Justice, Equity & Accessibility
Maine Local Living School recognizes that all environmental crises are rooted in the exploitation of people. We cannot disentangle the climate crisis from other forms of oppression and injustice. For this reason, we believe all education for living wisely and equitably is activism for the road ahead. Our focus is on anchoring into our unique places and beginning the powerful work of decolonization and re-inhabitation. Re-inhabitation means rebuilding local knowledge and skills, acknowledging ways of knowing that have been marginalized through colonization, and rebuilding cultures that recognize the earth and each other as sacred gifts.
We are committed to continuously learning, as an organization and as individuals, about justice and equity, privilege and oppression. We are striving to create a welcoming and inclusive MLLS community for people across the spectrum of identities including but not limited to race and ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, place of origin, and religion. We understand that historical and current systems of oppression have led to many barriers and exclusion for people who hold marginalized identities from accessing land, knowledge and skills for living well on the land. We are working to counteract these forces through prioritizing financial accessibility for youth with marginalized identities, especially BIPOC.
Maine Local Living School recognizes that we operate on the unceded lands of the Nanrantsouak (Norridgewock), part of the Eastern Abenaki. We welcome Wabanaki people to contact us regarding harvesting medicines, wild food, firewood, basket materials, saplings and deer from this land.
We also especially welcome queer, trans, non-binary and gender nonconforming (LGBTQI2+) people and women and girls to Maine Local Living School. The outdoor education field has for too long been male- heterosexual- and cisgender-dominated and we are actively working to build a new culture. Please ask if you have questions and reach out with any feedback.
On Cultural Appropriation
Maine Local Living School practices and shares skills for wise living that originate from all over the world. The Austrian scythe, the Norwegian broad axe, Korean kimchi, Swiss cooperage, the English drawknife, the crooked knife from the Penobscot Nation, among others, and the polyculture of corn, beans, and squash from the Wabanaki Confederacy, among others.
When engaging in skills that were and are practiced by First Nations, Maine Local Living School gives recognition, praise and gratitude for the gifts of traditional ecological knowledge. We strive to recognize particular peoples and at the same time understand that many skills and philosophies span not only First Nations but continents.
Ancestral skills are a gift and birthright for all human beings, as we all have ancestors who lived in deep relationship with their surroundings. Learning and practicing these lifeways is the critical work of rebuilding a culture that recognizes the earth as a sacred gift.
Founders Chris and Ashirah Knapp have had many teachers including elders, friends, books, experience and the earth herself. We are also part of a lineage that goes straight to an elder from the Mi’kmaq Nation. As a boy, our principal teacher Ray Reitze was apprenticed throughout his childhood to Grandfather Joseph Muse of the Mi’kmaq people. We neither claim to be indigenous ourselves, nor claim any right to the ceremonies and spiritual life of first peoples. We do feel honored to carry on with the skills, stories, and philosophies of earth connection and sharing that have been given to us by our teacher Ray Reitze over the past 25 years.