t learn as non-natives.”

Wabanaki is a term for the four federally recognized Native American tribes in Maine residing on tribal land: the Maliseet, Micmac, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy. Each community has a tribal government, schools, community areas and each manages the area in which they live.

Kates said while this is the first time the program has hosted a workshop in Falmouth, the organization generally hosts 12-15 forums a year across the state. She said around 450 people have participated in the workshops since REACH was established in 1999.

The events are limited to 25 people, Kates said. To register, contact her at Barbara@mainewabanakireach.org. The event is free, though Kates said donations are welcome.

She said the organization offers to conduct the workshops to interested communities, and Falmouth fit the bill. She said in addition to seeking out new communities, workshops often return to places where interest in the issue continues.

“The workshop is designed by non-natives for non-natives, looking at it from our end of the relationship and what we might do differently,” Kates said.

The organization’s website said the workshops are designed for people who “desire to act as allies to Wabanaki self-determination.”

Kates, who has co-presented the workshop in the past, said it is a good opportunity for people to ask questions, hold conversations and process information. She said through these avenues, participants can find out more about “who we are, how we got here and who do we want to be.”

“It’s not something we talk about in everyday lives,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to do that. So we want people to walk away asking more questions.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.