Beyond the Claims– Stories from the Land & the Heart
Wabanaki REACH, a Native-led nonprofit organization, has launched its newest truth-telling initiative focused on the Maine Indian land claims, Beyond the Claims– Stories from the Land & the Heart. The project aims to deepen the organization’s crucial work of bringing truth, healing, and change to the Dawnland, or Wabanakik now known as Maine.
This truth-telling project centers around the long and complicated history of the Maine Indian land claims including the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980 (MICSA) and the Maine Implementing Act (MIA), which still deeply impact people today. Beyond the Claims– Stories from the Land & the Heart is guided by Wabanaki ways of knowing and being, using oral history, storytelling and deep listening as conduits for truth.
Beyond the Claims is especially close to the heart of Wabanaki REACH Executive Director Maria Girouard. In 2012, Girouard wrote a Master’s thesis in history on the land claims topic while a graduate student in the history program at the University of Maine.
“I have witnessed changes brought about by the land claims, its impacts to my tribal community and how the land claims legislation has been used against Penobscot and Passamaquoddy people for years”, Girouard said, “I am hopeful that this project will illuminate the human side of this story and lay a foundation for meaningful change based on truth and understanding. The story of the land claims is more than just legalese in legislative documents”.
The organization has hired a project coordinator, Kate Russell, to lead a team of trained Story Collectors in conducting and recording personal oral history interviews. Story Collectors have sat with people across Wabanaki and Maine communities gathering their life experiences that provide deeper context of the land claims era. A digital archive has been set up to safely house the recordings and transcripts.
“Our hope is that the stories we collect will help to demystify the legislation, humanize those who have been affected by it, amplify their voices, and preserve their stories for cultural continuity”, said Kate Russell, “Our intention is ultimately to create space for truth-telling and healing to happen”.
Wabanaki REACH will continue to conduct, record, and preserve interviews for Beyond the Claims throughout 2022 before shifting focus to creating educational resources inspired by the stories for the greater community. To date, approximately 30 stories have been collected.
If you would like to be interviewed for the project, please contact Wabanaki REACH through its website at www.wabanakireach.org/contact_us