Response to assist community needs amid pandemic
Gedakina has been a staple in several communities throughout New England since 2002. Gedakina, a Native-led organization, has activities which focus on leadership development, early reader literacy, community health and wellness, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), sustainability practices, traditional food systems, healthy relationships and cultural revitalization. Under new management in 2019, Gedakina launched the Dawnland Fund which is a Native American community fund to support small-scale community grassroots projects benefitting Native children and their families from across New England. In Maine, this included funding of approximately $10,000 each to Penobscot Youth program to build a canoe, a beautification project at Sipayik and a photography project for Native children throughout the state with Wabanaki Public Health: In partnership with the Public Health Research. The DawnLand Fund concept was inspired by a lack of consistent funding for community projects by existing Native American funding organizations. There are even fewer sources available for rapid response funding to accommodate activities and events developed by individuals and small community-based Native organizations off reservation.
It was through the Dawnland Fund Committee that Gedakina was able to quickly assess and respond to the gaps we saw in communities when the pandemic hit in March of 2020. The needs and funding came in 4 waves with recipients receiving funding monthly. Thanks to our generous funders, the NOVO Foundation, Nellie Mae Educational Foundation, Bay & Paul Foundation, and New Perennials Rapid Response Funding with Middlebury College to date Gedakina have given $176,000 to 88 families which consisted of 602 individuals in the communities we serve throughout Maine. This funding addressed various adversities such as food security, utilities, fuel assistance and rent or mortgage payments to prevent eviction. That total includes $12,750 to elders, living both off and on reservations. In addition to monetary assistance, our staff worked hard planting and maintaining 5 garden plots across New England. Once the harvest is complete, Gedakina anticipates they will have over 1,000 pounds of food and at least 170 quarts to distribute for winter. During the summer months, Gedakina provided 70 fishing poles and 40 dollars for seeds to start back-yard gardens for families to promote self-sustainability.
Gedakina is led by Executive Director Judy Dow. Judy has been working with children and adults for over thirty-five years teaching them her beliefs that what we do to the land we do to ourselves. Our Braiding Sweetgrass groups in Maine are located in Portland led by Mihku Paul, Brunswick led by Heather Augustine, Old Town led by Taylor Comstock and at Indian Township led by Dawna Meader-York.
Gedakina knows that the economic implications caused by this pandemic are far from over. Funding has been reserved to address upcoming needs such as educational considerations as well as winter coats and boots. Gedakina continues to seek additional funding from private foundations and individual donations in order to be prepared to address upcoming needs which may arise in these communities.