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Micmacs partner with city, local groups for Native American Heritage Month event

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, the Aroostook Band of Micmacs will collaborate with the city of Presque Isle, Wintergreen Arts Center, the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library, University of Maine at Presque Isle and Northern Maine Community College to host a weekend dedicated to Native stories, art, music, history and cultural pride.

From Friday, Nov. 1, to Sunday, Nov. 3, the Micmacs will welcome community members to a variety of events including art exhibitions, workshops and demonstrations, history presentations, a social honoring Native veterans, music and dance performances and a film discussion. 

Kim Smith, resource development and public information officer for the city of Presque Isle, thought of the idea for such events in 2018, after realizing that November is Native American Heritage Month and that the city had never held official celebrations with the Aroostook Band of Micmacs.

Smith hopes the Heritage Month events will continue in future years and help establish stronger partnerships with the Micmacs and the city. She encourages folks to attend the activities and learn more about how Micmac heritage has played a role in northern Maine.

It is vitally important to celebrate the existence of our local tribe, especially as we head into Maine’s 200th anniversary of statehood next year. The indigenous people were here thousands of years before Maine’s settlers came,” Smith said. It is impossible to accurately tell the history of Maine without including Wabanaki history.”

On Nov. 1, David Raymond, chair of NMCC’s arts and sciences department, will present a lecture titled “A Transcendental Encounter in Maine Woods: Joe Polis and his Influence on Henry David Thoreau” at noon in the Edmunds Library. That evening UMPI’s Reed Art Gallery, Edmunds Library and the Micmac museum at 7 Northern Road will participate in the First Friday Downtown Art Walk with exhibitions of Native artwork. 

The displays will be open to the public the next day from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. at UMPI, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at NMCC and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Micmac museum. The exhibitions will feature artwork such as paintings, baskets, beadwork and porcupine quill embroidery.

Also on Nov. 1, UMPI and the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition will present a screening of the feature film “Wind River” at 6 p.m., followed by a group discussion on the film’s themes. Directed by Taylor Sheridan, “Wind River” follows an FBI agent and seasoned game hunter’s investigation into a murder on a Native American reservation in Wyoming. The film is rated R and not intended for children under 18.

The majority of Heritage Month events will occur on Saturday, Nov. 2. Ann Cushman, local genealogy expert, will host a workshop 9 a.m.-noon on Native American genealogy at the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library. Micmac artist Sipsis Paul will lead Native-themed arts and crafts workshops for children and adults from 11 a.m. to noon at Wintergreen.

At UMPI, science faculty member David Putnam will give a lecture on local archaeological discoveries related to Maine’s Wabanaki tribes from 9 to 10 a.m. John Dennis, Micmac cultural director, will lead a talk on Native storytelling from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. James Francis, director of the Penobscot Nation’s cultural and historical preservation office, will discuss places in Maine whose names come from Wabanaki cultures. 

All presentations will take place at UMPI’s Campus Center in the multi-purpose room.

Other activities scheduled for Nov. 2 include reading circles for children and adults at NMCC’s Edmunds Library from noon to 2 p.m., basket and beadworking demonstrations, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and performances from the Micmac Women’s Drum Group and Micmac dancers from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at UMPI’s Campus Center. Starr Kelly, curator of education for the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, will lead a presentation at 9 a.m. for educators on how to incorporate Wabanaki studies into their curriculum.

All events are free and open to the public except for a Sip and Solder Feather Workshop at Glass With Class in Presque Isle on Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students will learn how to create a stained-glass feather-shaped suncatcher. Seats are limited to 20 people and the cost is $40 per person. To register contact Glass With Class at (207) 760-0611 or christajunkinsgwc@yahoo.com.

On Sunday, Nov. 3, Micmac youth will host a social for Native American veterans from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at UMPI’s Campus Center.

Dennis said that he hopes people take advantage of the Heritage Month celebrations as opportunities to learn more about Micmac culture from the perspective of folks from that community.

“There’s so much more to our culture than just basketmaking and beadwork. It’s also about how we live,” Dennis said. “I encourage people to come and take a look at the diversity that’s in our culture.”

For information on the Native American Heritage Month events, contact Smith at (207) 760-2722 or ksmith@presqueisleme.us.

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