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Students host Native Appreciation Day

Students from the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Native Voices group will host a day-long event meant to develop strong connections between higher education and the Native American/First Nations culture and traditions of the area’s indigenous populations.

The group will host the Third annual Native Appreciation Day from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13 in Wieden Hall. All interested students, faculty, staff, and members of the general public are welcome to attend and participate in this free event, which is being supported by Project Compass.

About 150 people attended the first year’s event, and about 400 attended last year’s event. Michael Best, president of Native Voices, said the student group is hoping to see the event continue to grow this year.

“We are hoping to show people around our campus, the County, and Maine what the Wabanaki people have to offer in regards to culture, as well as discuss a challenge we as Wabanaki people are faced with – the loss of language,” Best said. “The gathering, which includes drumming and dancing, is a way to bring Native peoples together in order to show potential students the kind of cultural connection UMPI has with its Native students, and, in the process, educate the non-native students, faculty, and staff, on the kinds of things Native peoples are engaged in. I, myself, get chills when I hear the sounds of the drums and my familiarity with the chants makes it very personal and very exciting.”

The event was conceived in late 2007 by David Perley, a councilor with the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, and a lecturer for the University of Maine, the University of New Brunswick, and St. Thomas University. Best said Native Voices is carrying on the tradition.

The event will serve as a way for the University and the Native community to collaborate and will include a morning blessing at 8:30 a.m., a talk by medicine man Rocky Bear of the Tobique First Nation at 9 a.m. on “Native Medicine and Tobacco Ties,” and a talk by Donald Soctomah, state representative for the Passamaquoddy Tribe at 10 a.m. about his book Remember Me: Tomah Joseph’s Gift to Franklin Roosevelt.

Following food and refreshments in Wieden Gymnasium from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a panel of speakers will discuss “Loss of Native Language in our Communities” from 1:15-3:15 p.m. Speakers include Donald Soctomah, Passamaquoddy from Motahkmikuk in Maine; Joe Wilmot, Mi’kmaq from Listuguj in Quebec; and David Perley, Maliseet from Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick. From 4-9 p.m., there will be a special Native Appreciation Gathering with drummers and dancers. Drum groups are scheduled to include Windy Grass and Four Winds.

Also during the day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Project Compass Ceramics Show will be open for viewing at 450 Main St., located near the Northeastland Hotel. This show features the work of several ceramics students who created clay vessels that depict Native American cultures and stories.

All are invited to attend this free event. For more information about this event or Native Voices, contact Native Voices President Michael Best at