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Maliseets hold annual Recognition Day celebration

HOULTON, Maine – Native Americans from throughout southern Aroostook County and western New Brunswick gathered at the tribal lands of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Saturday for the first time in three years to celebrate Recognition Day.

Held at the tribal grounds located on Lowery Road, the 42nd annual Recognition Day began as tribal members gathered for a sunrise ceremony. Starting at 11 a.m., a smudging and pipe ceremony was held followed by a grand entry featuring tribal members dressed in native apparel, drumming and dancing.

“This is always a special time for us to celebrate our culture and us as a people,” said Clarissa Sabattis, tribal chief for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. “I think everyone looks forward to this event all year.”

Last year, the event was canceled due to COVID, while in 2020 the tribe held a virtual/drive-thru event with programs set up throughout Maliseet Village and livestreamed on social media.

Participation was down somewhat compared to previous years. Sabattis attributed the smaller attendance to the fact that the tribe had to reschedule the event at least twice due to weather. In the past, Recognition Day was held in September.

“We had to push this event out a couple of times and we had some difficulties in scheduling because other tribes were also holding events,” Sabattis explained. “Last weekend, the winds were just too strong to do this safely.”

Saturday’s event saw a flow of attendees witnessing traditional basket making, browsing jewelry and other articles of Native American goods available at vendor booths. Participants enjoyed food, children’s games and bingo.

“I love that we see so many young people here today,” Sabattis said. “I love seeing the homemade skirts and the dancing. They get to experience some of our culture that they may not see as much at home.”

Recognition Day is held each year to commemorate the anniversary of HBMI becoming a federally recognized tribe. On Oct. 10, 1980, the federal government officially recognized the Houlton Band of Maliseets as a Native American tribe.

HOULTON, Maine — October 1, 2022 — Laurie Nicholas from Tobique First Nation in Woodstock, New Brunswick performs a ceremonial drum song Saturday at the Houlton Band of Maliseets’ 42nd annual Recognition Day celebration in Houlton. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine — October 1, 2022 — Bonnie Murphy was one of many vendors on hand for the 42nd annual Recognition Day celebration for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Saturday. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine — October 1, 2022 — Wambli Martinez (left) and Joseph Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians are dressed in ceremonial apparel for dancing at Saturday’s 42nd annual HBMI Recognition Day event. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine — October 1, 2022 — A collection of Native American crafts and jewelry on display in one of the many vendor booths at the Houlton Band of Maliseets 42nd annual Recognition Day celebration Saturday in Houlton. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine — October 1, 2022 — Annokquus Brown fixes the hair of Sipsis Paul at the 42nd annual Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Recognition Day celebration Saturday in Houlton. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine — October 1, 2022 — Tribal Chief Clarissa Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians is dressed in ceremonial garb for the 42nd annual Recognition Day celebration in Houlton Saturday. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine — October 1, 2022 — Gabriel Frey of Indian Township hammers on an ash log used to make traditional Native American baskets at the Houlton Band of Maliseets’ 42nd annual Recognition Day celebration in Houlton.  (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

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