MILLINOCKET MARATHON & HALF BRINGS ECONOMIC SUPPORT

The marathon returned this year after going virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — After going virtual in 2020, the Millinocket Marathon and Half returned this year with an in-person race. Despite the below-freezing temperature in town Saturday, hundreds of runners and spectators took part in the event at Veterans Memorial Park.

The marathon race kicked off at 10 a.m. and the half marathon began at 10:10 a.m.

The Millinocket Marathon and Half was established in 2015 as a way to bring economic support to the town after the collapse of the region’s paper industry. There was no entry fee for race participants. Runners instead were asked to spend money in Millinocket to support the town.

Taylor Colangelo of Windham said she came to Millinocket to support her sister, who has run the race every year. Colangelo said her family is from the Millinocket area.

“It brings a lot of joy to us as a family who grew up here and we like to bring people here who we care about,” Colangelo said.

Sadie James won 1st place in the women’s division of the half marathon, and tenth overall. She finished the race with a time of 1:27:23.

“I just felt good, it was great weather … a little cold, but the people kept me going,” James said.

Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness is located right next to the start and finish line on Penobscot Ave. The facility opened just a few months ago, but co-CEO Lisa Sockabasin said she was eager to get involved with this event.

“We knew being right here in the heart of Millinocket we had to be involved,” Sockabasin said.

Sockabasin said they provided the center as a place for people to warm up from the cold, or grab flavored teas and homemade granola bars.

Nyle Sockbeson is a member of the Penobscot Nation and also works at Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness. He presented a traditional smudge to offer safety and protection for the runners before the race began. He was joined by another member of the Penobscot Nation who recited a traditional prayer.

“It’s important for us to share our traditions at events like this so that non-native people can know that we’re still here,” Sockbeson said.

Sockabasin said they are already looking forward to being involved next year, and they hope to put a team of half-marathon runners together to represent Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness.

See News Center Maine article here

THE COOKING MATTERS PROJECT

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. (https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=43). 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.

A NEW HUB FOR WABANAKI WOMEN

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 Program

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 the Water Project, 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 and 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 

Additional Resources:

https://mainebeacon.com/tribal-leaders-seek-to-end-decades-long-ordeal-bring-clean-water-to-pleasant-point/

https://mainebeacon.com/dirty-water-causes-our-communities-to-lose-sight-that-they-are-worthy-of-clean-water/ 

COVID-19 Support

At the start of the pandemic, as the first few cases of coronavirus emerged in the U.S. we knew that we had to act quickly to ensure that we were prepared as much as possible in order to support our tribal communities before the virus reached Maine. Due to the overall history of poor outcomes for Indigenous people during past widespread public health crises we knew that the tribes we serve were at a higher risk. These past poor health outcomes were, in large part, due to problems with infrastructure and not having adequate supplies to keep people in tribal communities safe. To make sure that Indigenous people in Maine had the necessary supplies, we pushed to launch a crisis campaign early in the pandemic.

The campaign included sewing thousands of cloth masks, securing sufficient amounts of cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer, and ensuring that tribal communities had clean drinking water. A particular concern is at the Passamaquoddy reservation at Pleasant Point, where people who live there have not had access to clean drinking water for decades.

We made partnerships with several organizations such as the Good Shepherd Food Bank, as well as several big box stores, and local farmers to secure as much drinking water and food as possible. As community members became isolated in their homes, we developed a color-coded system for them to be able to communicate with us and health officials while remaining socially distanced.

The system involved community members putting up different colored pieces of construction paper in their windows to signal messages from the safety of their homes depending on their needs. Red paper meant that someone needed immediate assistance, yellow told us that they were short on supplies, and blue represented a need for human contact and someone to simply just check in on them.

These actions taken during the pandemic have helped to lower the impact of the virus on the state’s Indigenous population. While all of these efforts still continue, we have shifted our focus to vaccination now that doses are available.

Literacy & Love Program

As we live through this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have focused on support, service, and love. The newest program that we offer to our communities is the Literacy and Love program, the goal of which is to promote bonding and connections in our communities with literacy and learning.

Through this new venture we provide literacy care packages to our community members who are in active service and their families, as well as Wabanaki youth, people in recovery, and students in college and vocational training programs.

We have Wabanaki people serving all branches of the United States Military. WPHW recognizes the many Indigenous people who are actively serving and their families. As part of our Literacy and Love program, we honor and support our heroes while providing connections to our home communities, culture, and language by distributing Wabanaki and other Indigenous-authored literature to those in active service and to their families.

When designing our program, we made sure to focus heavily on gifting Indigenous-authored books with special efforts to include Wabanaki-authored books when we are able. To date, we have distributed over 250 literacy care packages to our communities.

Some of these selections include: Donna Loring’s In the Shadow of the Eagle, Allen Sockabasin’s An Upriver Passamaquoddy, and Robin Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. Our children’s books include selections from: Donald Soctomah, Lee DeCora Francis, and many more.