Indian Days Festival Celebrates Native Cultures

A visiting guest from the Navajo Nation passes by in traditional attire at Indian Days at Indian Township. (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette)

By Jarod Farn-Guillette

With weather bright, the sun glistening off Big Lake, community members, visitors from near and afar, native and non, joined together at the grounds of the tribal offices at Indian Township for the annual Indian Days Celebration, held on July 22nd and 23rd. An upbeat atmosphere, with messages of an equally bright future for Passamaquoddy people and friends alike, was the general theme of the festivities. 

Chief William Nicholas' opening speech highlighted the uniqueness of Passamaquoddy culture and its historic and traditional connection to the St. Croix River. With representatives from both sides of the contemporary political border, the United States and Canada, a symbol of the long and important history that peoples have with the land was even more evident by the attendance of members from New Brunswick's Passamaquoddy nation. 

Under a large tent, drummers gathered and started their ancient songs and rhythms. Two up and coming dancers, brothers Quoquis (which means “fox” in the Passamaquoddy language) and Lennox, joined by their teacher, Joseph Dana, impressed the crowd with their Grass Dancing. The modern dance style – an intertribal mainstay, according to Indian Country Today – traces its origins as a practical method for preparing an area of high grass for ceremony and gathering, as well as to a warrior’s connection to prairie grass. The distinctive yarn worn by the dancers, swaying with every meticulous timed step, evokes grass moving in the wind1. The dance is both beautiful to watch and deep in meaning. The young dancers at the event carried on a wonderful tradition with grace and style. 

After the Grass Dancing was completed, members joined in for opening ceremony dances, traditional smudging and prayers, facing to each of the four cardinal directions. Later in the day, all veterans were asked to join in to honor those that serve. Along with dancing, awards were given to people that advanced the Passamaquoddy people. Presented with handmade baskets, several community members and friends were presented for their commitments to the people. 

In addition to dancing, drumming, singing and honoring people and history, vendors also lined the grounds, offering a range of homemade edibles and refreshments to amusing activities for the many youth that were present. With families and friends, young and young at heart, assembled together on a perfect July day in Maine, the bucolic scene was an enjoyment for all. Guests from near and afar were also able to purchase Native crafts and artisanal works. A member of the Navajo Nation was also at Indian Days at Indian Township, sharing his culture, and, along with Mi'kmaq and Maliseet songs, many Eastern tribes' cultures were celebrated this day. 

If you missed Indian Days at Indian Township, then you missed much, but Sipayik will host their Indian Days in August, so there is still a chance to share in the rich Passamaquoddy culture of the region. Mark your calendar for next year's Indian Days at Indian Township, and come enjoy the homemade beans and learn a bit about the Indigenous peoples and history of the region, together. 

1. https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/origins-of-the-grass-dance/

Brothers Quoquis (far left) and Lennox (middle) perform the Grass Dance with Joseph Dana during the opening ceremony at Indian Days at Indian Township. (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette)