Gedakina’s activities 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. Participating youth acquire skills that will enable them to overcome challenges they will face throughout their lifetimes, and more practically, usable knowledge that will lead to greater opportunities for economic development, employment and continuing education.
Braiding Sweetgrass supports grassroots community based projects, inspired and led by women and girls. Project organizers promote self-determination, cultural continuance, and well-being, while organizing programs focused on sexual and domestic violence prevention and healing, as well as cultural and social activities of importance to women and girls.Braiding Sweetgrass is a multi-generational mentoring and support system that helps nurture and encourage all women in the community. Programs seek to:
- Reclaim traditional ceremonies, including the Strawberry, Planting, and Green Corn, that celebrate women and girls, and teach about respect and responsibilities, while creating pathways for recovery from historical and ongoing trauma.
- Empower women and girls to find their voices through sharing stories, including both writing and spoken word activities.
- Recover traditional and sustainable women-led agriculture – reconnecting women and girls to the land and its cultivation, while teaching practical skills to increase access to fresh vegetables, fruits and traditional medicines. Includes developing community cooperative systems where families grow and harvest food that is shared between families; as well as to elders.
- Foster women-led cultural activities, including language recovery, hand drum crafting, regalia making, and other activities related to revitalizing song and dance, including those that have historically built community among women.
- We are currently developing a women-led outdoor adventure education program, offering activities that include canoe and kayak paddling, camping, hiking, snowshoeing and challenge courses that build confidence, skills, and collaboration. These activities and other programs also provide foundational learning for women interested in careers in ecotourism, environmental and adventure education, wilderness medicine, guiding and recreation.
Educational Initiatives focus on culturally appropriate and historically accurate literature for teachers, parents and students alike to prevent bullying and build good self-esteem. This will include teacher consulting, professional development and training around issues of equity, social justice and diversity. These trainings help teachers to identify stereotypes and biases that might be the root of the bullying our children sometimes receive daily without the knowledge of their teachers even knowing or understanding. We also work with k-12 teachers to help them understand appropriate Native American children’s literature and appropriate art activities.
Bagadal8mow8gannawal “Bringing Back Our Songs” connects elementary through high school aged youth to traditional songs, music and dance. Participants learn to make and keep a hand drum as part of this program. Since we began this project over 400 participants have made their own hand drum. Participants also learn traditional social and ceremonial songs in their indigenous languages.
Circles of Strength offers support, guidance and positive role modeling for boys and young men. Topics discussed include healthy relationships, risk-taking behavior, violence prevention, conflict resolution and life skills.
Healing Fire Initiative for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence offers survivors a welcoming and comforting place to break the isolation they may feel, build community with other survivors, advocates, and supporters, and begin or continue their healing process.
Keepers of the Earth connects youth to the outdoors as they explore places of historical, ecological and community significance through activities that include hiking, snowshoeing, canoeing and camping. Youth interact with educators, community knowledge keepers and Elders, learning about place-based history, cultural survival and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK).
Nd’ôtlokawôganawal – (Our Stories) initiative is a multidimensional educational enrichment initiative for Native American children. Rooted in Native American story, history and art, Our Stories strengthens reading and comprehension while fostering an enjoyment of reading, and of traditional and contemporary stories relevant to their lives, their family and community history, as well as the world around them. Our Stories inspires creativity and imagination through activities that include traditional and contemporary art, music, poetry, roleplaying and storytelling. Our Stories also teaches community history and ecology through nature and history walks. Since we began Our Stories in 2012 we have distributed over 4,000 books to children and their families and to schools at no cost.
Niona Mikwalema (We Remember) is one pathway to address the need for culturally specific resiliency programs for Native American youth to understand the grieving process and to begin their pathway to healing. Niona Mikwalema focuses on Native American youth from rural, urban and reservation tribal communities in New England, providing safe and supportive space for understanding and healing grief and associated emotions they carry from loss of friends and family. Youth participating in Niona Mikwalema engage in cultural and outdoor activities, cultivating mutual exchange and conversation while building problem-solving skills and self-confidence. Ongoing opportunities enable youth to build a support network amongst themselves, to collectively confront the challenges they face and develop solutions that arise from within.
PathFinders is a four-season program that provides foundational instruction in wilderness/outdoor skills including land navigation, winter camping, tracking, paddling, wild foods and outdoor cooking, and wilderness & winter survival. Participants can also receive intensive instruction in wilderness medicine, water safety, and self-rescue. Activities may include half day and overnight paddling, sea kayaking, snowshoeing, varied terrain hiking, survival camping, low and high rope challenge courses, indoor rock climbing, interpretive trail construction, wild edible and medicinal plant knowledge, and shelter building.
PathFinders also has a professional development focus providing foundational skill building for Native American/First Nations youth and young adults, with an emphasis on women & girls, interested in pursuing careers in outdoor recreation, wilderness medicine, ecotourism and environmental conservation/management.
Pathways to Educational Success and Leadership provides support for prospective and current college students. Although college is one clear pathway to leadership for Native students, there is currently no organized program across New England that prepares middle and high school age students for college, or connects Native students with each other across the region. In response to community requests, including from students, Gedakina will mobilize its wide network to connect students with mentors in community, colleges and universities who can help them realize short and long-term goals.
River EcoWarriors teaches youth about cultivating environmental sustainability and responsibility while recovering relationships to the waterways through paddling. Youth learn from tribal natural resource staff about current and future tribal efforts towards environmental restoration and resilience.
Storytelling Through Mapping is an in-school and/or afterschool program designed to strengthen students’ learning about themselves, their community(s) and the environment. Through experiential activity-based learning Storytelling Through Mapping cultivates confidence and critical thinking, teaches exploration and basic research skills, improves writing skills and literacy, and provides foundational skills in GIS mapping and GPS land navigation.
We Are All Connected provides a safe environment in school and after-school programs for children to learn about inclusion, identity and diversity while challenging racism, bullying and violence though literacy and art projects. In Vermont over the past 12 months we have worked with over 2,000 children in the public school system.