A panel discussion on Indigenous Peoples was held Monday evening, Oct. 16, in the Bjorn Lobby of the Kalikow Education Center at the University of Maine at Farmington. Pictured from left are Osihkiyol [Zeke] Crofton-Macdonald, tribal ambassador for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians; Shirley Hager of Chesterville, co-author of The Gatherings: Reimagining Indigenous-Settler Relations; Mike “Muggo” Dube, storyteller and native of Farmington; and Anghy Tehuitzil Corral, Mexican American descendant of the Aztec. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — As part of Indigenous Peoples Week events, University of Maine at Farmington held a panel discussion Monday evening, Oct. 16, regarding the struggles of the Wabanaki people since the colonization of the region and ongoing efforts to address them.

The panelists were:

• Anghy Tehuitzil Corral, a Mexican American and descendant of the Aztec – the Indigenous People of Northern Mexico. Currently a senior at UMF with a psychology and anthropology major with a minor in business, she is a student activist and notably involved in UMF diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

• Mike “Muggo” Dube, a captivating storyteller and native of Farmington. His roots trace back to a 300+ year-old family farmhouse in Livermore, which now houses the fifth generation of Dubes and serves as the base camp for Taconic Challenges, his wilderness-based school. Dube’s rich heritage blending Mi’kmaq, Acadian, and Portuguese influences his passion for storytelling.

• Osihkiyol [Zeke] Crofton-Macdonald, tribal ambassador for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. Ambassador Zeke is a Wolastoqey person from the Houlton Band of Maliseets in Maine [Metaksonikewiyik] and the Oromocto First Nation [Welamukotuk] in New Brunswick, Canada. He serves on the Board of the Wabanaki Alliance and is a Commissioner on the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission.

• Shirley N. Hager, lead author of “The Gatherings: Reimagining Indigenous-Settler Relations,” University of Toronto Press, 2021. Co-organizer of the gatherings on which the book is based, she is a retired associate extension professor with the University of Maine, and a Circles of Trust© facilitator with the National Center for Courage & Renewal. She currently clerks the Tribal-State Relations Committee of the Friends [Quaker] Committee on Maine Public Policy.

One issue addressed concerns the Nov. 7 election. Question 6 support will allow the addition back into the Constitution of wording that is already being enforced.


“In 1876 the Legislature voted to omit the wording,” Hager noted. You can’t find it if it’s not included, she said.

“It always remained as part of Maine state law,” Crofton-Macdonald stated. “The Secretary of State says there shouldn’t be hidden language in the Constitution.”

“Throughout the years I have been in Maine I have learned a lot about what the Wabanaki nations have been going through,” Corral said. “I might not be as close to my ancestors, the Aztecs. My grandfather was, he followed their traditions. I think for me, it’s a way to kind of be part of that anger that shapes my identity.”

Dube spoke of being born in the old Farmington hospital, it not being popular to be French-Indian in Maine and it being illegal at one point to speak French. His spiritual journey started when he began telling stories.

While meeting with Wabanaki people in traditionally white settings, Hager noted the Wabanaki requested meetings be held their way. As a result of those gatherings over several years, the idea of the book came about, which she co-authored with Mawopiyane, a Passamaquoddy term chosen to represent the book’s 13 co-authors.

Hager lives in Chesterville.


“Woli nipayiw, ntoliwis Zeke Crofton-Macdonald, Wolastoqiyik nil, nuceyiw Metaksonekiyak naga Welamukotuk. Evening everyone, my name is Zeke Crofton-Macdonald, I’m a Wolastoqey person and I come from traditional Wolastoqey territory in Aroostook County at Metaksonekiyak or the Houlton Band of Maliseets and from our territory in New Brunswick, Canada, at Welamukotuk First Nation.”

Crofton-Macdonald’s family lives in those communities today, he also has family spread throughout Maine and the country. “My job is to work with the state government to represent interests and to share our voice,” he noted.

When asked to educate attendees about the struggles Wabanaki face regarding schools and community, Crofton-Macdonald replied, “The Wabanaki Nations, like native nations across the country have been assaulted by structures of colonialism, institutions like the residential school system and the foster care system which intentionally removed our peoples from our families.

“I think it is also worth noting that the very structure of the reservation system in both the United States and Canada is colonial in nature. Our traditional way was to move with the seasons and hunt and fish throughout the entire extent of our territory.”

Crofton-Macdonald spoke of how that caused problems with the European and American style of land organization and ownership. He said Wabanaki Nations have done what they must to survive, “but living within crowded reservations was never our traditional way and has led to a lot of health and wellness problems.”

Wabanaki means people of the dawn, the first light, Crofton-Macdonald noted. Wabanaki people have been here since time immemorial, as long as memory goes back, more than 10,000 years, he said.


Five Wabanaki communities in Maine are recognized by the United States federal government as reservations:

• Penobscot Nation in Indian Island, located near Old Town.

• Metaksonekiysk or the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians [Maliseet Nation] near Houlton.

Two Passamaquoddy communities, each part of one greater Passamaquoddy Nation:

• Mahtahknekuk near Princeton.

• Sipayik near Eastport.


• Mi’kmaq Nation near Presque Isle.

“Metaksonekiyak is a reference to our home along the Meduxnekeag River,” Crofton-Macdonald said. “This is the community I am from. I introduced myself as Wolastoqey because that is how we refer to ourselves in our language. It means a person of the bountiful river.”

Wabanaki Nations extend on both sides of the international border, Crofton-Macdonald stated. “The entire length of the St. John River valley is our homeland,” he said.

Crofton-Macdonald thinks history should be talked about far more often. A treaty with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts promised Wabanaki Nations the land would stay in their control for perpetuity, but it was later parceled off, he said. In 1980 Passamaquoddy Nation filed a suit stating that land had been stolen, he noted. That was before his time, he heard about it, the frustrations, from his elders.

The suit was settled but the money wasn’t split evenly among the tribes, some wasn’t received, lumber companies didn’t want to sell land, Crofton-Macdonald said. Since 1980 Wabanaki Nations have been trying to amend the settlement, he noted.

Self determination and sovereignty are important to the Wabanaki, Crofton-Macdonald said.


“The health and wellness of our people is what matters,” he stated. “We want to take care of ourselves. This is a much bigger issue than I have been able to capture.”

One attendee noted UMF is an educational school, many students don’t know about the issues and asked about resources to help provide that information. “History is very skewed,” she said.

Finding information from the Wabanaki perspective, telling their side of the story is a huge problem Crofton-Macdonald sees. All Maine schools are required to teach Wabanaki curriculum, but it isn’t being done, he noted. There has been opposition, teachers have to spend out of their own pockets, he stated.

There was a great set of materials 20 years ago, another attendee noted. “Teachers were under such pressure to increase scores in math and reading that very few used those materials,” he said. “If teachers had enough time  they would use them.”

It was noted former UMF professor James Peterson had pointed out Maine Indians were very advanced, European settlers didn’t realize that.

Crofton-Macdonald spoke of the repeated struggles Wabanaki have faced to make corrections. Policies passed at the federal level are applicable in Maine only if the state allows, he noted. It has happened only once in the last 40 years, he said.


The opioid situation is affecting Wabanaki people, they want to access federal funds to fight but the state says millions of dollars must be spent to perhaps get the funds, Crofton-Macdonald said.

In June, Gov. Mills vetoed a bill that would have extended more federal laws and benefits to Maine tribes.

“We didn’t get that vote,” Crofton-Macdonald said. “It is something we have to keep doing, keep the optimism, the drive to keep it going.”

Hager said she moved to Maine in 1983, a time of incredible fear and misunderstanding among non-native people. The gatherings weren’t started as a response to that but through work she was doing in the Gulf of Maine which corresponded with Wabanaki Nation, she noted. A unique idea suggested vision for the area couldn’t be created without the voice of the people who had lived on the land for more than 12,000 years, she stated.

Relationship building ensued over the course of several years and in 2008 the idea of writing a book about the lessons learned was shared, Hager noted. Three years were spent talking about it, four others added to the original ten working on the book and in 2021 it was published, she said.

“Everyone had complete authority over their words, how the book looked and signed off on it,” Hager stated. “The book provides a context for the Settlement Act.”


There have been vast chasms of misdeeds, mistrust, she noted. Other relationships are fraught with painful circumstances that the book is being used to help with, she said.

“If you want to be an ally to Indigenous people, how you approach the work has everything to do with it,” Hager stressed. “Doing with, not for. Understand what you are doing. Doing with is an attitude of strength. We are all in this together. These issues are not just impacting Indigenous people, they will impact all of us.”

Hager also emphasized the importance of showing up, not just liking something on Facebook.

Corral said she was shocked to learn Wabanaki people didn’t have the same rights as Indigenous people in her home state of Colorado. She went to a Legislative session on June 6, didn’t have words to describe people’s reactions, the tears of agony. “It really got to me, I realized this is so unfair,” she stated. “It made me want to fight.”

When asked how he perceives the land, Dube said, “The land is part of our soul, our blood, sweat and tears. The land is the living foundation.”

He shared a story of when his father was in the hospital and sneaking a jar of earth into the room. “I told him it was good medicine,” he noted. “Within a day the pneumonia was gone, he lived another year. The land is life, not just an asset, a commodity.”


An artist friend of Dube showed how land was perceived with the European perspective on one side and how Indigenous people see it on the other. “The same earth, same time, just a different perspective,” Dube said. “That became a model for me.”

Dube shared another story about two wolves. The black one represents hate, fear, selfishness; the white one compassion, honor, truth and sacrifice. The wolf that is fed will win, he noted.

If Dube could save only one thing from his culture, it would be the stories. “As long as the stories live, our spirits live, we live,” he noted. “Stories honor all lives, they are the lifeblood. Without stories, you don’t have the hope, the character.”

When asked about how the biographies for her book came about, Hager said it was important for the Wabanaki participants to be identified, then realized her heritage was important too. She asked the non-Indigenous contributors to share their backgrounds. “I think that gets at the deeper issue that we raise in the book,” she noted. “Where do we belong? So many non-native people aren’t Indigenous to America. Realizing that I am with a person whose ancestors have been on this land … is awe inspiring and painful at the same time.”

For more information on Wabanaki Nation, visit wabanakialliance.com, wabanakireach.org or thegatheringsbook.com.

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