Joseph Hall's Wabanaki history course conveys hidden stories

Joseph Hall

Information and knowledge are two different things. Teachers like Joseph Hall Jr. proffer the first, but their real work is leading students to the second.

Hall does that so well that Bates students chose him for the prestigious 2009 Kroepsch Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Yet in some areas of his specialty, early American history, associate professor Hall remains a student himself. That’s something that excites him about his Short Term unit “Wabanaki History in Maine” (the state’s Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, MicMac and Maliseet Indians are collectively known as Wabanakis).

This year, joining Hall in teaching the course will be James Francis, Penobscot tribal historian, and Rebecca Sockbeson, a Penobscot now completing her doctorate in education policy at the University of Alberta. But the course also includes visits to Penobscot and Passamaquoddy communities, where the Bates contingent will interview residents on a variety of issues.

When Hall last taught the course, in 2007, “they would tell us their stories about everything from Penobscot culture and environmental issues to Maine child welfare practices and their impact on Passamaquoddies.”

“In every instance the students would ask, ‘What do you want us to do with this? What do you want us to take away from what you’re telling us?’ — I was always quite proud that they would ask that question.”

The Native Mainers’ answers were consistent. “Every single person said, in some way or another, ‘I want you to tell the truth to everyone else.’ And that’s a really powerful responsibility.”

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