A Pilgrim Lodge Learning Journey

As a camp community, we believe that it is vital to embody the values of our camp in our programming and how we engage with the world beyond. One of our Camp Values is “Love of Neighbor.” We want to share with you one way that we seek to embrace this value in the life of our camp.

In the spring of 2023 a working group was formed with the goal of guiding a journey for the Pilgrim Lodge community: a journey to learn about our community’s relationship to the land that is our summer camp, and discern how non-native people can be in right relationship with our/their Wabanaki neighbors. We recognize that Wabanaki people have been and continue to be part of our community. We also recognize that the Pilgrim Lodge community is a majority white community. We want to hold this complexity as we continue this journey.

Our working group currently includes Andrew Hunter, Rev. Ben Bigney, Karen Choate, Rev. TJ Mack and Director Liz Charles McGough. We are calling this a learning journey because we don’t have a defined course, but rather a commitment to be simultaneously learning, listening and responding with action. We’d like to share about this process with you as an invitation for you to join us in this journey, a journey which begins with specific requests of our community.

Responding to Cultural Appropriation at Maine Summer Camps

In 2021, members of Maine’s Wabanaki Tribal Nations approached Maine Summer Camps, an organization that convenes and provides support to summer camps across the state, to share their concerns about cultural appropriation in summer camps; defining cultural appropriation is “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.”

This concern led to the creation of an assessment that helps summer camps look at their practices. The assessment helps camps review their traditions, including building names, activities, songs, etc. to determine if there are elements of cultural appropriation. The assessment also encourages education in the camp community, including learning the history of the land and identifying the continuing presence of local Indigenous groups.

Supporting Tribal Sovereignty and the Maine Conference United Church of Christ 2022 Resolution

Pilgrim Lodge is a ministry of the Maine Conference, United Church of Christ. Two teams of the Maine Conference, the Anti-Racism Resource Team and the Social Action Committee, have been working to create relationships with Wabanaki leaders, resulting in a resolution passed at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Maine Conference called “A Resolution of Support for Tribal Sovereignty in Maine.”  

This resolution was a vote in favor of supporting the Wabanaki in their ongoing efforts to gain greater sovereignty, while also committing to continuing education efforts across the Maine Conference.

Pilgrim Lodge and Justice

As a camp community with a long history of addressing issues of justice, our working group seeks to provide an opportunity for our community to participate in a journey of learning, reflection and action. We will listen to what our Wabanaki neighbors ask of us as a summer camp. As a faith-centered program, we will learn our strengths and weaknesses in this work as a Christian community. We will discern ways to faithfully respond to what we hear and learn. In recognition that this is a journey, we want to share with you what we have done so far and our vision for what may come next.

What We’ve Done / What’s Next

This past summer we began to introduce this journey at camp. At the start of each session when we welcomed campers, we also offered an acknowledgement of history, land, and our Wabanaki neighbors, and shared our commitment to learning and action.

We will use the assessment created by Maine Summer Camps to identify practices considered cultural appropriation at our camp. The assessment will be completed by members of this group, and we hope that you will bring any concerns that you identify to us. Our goal is to identify any camp traditions that may cause harm, and to stop those practices we find.

In summary, our next steps are:

  • Continue our land acknowledgments during the 2024 season.
  • Provide education opportunities for volunteers through Wabanaki REACH and other trusted entities.
  • Complete the Maine Summer Camps assessment.
  • Prepare and offer resources and training to our Pilgrim Lodge Deans.
  • Bring a spirit of openness to learn and curiosity to this process and invite feedback to our group that we can incorporate into this process.

Our Invitation to You

Our invitation to you is to join us on this journey. Please take the time to look at the resources we provide below. Send us any questions and feedback you may have. Be on the look-out for additional information and invitations as we share them with the community.

We know that this process will require us to address the violence that happened in this place we now know as Maine toward Wabanaki people by European settlers. As a result, our Wabanaki neighbors continue to experience the impact of genocide in their communities. The process of addressing this violence, examining how our camp community benefits from the legacy of that violence, and recognizing our personal relationship to this violence will bring up difficult and painful feelings. We hope to acknowledge and learn from those feelings, while also listening and responding to what our Wabanaki neighbors ask of us.

We seek feedback in this process. We know that we will make mistakes in this work. We seek to learn from our mistakes as opportunities for growth. We welcome you to connect with any of us or bring feedback to the group via Liz at info@pilgrimlodge.org so that we can hear from you.

With gratitude,

Andrew, Ben, Karen, Liz and TJ

Are you interested in exploring this more? Here are some resources:

Check out the text of the Resolution in support of Tribal Sovereignty passed at the Maine Conference Annual Meeting in 2022: A Resolution for Support of Tribal Sovereignty in Maine

Here is a blog post written by Pilgrim Lodge volunteer Rev. Ben Bigney for the Wabanaki REACH blog prior to when our working group was formed and before we began offering land acknowledgements. As you read, give yourself space to be curious about the feelings that arise.

Here is the assessment created for use by Maine Summer Camps.

Want to connect about what you are learning, considering or feeling? Touch base with us at info@pilgrimlodge.org.