Early in January, Hanover Friends Meeting hosted a talk by Bruce Duthu about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Maine. The TRC was intended to uncover the truth about child-welfare practice with Maine’s Native people. They wanted to create opportunities for Natives to speak about their experiences and heal from them. Dawnland, a documentary about the commission’s work, was released in 2018. Bruce was important in the making of the film, and he arranged for us to see it before he did a talk to the members of the Meeting on Zoom.
June 18 I watched the recording of the Beacon Hill Friends discussion with the authors of The Gatherings.
A few days later I went to Kilowatt North with some friends and dogs. A familiar looking man was seated on a bench near the water. We started talking to him, and he turned out to be Bruce Duthu. I mentioned The Gatherings to him, and he said he had the book on order and was waiting for it eagerly. As a result, I ordered the book the next day, and the Norwich Bookstore called back right away with the information that they had the book in the shop.
The Gatherings is a book about meetings between Natives and Non-Natives to create more understanding about their differences. The subtitle is Reimagining Indigenous-Settler Relations. After two meetings, the Natives said they wanted to use a Native form, the circle with a talking piece, and also have some of their ceremonies. A circle with a talking piece can use a stick, a microphone, a piece of pottery, any object. The person with the talking piece is the only one who speaks, everyone else just listens. All the Non-Natives had powerful experiences.
Shirley Hager is the Non-Native who did much work to put the book together. Her name is on the front along with the word “Mawopiyane,” which means a group gathered together for a specific purpose. There are stories of their experiences written by seven Natives and seven non-Natives who participated.
Shirley writes “Being in those Circles was a spiritual experience, I don’t know any other name for it; as if we were doing something so right with Creation that you could feel it.” p66 “I felt a subtle shift from seeing myself as primarily a listener and learner in relation to the Wabanaki participants, to feeling that we were partners in something larger than ourselves — our shared concern for the Earth and for one another’s well-being.” p69
Another white participant, Joann, who is of Irish descent, was told by a Native “If I were you I would go to Ireland and walk the land.” p111 After spending time in Ireland, she says “You’re there to find your identity; you’re there to understand something really very deep — your original connection to the land. We need it; we absolutely need that sense of belonging in order to live. Once you have it, you want the environment to be healthy and you want to protect it wherever you are.” p112.
Dawnland and The Gatherings helped me see the importance of my own Celtic Heritage — a Scots grandmother and an Irish grandmother — and the Celtic soul in me that rose up when I first did a Celtic folk dance.