Decolonization Defined, Thoughts?


Well, what do you think?

It’s been a week since we introduced the Abbe’s new plan to you and the response has been incredibly enthusiastic. We had our greatest day ever on social media with the plan’s release. Just the kind of stats we like to see!

But I bet you might have questions, like what is decolonization? What do they mean by a juried art show? Or new models of archaeological research?

I plan to answer your questions and more in these blog posts, through my writings and your submissions. Just submit a question in the comments below and I will happily respond with what I know, and what my colleagues know.

For today, let’s start with a definition of decolonization. Susan Miller, Seminole, describes it as a process designed to shed and recover from the ill effects of colonization.

Amy Lonetree, Ho-Chunk, states in her outstanding publication Decolonizing Museums, that “a decolonizing museum practice must involve assisting (tribal) communities in addressing the legacies of unresolved grief.” Keep in mind that museums are a Western construct, a colonizing entity, and if we are to work closely with Wabanaki people, we must acknowledge this history and create new pathways for collaboration and practice.

I’ve given you much to consider, I know. The board, staff, and I have been deeply engaged in this study for more than three years now and we’re still learning, thinking, changing, and improving.  This new plan represents a critical transition in the history of the Abbe.

I’d love to hear from you.

If you’d like to learn more about decolonization, the articles and publications by the scholars named here are a great start. You can also dig deeper and read scholarly articles on Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society.


Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko is the President and CEO of the Abbe Museum. Working in museums for more than twenty years, she believes they have the power to change lives, inspire movements, and challenge authority. A museum director since 2001, Cinnamon is a frequent presenter at national museum meetings and is often asked to comment on national museum issues. She has been the driving force behind the Abbe Museum’s decolonization initiative, working with the Native communities in Maine to develop policies and protocols to ensure collaboration and cooperation with Wabanaki people. In 2016 Cinnamon gave her first TEDx talk, We Must Decolonize Our Museums. She’s the author of Museum Administration 2.0 (2016), The Art of Healing: The Wishard Art Collection (2004), and co-editor of the Small Museum Toolkit (2012).

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