May 24, 2019

Tribes to gather for weeklong event

The Passamaquoddy Tribe will host Wabanaki Confederacy 2000 starting at sunrise Sunday at the Penobscot Nation on Indian Island.

The Wabanaki Confederacy was formed generations ago to celebrate the Wabanaki people’s common heritage. More than 1,000 tribal members from various areas of the northeast United States and Canada including Maine, Massachusetts, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, will participate.

The weeklong event continues at Indian Township in Washington County on Tuesday with the arrival of runners from Indian Island, near Old Town. They will carry the sacred fire.

“The runners will be made up of 20 Penobscot, 20 Passamaquoddy and … 10 Micmac and Maliseets,” said state Tribal Rep. Donald Soctomah, one of the organizers.

The runners will be met at the headwaters of the St. Croix River watershed by about 30 tribal canoeists from Indian Township and its sister community at Pleasant Point as well as some from the Penobscot Nation at Indian Island.

During the week, activities will include sunrise ceremonies, talking circles, sweat lodges and drumming, as well as dancing every evening and workshops that emphasize cultural and spiritual enhancement.

Tribal leaders also will hold political round-table discussions.

“The main focus of the Wabanaki Confederacy will be to re-establish trust, unity and cooperation between community members, tribal leaders in order to formulate and reinstate ways to ensure the protection of our individual rights and the rights of our respective tribes,” Soctomah said, quoting from the group’s statement of goals.

Soctomah said the ties among the tribes hearken back to a time when they traded with one another.

Marie Tomah, a member of the Penobscot Nation, said the Wabanaki Confederacy is also important because it continues a historical link among tribal groups.

“There are a total of 28 native communities,” Soctomah said. “There are five major tribes involved with the Wabanaki Confederacy: Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Micmac, Maliseet and Abanaki … of Quebec and northern Vermont.”

Organizer Jake Lola said an emotional connection is expected to evolve from the event. “Something spiritual happens when Native people get together. … For me it’s spiritual, political and very emotional,” Lola said.

In addition to the social gatherings, activities will include discussions of such issues as the effectiveness of Native American education programs, drug abuse, aboriginal rights and Canadian land claims.

The Canadian land claims issue, Soctomah said, will be one of the more important topics discussed.

About five years ago, the Schoodic Band of the Passamaquoddy began a battle with the Canadian government to achieve recognition as an independent tribe and lay claim to traditional lands in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

“I see the Canadian government is trying to settle the land claims settlement in Canada [with other Native American groups], and they are not acknowledging the Passamaquoddy,” Soctomah said. “We don’t recognize the international border, and for the Canadian government to act like that is the Berlin Wall. This year we are going to demand that the Canadian government recognize us,” Soctomah said.

But the gathering also will emphasize links between young and old.

“There will be drummers, singers, dancers of all ages, from the youngest drummers that we have in the community to the oldest. I think it is really going to be a good time for all of us,” Lola said.

Other activities designed for children will include lessons in archery, flute and canoeing, as well as wellness walks.

There also will be adult workshops. “We have an instructor coming to teach an all-Native dice game called woltes,” Soctomah said. “It is probably one of our oldest games,” he added.

A Native American instructor will teach participants how to build star lodges.

“It entails building a lodge and orienting it to a star constellation in a way that allows you to tell legends about the constellation, ” Soctomah said.

Activities will end June 25 with the giving of traditional gifts to those who made the weeklong event a reality.

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