Art education students creating, selling T-shirts to benefit indigenous-led nonprofit

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As part of the requirements for an upper-level art education course at the University of Maine, students are striving to elicit real change through art, local action and awareness.

This semester, the student program University of Maine Art Education Community Outreach (UMAECO) is working with Gedakina, an indigenous-led nonprofit.

Gedakina’s mission is “to strengthen and revitalize the cultural knowledge and identity of Native American youth, women and families from across New England and to conserve our traditional homelands and places of historical, ecological, and spiritual significance.”

The art education students are raising funds to support two of Gedakina’s programs for women and girls.

“Braiding Sweetgrass” is a multifaceted initiative that creates safe circles where indigenous women and girls teach and learn traditional life-ways, including beading, drum making and plant knowledge, while also discussing topics of importance, such as economic opportunities and sexual and domestic violence prevention and healing.

“Cultivating Mother Corn” is a multiyear initiative that promotes indigenous food systems recovery, including reviving the tradition of wild ricing, and a women-led recovery of traditional “Three Sisters” mound agriculture on a farm along Sandy River in Starks. Food was grown sustainably on this land by the Wabanaki people for thousands of years before access was cut off after the land was appropriated by colonists following the 1724 massacre of Abenaki at Norridgewock Village. The project represents the first time in nearly 300 years that descendants of Abenaki survivors of this genocide and other tribal people, especially Wabanaki women and children, have been safe and welcome on these ancestral planting fields.

To support these Gedakina initiatives, the UMAECO students have designed original imagery and printed it on T-shirts, which were bought from W.S. Emerson Co., Brewer. The printed shirts will be sold in the local community for $15 each, with all proceeds given to Gedakina.

The students will be selling the shirts from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 18 in the Memorial Union on campus.

This project is supported by the Clement and Linda McGillicuddy Humanities Center, and the UMaine Department of Art.

For more information, contact Constant Albertson, constant@maine.edu.