Gedakina co-organizes and supports Community Activities and Events, including:
Braiding Sweetgrass Groups - Our groups had a busy and rewarding year in 2020. Adaptation has been our keyword for this year. Covid-19 has led us down many different paths. Our youth and women’s groups have been working on learning and retaining our history and culture, just in a different way. Zoom calls, social distancing, texting, and messaging have been a new way of life for us.
To continue with our work, we have been making short videos and slideshows to allow others to learn with us. For instance, Mihku Paul Anderson in Portland, ME, with her women’s group, has worked on TEK, harvesting sweet fern and rose hips. Mihku created two videos on harvesting and using both of these plants. She also maintained a garden where she grew corn that she then ground into cornmeal to feed many families and collected acorns to make into flour. Her videos have been teaching others throughout the Gedakina family.
Heather Augustine in Brunswick, ME, on the other hand, has been assisting over twenty families with growing and harvesting food to feed their families while at the same time modeling and teaching some pretty amazing values to the youth in her group. Heather has had acres of garden this past year in which families have worked in a socially distanced way to provide everyone with food. Canning, freezing, and dehydrating Heather has preserved the garden food to help the families throughout the winter. She also has been providing the youth in her group with boxes of art supplies to create a wide variety of projects, including drums and beading kits.
Donna Meader-York, up in Township, ME, has two groups.
The Young Women’s Beading Circle meets virtually every week, providing social interaction and sharing knowledge and ideas. Girls 12 – 18 are welcome. Their mantra is “learn to bead, and you will never go hungry.”
The Women’s Circle was working on ribbon skirts when the pandemic hit and are currently keeping in touch through a Messenger group. During the pandemic, they are all keeping in touch with each other by virtually communicating to give everyone in the group support. These groups focus on traditional skills like sewing, beading, moccasin making, and more that will forever help them in life.
Taylor Comstock’s Braiding Sweetgrass group in Old Town, ME, works with young families and single mothers. They often do hikes, apple picking, cook-offs, and other outdoor outings where small children can be included. Covid-19 has also changed how they meet and do activities together. Social distancing has been the key; along with phone calls and zoom meetings, they stay in touch regularly to offer ideas and support.
Our most recent group is in Amherst, MA. Kay Mattena, a UMASS Amherst college student, gathers a group of Indigenous students together for writing projects where they discuss Native American culture, beading, and other topics. Together they are finding and building a community so far from their homes.
Educational Programs - Our educational programs have been growing by leaps and bounds. Our children need to have teachers with a clear mind and open heart to hear and understand their untold story. To help educators and ultimately our children from being bullied, we have focused on curriculum. Working to help meet the standard of teaching Ethnic Studies in Vermont, we have worked with numerous school districts and completed teacher training on many Indigenous topics.
In Maine, we have worked with the Portland School district to create a new study unit that aligns with LD 291. We have also worked with the Friends of the Presumpscot River to create a third-grade curriculum that will allow the students to study the Presumpscot watershed from all perspectives. Here too, we were able to reach into many communities with the One-Shelf Project. While at Indian Township and Pleasant Point, we’ve been able to build their libraries with amazing books.
Massachusetts and Connecticut have also benefited from both our teacher trainings and our One-Shelf Project.
We hope to continue to help our children by educating their teachers and providing amazing books and opportunities where they can see faces like theirs, looking back at them in a positive way. Our goals are to provide opportunities where our children to be nurtured and become proud of their history and culture while educating their teachers at the same time.
Food from the Heart and Land - Heather Augustine has been working in her gardens since last March. Planning, organizing, connecting with the land, Heather has been able to help so many families during these troubling times by providing fresh food for those in her Braiding Sweetgrass group and beyond during the summer. Heather has also preserved much of the food from the gardens. Dehydrating, freezing, and canning have been on her agenda for the last six months. Developing relationships and collaborating, she now delivers a weekly box of food including fish, duck, eggs, vegetables, and fruit and baking supplies to nearly fifty families throughout Southern Maine. Her smiling face and empathy are as welcome as the food.
One Shelf Project – 2020 marked the birth of The One Shelf Project, a Giveaway of culturally relevant, historically accurate, and high-quality traditional literature and educational materials to school districts, community culture centers, and libraries serving children across New England and Upstate NY. This year’s selection included 50+ books for K-12 as well as Teacher Resources. We hope to make this an annual event in the future.
Passamaquoddy Ancestor Paddle – an annual community paddle from Indian Township to Pleasant Point reservations in Maine. In 2015 Gedakina’s role transitioned from being a partner to leading this critically important event due to tribal politics.
Wabanaki Spring Social – 2021 will represent the 24th year of the largest community social gathering in Maine for Wabanaki people, co-led by Gedakina and Wabanaki Health & Wellness. Gedakina cofounders and Guiding Council members helped create this important community event to check in on community members, especially Elders, after Maine’s hard winters and as a way to support cultural continuance for Wabanaki people from New England, southern Quebec, and the Atlantic Provinces. Over 750 community members attend annually.
Youth Fishing Initiative – To promote food sovereignty and with The Bay and Paul Foundations’ help, we gifted each of our youth with a fishing pole and supplies. We then taught them how to collect night crawlers and safely remove fish from the hook. In addition, they learned the strong value of helping to provide food for their family, got some great exercise, and developed the pride and independence that comes with learning a new skill.
Additionally, Gedakina collaborates with community-based organizations, social justice centers, colleges, and universities on educational and awareness-building events, including discussion panels, symposia, speakers, and films. Recently we co-sponsored panels on Decolonization, Environmental Justice, and Place-based History, as well as presentations by Indigenous academic and community scholars.