The Wabanaki Healing Lodge to offer cooking and nutrition classes

MILLINOCKET, ME. 11/22/2021 – Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness’s (WPHW) Healing Lodge in downtown Millinocket is offering cooking and nutrition education classes starting on November 23, 2021, and continuing on each Tuesday.

Cooking Matters is a series of interactive cooking and nutrition education classes available for kids, teens, adults, or families.  This program teaches strategies to shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget. Cooking Matters curriculum uses the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate as the foundation for basic nutrition guidelines, then builds upon these ideas, using interactive lessons to teach cooking, food safety, and food resource management. WPHW partners with Maine Snap-Ed and Good Shepherd Food Bank to offer the classes.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, Native Americans/Indigenous/Alaskan Native adults are three times more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes, and in 2018, they were 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease than white/non-Hispanic adults. ( Health disparities are evident in Native communities all over the country, including in Maine. Many of these communities are located in areas that are considered food deserts, or areas where it is difficult to buy quality and affordable fresh food. WPHW provides the Cooking Matters class to teach eligible low-income tribal community members how to choose and prepare healthy foods on a limited budget, further promoting health and wellness within the community.

The class is instructed by Christina Fitzpatrick and Registered Dietician Mark Robinson.


The newly launched Wabanaki Women’s Economic Mobility Hub is supporting healing Indigenous women, their families, and communities.

The goal of the new effort of Wabanaki women’s talking circle is to identify and serve the needs and interests of Indigenous women all throughout Maine. It’s a safe cultural place, where they can share their needs, concerns, knowledge, and skills.

Some of the issues they have been discussing include:

  • An Indigenous place for child care services (child care was identified as the #1 need in the women’s circles)
  • A community farm where people can connect with the earth and grow vegetables (increasing food sovereignty and food security)
  • Guided trips to healing places like Mt. Katahdin and the sacred Penobscot River
  • The recent opening of the Center for Wabanaki Healing & Recovery (which puts culture, ceremony, language, and traditions at the heart of the recovery journey to support tribal members)

RELATED: New Wabanaki Healing and Recovery Center set to open this fall

During a women’s talking circle in Bangor on Tuesday morning, Indigenous women were making regalia, clothes they use for ceremonies.

“It’s a way to honor your womanhood, and honor the earth, and honor who we are as women,” said one of the women at the circle.

The women’s talking circle is made possible thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Maine Women’s Fund.

“Maine Women’s Fund partners with organizations statewide but we really saw an opportunity to partner with the Wabanaki communities to make sure that their voices were really raised,” said Kimberly Crichton, executive director at the Maine Women’s Fund.

“This is the only funding here in Maine that from this network that is going to an indigenous effort,” said Lisa Sockabasin, director of Programs & External Affairs at Wabanaki Public Health & Wellness and a citizen of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkomikuk.

One of the main goals of the overall effort is to find solutions to some of the economic barriers these women say are holding them back.

According to Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness, their communities experience unemployment rates 4 to 5 times higher than those who are not Native American.

“This is the only funding here in Maine that’s from this network that is going to an Indigenous effort,” Sockabasin said. “So this entire effort is about hearing those voices, hearing those voices of people that are often not reflected in those data sets, which is problematic for so many reasons.

The hub is a way to help Indigenous women to feel the power of their collective knowledge, “As well as make sure that we no longer remain invisible,” she said.

Sockabasin said state data do not reflect Indigenous people, so the women’s talking circle is also starting to collect their own data.

Like any other community, Sockabasin said some Indigenous people are also facing issues like substance use disorders, lack of childcare, food insecurity, to name a few.

The circle will continue to help Indigenous women raise those concerns and help find solutions.

Genevieve Doughty pushed for the creation of the hub. She said the main reason this Wabanaki women’s talking circle was created was to share stories and “be able to share what’s on our mind and what’s on our hearts, and maybe something that needs to be said that you would say it anywhere else.”

“To feel the power of our collective knowledge as well as making sure that we no longer remain invisible,” added Sockabasin.

Through the women’s talking circles, Wabanaki women have been identifying needs that will form the basis of new programs.

“To teach our children, teach, our nieces, our nephews, those who we take care of, there is lots of responsibility in that knowledge that we hold,” said Esther Sappier, another woman who participates in the circles.

The group of Indigenous women meets at least once a month.

The Water Quality Program

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In response to the unsafe drinking water and the COVID-19 pandemic, Plansowes Dana, the WPHW COVID-19 Water Specialist, has led and continues to lead providing elderly and disabled community members with clean drinking water from a local well spring. Our staff collect the empty water containers when asked, sanitize them, and refill them at the well before returning them to the community member it belongs to. To date we have provided 3,191 gallons of spring water to elders and 9,870 gallons of bottled water to the community at large. 

Wabanaki Public Health & Wellness wants to wish a special congratulations to Plansowes Dana for being recognized and honored during the National Indian Health Board’s Outstanding Service Awards on October 6 at NIHB’s National Tribal Health Conference! She won The Local Impact Award, which acknowledges an individual or organization whose work has affected change or impacted health care on the local and/or Tribal level. Click here to read about the awards.


Highlights on work done so far with Sipayik Boyden Lake water supply 

What we know is that Boyden Lake has been the main water source for many years and also undrinkable for many years. Public notices of water quality and monitoring non-compliance have been issued, many of these notices were for Trihalomethanes and a similar group of organic chemicals called halo acetic acids. Along with discoloration and odor, the community has avoided drinking the water.

This water source will have a filtration system, Carbon filtration system. In working with the Sipayik Passamaquoddy Tribal leaders and lawyers, WPHW will work in partnership with the State of Maine to fund the cost of this filtration system. 

Samaqannihkuk Water Well Site

About 2015 the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point acquired a piece of land in the town of Perry which abuts the tribal reservation.  On this property, there is a 180-foot deep water well that was drilled in 2006.  The well yields between 20 and 30 GPM.   In 2020 this well was given the name “Samaqannihkuk” (translates to water place). Winter weather and lack of funding have put a stop to the work on this well.  Work will resume in the spring of 2021 if funds are available.

Water quality at the local public water utility (Passamaquoddy Water District formerly known as Eastport Water Co) has been problematic and for many years questionable. There have been a number of boil-water orders issued warning residents that the water may be unsafe to drink and may cause health problems if consumed without boiling.

The tribe decided that the Samaqannihkuk water well on the newly acquired property should be evaluated, developed and opened up for public consumption if the well water can pass the water testing requirements as mandated under the Maine Drinking Water Program.  

Ed Bassett, a Sipayik Community member, has worked towards getting the Samaqannihkuk Water Well Site fully operational. “We need to have a secure place for our water.” 

MIT Superfund Research Program’s Engagement and Translation Advisory Committee (ETAC)

Wabanaki Public Health & Wellness Division Managers, Newell Lewey, Culture and Language, Sipayik Passamaquoddy tribal member, and Esther Mitchell, Environmental Health, will be teaming up with the Sipayik Environmental Dept., and Massachusetts’s Institute of Technology to work together on improving the Passamaquoddy Water District’s drinking water quality. Newell and Esther will be members of the Superfund Research Program’s Engagement and Translation Advisory Committee (ETAC) on this project.

Besides the water testing at the PWD facility site, the MIT project plan calls for water sample collection at some households and piloting the use of an under-sink eradication unit for NDMA. (N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) can be found in municipal water supplies as a result of the chloramination of water that has high levels of organic materials, and furthermore, that NDMA causes cancer in animals.) There isn’t any filtration system currently available to remove NDMA in drinking water.

A team created within Wabanaki Public Health & Wellness

‘Samaqaneyuk (Zahm-mah-gwanee-a-yook)- people of the water

Lisa Sockabasin; Cyril Francis; Newell Lewey; Ed Bassett; Plansowes Dana; Esther Mitchell

“Our purpose is for the Community to secure clean drinking water”

Image taken by Cyril Francis in Eastport, ME 

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