Wesget Sipu, Inc. receive ANA grant

15 years ago
By Marie Danielle Leblanc, BSN

    The Wesget Sipu, Inc. is a non-profit organization for the St. John Valley area. The organization is a group of families, mostly living in the St. John Valley, who follow the Native American cultural traditions of their Maliseet and Micmac heritage. On Sept. 29, 2009, the Wesget Sipu, Inc. was awarded $146,254 for the first year of a three-year funding from the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS)/Administration for Children and Families (ACF)/Administration for Native Americans (ANA)-Social Economic Development Strategies (SEDS) Grant program. The goal of the project is for the organization’s social-economic development under Native American Cultural Preservation Activities.

ImageContributed photo
    Jacob Ouellette receives instruction from Edmond Theriault.

    Our project title is: “The Preservation of the Ancestral and Cultural Heritage of the Maliseet and Micmac People known as the Wesget Sipu of the St. John Valley, Maine.” We are attempting to capture and preserve our traditional activities, such as snowshoe making, native cooking, drumming, dance, basketry, hunting, fishing, and medicinal uses of plant medicines for self-sustaining endeavors. We want to improve our community by encouraging our leadership through promoting Native traditions, providing cultural preservation activities, encouraging economic development, maintaining cultural heritage, and offering opportunities for social development. The Wesget Sipu Council is overseeing this complete project.
    The Project began on Sept. 30, 2009 to accomplish three goals. These are SEDS goals for social development and cultural preservation. The first is to digitize our families’ genealogies through computerizing our current families’ files. Secondly, we will research and document our Native American ancestral heritage. Finally, we will be meeting with our Elders and youth to preserve our culture by documenting our traditions through our Native Cultural activities.
    As project manager, I will oversee activities and goals of this project along wiht Tammy Nadeau, our financial manager. We are both under the guidance of Chief Emeritus Carrol Theriault. Louise Latvis, project assistant, will be assisting with the accomplishments of our three project goals. Gail Gagnon is our current Tribal genealogist, who will work with Jeanita Theriault to verify and digitize our families’ genealogy. Belkacem Taieb, our tentative anthropologist, will be working with Sean Miller, research assistant, and Antoine Gagnon, Tribal historian, to research and preserve 6,000 Maliseet and Micmac cultural documents related to the St. John Valley. The perseveration of the articles and documents will be done by the Museum Archivist at the University of Maine at Fort Kent Acadian Archives. Brian Theriault and Joseph Davis are managing our youth-Elder program, scheduling interested youth volunteers to form year long apprenticeship programs with our Wesget Sipu Elders. At this time, they have started with basketry, being shown how to find black ash trees, make the strips, and weave the strips into baskets.
    Since the beginning of the Project, Edmond and Joan Theriault worked with the youth on basketry. For January, the activity scheduled on the second, third, and fourth Saturdays is regalia making. Cora Caron will be the Elder working with the youth with regalia. Natalia Bragg-Taylor will begin teaching about plant medicines on Jan. 30th. On Wednesday afternoon’s from 4-6 p.m., a youth talking circle is scheduled. This is a time for youth to learn about traditions and culture from the Elders in our community. These activities are open to all tribal members and the general community. Community participation is important for the success of our project’s goals.
    We are thankful for the community support we are receiving from local businesses. Organizations such as Rural Resource Conservation and Development, Northern Maine Development Commission, and the Acadian Archives at UMFK have formed leverage partnerships as community support for this project. Our hope is that this project will instill pride and a sense of identity for the community and to our Native American People.
    Marie Danielle Leblanc, BSN, is program manager for the Wesget Sipu, Inc ANA/SEDS project. She can be reached at PO Box 267, Fort Kent, ME 04743; by phone at 834-9040; or via e-mail at Ditearrow@aol.com