Between February and June 2021 the Native-led Land Recognition Committee (LRC), established at the University of Southern Maine (USM), met to make recommendations for an aesthetic representation of land acknowledgement for the new buildings on the Portland campus.
The LRC quickly delivered aesthetic and space recommendations then they went further to make fifteen specific policy recommendations to ensure the land acknowledgement become more than a gesture.
The fifteen policy changes fit within these five areas that we present as they were written by the LRC:
- “Full Room & Board grant reinstatement for all Native students regardless of Estimated Family Contribution/Student Aid Index. This is how land recognition can truly be honored considering the university sits on Indigenous territory.
- To include Natives in USM’s goal of ‘Leading in Diversity’ over the next five years and to achieve ‘a more diverse and inclusive student body, faculty, and staff’
- USM commitment to make things right with Native peoples
- Native Needs Committee to be financially supported by USM
- Use of Space by Native Students & Native USM Community Members on Campus”
You can read the full memorandum from the Land Recognition Committee here..
One of the recommendations identified the need for USM to “hire and retain a Native Coordinator, a point of contact for Natives, to support students socially, academically, etc. (Natives working with Natives).” This week, USM posted an ad to hire a Coordinator of Native Student Support & Affinity Leadership.
This Native Coordinator had existed at one time. It has been identified over and over again as an essential support that made a difference for many students when it existed. One student described her thinking this way, “I chose USM because there was a Native student liaison – I might have chosen UMO if I knew there wouldn’t be one here at USM when I arrived. I wanted to connect – it was top on my priority list to be in a Native community.”
The Native Coordinator was the person who knew their relatives in Wabanaki communities, who understood not only the workings of the Native Student Tuition Waiver and Board Grant, but also understood the transition from home and community to the University. More than one student described this role as “a life line” and said unambiguously that “I wouldn’t have made it to graduation without this relationship.”
That position was changed by USM into a multicultural liaison role around 2015. It was no longer filled by a person who had direct and meaningful connection to Wabanaki communities. Since that time, many people have repeatedly called for the restoration of the Native Coordinator, for all the reasons that it is vital for Native students. We are on Wabanaki land.
Decolonization at USM is promoted when there is a strong Native community presence in the face of the impact of colonization. One student said, “There is an absence of Native culture in academia, so students need cultural resilience strategies. Otherwise, academia becomes an act of assimilation. Assimilation is in every facet of Native people’s lives. Anyone who is not part of Native community can’t understand this.”
Through the efforts of the LRC, we now can celebrate the job posting of the Native Coordinator. We join with the LRC and USM to promote this position. We hope for a strong pool of candidates who can fulfill the vision set forth by the former and current Native students at USM – to honor the land acknowledgement with meaningful action.
Applications are being accepted until August 6, 2021. Please share with interested, qualified candidates. Link to Job Position / Details