UNE North, University of New England’s Institute for North Atlantic Studies, and WaYS, Wabanaki Youth in Science, a Tribal mentoring and educational program for Wabanaki youth, have won a National Science Foundation planning grant to bring Arctic and New England Indigenous youth together for the first time. The youth in attendance will be planning an Indigenous Youth Summit, a larger future gathering here in Maine of Indigenous Youth from across New England and Arctic Circumpolar regions.

The WaYS program began in 2013 to bring Indigenous Knowledge and western science together for Native youth.  This is important because research has shown one key component to persistence in sciences for Native American students is the melding of the culture and science into the curriculum. In particular, the rich cultural heritage of the Wabanaki Tribes and their environment lends itself well to melding these two vital criteria.

It is also important to connect the next generation to continue their cultural heritage and legacy of environmental management and stewardship. WaYS looks at developing a long-term program to engage Wabanaki students through their cultural heritage and environmental legacy to encourage and promote persistence in sciences through college and into a career. It is the essence of knowledge to action and what will be paramount in developing a sustainable environmental program for the tribes.

This longitudinal connection is a three-pronged approach. The multi-prong approach includes:

  • Week-long summer camp.
  • Internships pairing cultural resource professionals and natural resource professionals within each tribal location during the school year and the summer.
  • TEK/ASIES programs at each teen center/Boys & Girls Club for the respective tribes

By sharing these two views, it re-enforces for Native youth the strength and value Indigenous Knowledge has within their culture and community. 

A total of ten Indigenous 18- to 26-year-olds from the Arctic and from New England will be selected by their tribal councils to come to UNE North. They will live on UNE’s Biddeford campus, gather together at UNE North in Portland, and develop a theme for a larger gathering in the future. The purpose of that gathering will be determined by the youth themselves through a process assisted by WaYS staff.

This gathering will coincide with the 2022 Assembly of the UArctic from May 31 to June 3, 2022. The four-day event will be co-hosted by University of New England and University of Southern Maine in Portland, both UArctic member institutions. In addition to planning a future gathering of Indigenous youth, the participants will be able to attend UArctic sessions, meet with UArctic leadership and visiting dignitaries such as U.S. Congressional delegates and Arctic state ambassadors to the U.S.

The mission of the UArctic is to develop knowledge to address local and global challenges of relevance to Arctic peoples and societies by providing unique educational, research, and innovation opportunities through collaboration within a powerful network of member institutions. Indigenous youth will be encouraged to attend any and all non-business UArctic events such as the New England Arctic Network Research Symposium and a lobster bake on UNE’s Biddeford campus situated on the shores of Saco Bay.

Travel to Maine, accommodation, ground transportation and food will be provided for all youth participants through a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation. Participants will also be compensated for their time.


For more information on WaYS, click here

For more information in UNE North, click here