top of page

Re-forming Our Relations:
A Walk With Mihku Paul

This story was a collaboration between Mihku Paul and NBEC's Stories for Change working group.


Interviewer: Tessa Shanteler. Videographer and editor: Eli Kao

Story editors: Audrey Cole, Rosanna Gargiulo, Jen Hazard, Kalisto Nanen, Adrienne Singer

Transcriber: Kalisto Nanen. Administrator: Sarah Madronal


It’s very hard to limit my answer to what the out of doors means to me. It’s as important and integral to who I am as an arm or a leg. And it is a source of great solace and joy, but also incredible learning.


Spiritual and scientific and ecological education that is available to us free of charge simply by being in those spaces and relating to them in a respectful way. Look there’s our friend. Be quiet. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s alright.

[introduction in Wolastoqey language]
My name is Mihku Paul and I am a Wolastoqey woman. My family is from Kings Clear First Nations, lower Canada but I was born below the line and I grew up in Maine in the Penawahpskek community. 
I spent about twenty years in early childhood ed before moving into other things like advocacy and Wabanaki curriculum enrichment. All of these things together– my traditional training, my natural leanings or capacities, and that education–all shaped the way that I sort of walk in the world now. And I want to use these years well and be doing the work that is both meaningful to me and I hope would have a good impact on our human family.

I was fortunate to grow up being educated by a traditional elder, my granddad. So, I had that fantastic experience of close connection from the time that I was very young. I spent a lot of time on the river islands growing up, and him teaching me. He was a hunter, a trapper, a river guide. And we actually fished and worked together as a family for other forms of sustenance, ’cause we didn't have a lot.


They’re so soft. This is so close to bud break, and bud break is one of the signs that we use to know it’s time to look for fiddleheads. I was taught as a child when the leaves on the trees are as big as a mouse’s ear, then you know there’ll be fiddleheads.

Growing up in Old Town, I went through the Old Town public school system and it was very challenging for a lot of Wabanaki students I think because we were forced to learn a history in which our own tribal culture and our own stories and history was not even included in the curriculum.


So we were, you know, skicin people sitting in the classroom and it was like we weren't even there. We were reading about western expansion and the Plains Wars.

We did not have a lot of access to things like public parks, state parks, and national parks, they often involved fees and travel and so both the cost and transportation were barriers to poor people and a lot of Wabanaki people were very poor back then.

So being at Jefferson Street School, you return in the fall and everyone is talking about what they did over their summer. And my stories were very markedly different from the stories of children who had been to a very nice summer camp, for example.

So that contributes, I think, to a feeling of being outside and a feeling of sort of disconnection. But on the other side of that coin is that I was living in the natural spaces on a wild river and at the coast clamming and even hunting. It’s an experiential education right in nature that many of the other students may not have had.

I am very deeply concerned that too many in the human family are not understanding that if we destroy Ewikuwossit we are literally destroying ourselves. It’s really valuable to foster a wonder and a kind of respect and appreciation from an early age with kids because some of that has been lost and it’s going to be in their hands to manage what's going on.

I was just actually working with Casco Bay High School and I got them out on the paths there. And they said, “Well what are we going to do?” And I said, “You’re going to look for signs of life.”

And they all had their cameras, and I said you’re going to use your camera because you’re going to document signs of life, and you’re also gonna look for patterns in nature.

Anything that excites you, anything you find beautiful, and you’re going to bring that back and we’re going to do art, and we’re gonna talk about patterns in natural systems. And then with your art, you are going to go ahead and create a pattern because that does again utilize a different neural pathway. And so that’s one way to sort of coax that development along.


Close one eye, and unfocus the other eye. And you begin to see the patterns in a landscape. 
As an artist, you can relate to that compositionally and it also helps you produce, like, some questions for reflection on natural spaces. 

I’m trying to leverage my creative work and my community work to have as much impact as possible, from working with fourth graders all the way up to talking with different organizations about the necessity to re-form our thinking and relations about “What is nature?” “What does it mean to the human family to be part of nature?” “And what’s the work that we have to do moving forward to ensure that everyone has the right to exist and flourish?” You know… everybody. [laughs] It's just the truth.


A Snail Primer
Carry your home on your back. 
Do not hurry.
Reach toward new sensory experiences. 
Sacrifice moisture to move your body forward.
Leave a trace of your passing. 
Explore new surroundings, whenever possible.
Travel aligned in relevant time. 
Seal yourself in when necessary.
Wait for more hospitable circumstances. 
Ingest all nourishment slowly.
Live as you are meant to live. 


This story was created and published in March-June 2024

bottom of page