This is the last state-side interview for my current film, Thirty Seconds to Midnight – The Final Wake-up Call. The solution, if we are to survive, is to learn from our indigenous brothers and sisters.
Sherri Mitchell was born and raised on the Penobscot Indian reservation, with two Penobscot grandfathers and two Passamaquoddy grandmothers. Two of her great-grandfathers served as Chief of the Penobscot Tribal Nation, modeling a deep sense of commitment to the tribe. She shared a special closeness to her maternal grandfather, Ted Mitchell, who found his calling in the field of higher education. For nearly three decades he worked to establish a pathway for Native students in higher education, and went on to found the Native American Studies Program and the Wabanaki Center at the University of Maine.
Her grandmothers, both fluent Passamaquoddy speakers, maintained deep connections to their cultural traditions. Her grandmothers also taught her about kindness and charity, through their quiet and ceaseless generosity to those in need.
Sherri grew up hearing the stories of her people’s history and connection to place, around the kitchen table and during many years of paddling the Penobscot River with her grandfather. This legacy forms a link to her deep sense of place and connection, which inform her worldview and her work in the world. Sherri’s understanding that the Earth doesn’t need us, but that we need the Earth, and; that the earth is not a resource for us to take but is instead the source of our survival, are core to all she does. As an indigenous rights attorney, she does not presume that we are the stewards of the Earth, but that our job is to be stewards of a way of life that fosters harmony and balance with all living things.
Sherri graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine, magna cum laude and received her Juris Doctorate and a certificate in Indigenous People’s Law and Policy from the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law. She was a participant in both the American Indian Ambassador program, and the Udall Native American Congressional Internship program. In 2010, she received the Mahoney Dunn International Human Rights and Humanitarian Award, for research into Human Rights violations against Indigenous Peoples, and she is the 2015 recipient of the Spirit of Maine Award, for commitment and excellence in the field of International Human Rights. And, her contributions to her work have been memorialized through her inclusion in the Portrait Series, Americans Who Tell the Truth, by Robert Shetterly.
Sherri was a longtime advisor to the American Indian Institute’s Healing the Future Program and currently serves as an advisor to the Indigenous Elders and Medicine People’s Council of North and South America. She is a prolific writer, her work has been included in countless journal, anthologies and publications. Sherri also speaks and teaches on issues of Indigenous rights, environmental justice, peace building, strategic nonviolence and spiritual activism, throughout the United States and Canada. Her broad base of knowledge allows her to synthesize these many subjects into one cohesive whole, bringing in the legal, political, cultural and spiritual aspects surrounding a multitude of issues.
Sherri is a practicing attorney, working in private practice in the State of Maine. She has worked for the Solicitor of the United States Department of Interior in Washington, D.C.; Frederick, Peebles and Morgan Law Firm in Boulder, Colorado, and; as an educator for the Maine Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division. She also served as the staff Attorney for Pine Tree Legal’s Native American Unit. She is the Founding Director of the Land Peace Foundation, an organization dedicated to the global protection of Indigenous rights and the preservation of the Indigenous way of life. And, she is the cohost of Love (and revolution) Radio, a radio program that highlights heart-based activism and revolutionary spiritual change around the world.
You can support Sherri’s work by making a contribution: http://spiret.org/support/