PLEASANT POINT — With drums used by their ancestors pounding rhythmically in the background, youngsters at the Beatrice Rafferty Elementary School will observe Vision Day on Wednesday to celebrate their heritage and the future of Sipayik, the reservation they call home.
Grace Davis, bilingual teacher at the reservation, said she believed it is vitally important for the youngsters to celebrate their culture.
“Grace has been talking with the children about what is important in their native culture and what they as Native American children should share with the adults in the community,” said Sister Maureen Wallace, school-wide coordinator.
Armed with posters depicting their culture, and with some dressed in traditional native clothing, the youngsters will start at the Catholic church on the reservation and march through the community to the cemetery where many of their ancestors are buried. Next they will walk to the Nation Grounds, the tribe’s historical burial ground, where a fire, considered sacred, will be burning. More than 150 youngsters from day care level to grade 8 will participate.
At the Nation Grounds they will offer tobacco to the fire. Tobacco is greatly honored and central to their culture. “If they pray with the tobacco in their hand, the tobacco preserves the hope that they have. When you put it in the sacred fire, the tobacco will carry it to the creator,” explained Lori Keezer, a parent and secretary at the school.
After listening to their elders at the Nation Grounds, the youngsters will return to the school to participate in a friendship dance.
Kristine Moore who said she is “eight turning nine,” said she looked forward to Wednesday because it would be a day to think about her heritage.
Dan Francis, 8, said he would like to see the “little people” during Vision Day. According to Passamaquoddy legend, the “little people” are small fun-loving people who the Passamaquoddy believe are responsible for mysterious occurrences on the reservation. They are considered a good omen. Francis believes he knows what they look like. “They are short and they are hairy and they wear masks,” he said.
This is the first time the school has organized such an event, and Davis said she hoped it would become an annual event each spring when the Earth renews itself.