Maine Celebrates Fourth Indigenous Peoples Day – The Maine Campus
Maine recently celebrated its fourth anniversary in honor of Indigenous Peoples Day on October 10, 2022.
Maine is one of several states that legally recognize Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day. Maine’s deep roots in colonialism have created a system where the history and culture of the Wabanaki people – made up of the Miꞌkmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot nations – have been largely ignored by the majority of the public.
“When communities replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, we see the cracks in the false narrative and an opening for the truth to shine through. We celebrate those who have been and are working to open these cracks for more education, healing and currency,” wrote Barbara Kates, Maine-Wabanaki REACH Community Organizer, in 2017. not an additional burden for Indigenous people to bear.
On October 5, the Department of Anthropology and the Native American Studies Program at the University of Maine co-hosted the conference “Dismantling Stereotypes, Repatriating Our Stories: Making Indigenous Exhibits at the Sámi Siida Museum.” The departments welcomed Veli-Pekka Lehtola, professor of Sami culture at the Giellagas Institute at the University of Oulu, Finland.
Lehtola gave a wonderful presentation focusing on the culture of the Sami: the indigenous peoples of Finland, Norway, Sweden and parts of Russia. Lehtola is a prominent historian and one of the main writers of the updated exhibit, “Enâmeh láá mii párnááh (These lands are our children)” at the Sámi Siida Museum. The museum recently received more than 2,000 objects repatriated from the National Museum of Finland.
Slowly, museums around the world are going through a period of renewal and care for Indigenous cultures and artifacts.
“The ground is broken on new buildings, storage expands to accommodate repatriated collections, and the latest technology[ies] bring newly restored cultural heritage to life and give it relevance for younger generations,” said Matthew Magnani, Assistant Professor of Anthropology. “Museums are essential cultural resources for community members who wish to revisit production techniques, craftsmanship and contemporary visions of belonging. They play an equal role in shaping the representation seen by visitors who return to southern capitals and foreign cities with a new respect and understanding of Indigenous stories.
Through the new exhibition, Lehtola has been instrumental in conveying the adaptation of the Sami community and promoting Sami voices at the forefront of conversations in Finland.
Language, culture and tradition are closely linked to identity. Many governments, including the United States, have systematically forced many indigenous groups to lose their language; the language can be lost in a generation.
Lehtola explained how the Sami strive to preserve their nine languages through music.
“Language [is] a starting point for remembering, not just for communication, but as an identification of ‘we’,” Lehtola said.
For more information on visiting the Sámi Siida Museum https://siida.fi/en/the-sami-museum/.