Indian Days at Pleasant Point Open Window into Tribe’s Traditions

Lifting their oars in solidarity are the members of the Passamaquoddy tribe that participated in the traditional canoe trip from Indian Township to Pleasant Point for Indian Days in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Francis).

By Lura Jackson


With the second week in August comes the Passamaquoddy Indian Days celebration at Pleasant Point. Now in its 52nd year, the festival sees a series of events taking place throughout August 10th-14th, each of them offering participants and viewers alike a close window into the traditional and modern lives of the Passamaquoddy tribe. 

“Our Indian Day Celebrations are about honoring our traditions, culture, and teachings,” said organizer Tina Downing. “Together we celebrate the Passamaquoddy ways which have been passed down for generations upon generations with a new age flare.” Downing expressed that all are welcomed to attend the weekend celebration. 

As has been the custom for the past 16 years, this year’s festival will open with a canoe trip from Motahkomikuk, Indian Township, by tribal members. In times past, the tribe would typically spend their summers at Sipayik, or Pleasant Point, harvesting the ocean’s natural bounty, and spend their winters inland at sites like Matahkomikuk hunting caribou and other big game. Places like Devil’s Head offered those traveling by canoe a place to rest and wait for the tide to shift. Appropriately, the canoeists traveling to Sipayik spend the night at Devil’s Head. They will be arriving at Sipayik on August 11th.

Attendees awaiting the canoeists can head to a health fair held in the Passamaquoddy Youth and Recreation Building between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and watch the Sipayik pageant at 6 p.m. The pageant is open to all ages with categories including Grand Sipayik for those 55 and older. At 8 p.m., don’t miss the social with multiple drumming groups at Kcipeskiyak [“at Marsh Pond”] Ball Field, or in the Bingo Hall if it rains. 

On Saturday, the vendor booths will open at 9 a.m. in the ballfield. Expect to see only authentic pieces from the many talented Passamaquoddy craftspeople with no faux or plastic wares allowed. The annual Diabetes Health Walk will begin at 10 at the Health Center. At noon, there will be a horseshoe tournament at Split Rock, while kids’ games will be ongoing until 2 p.m. at the ball field. The games are coordinated in part by Project Launch and Gedakina (meaning “Our world, a way of life” in the tribe’s language). Between 1 and 3 p.m., one of the hallmark events will be held in the ballfield: an intertribal session of singing and dancing. Everyone is encouraged to attend and wear their finest regalia. The Little Eagles will be the Host Drum. At 3, the warrior challenge at Split Rock officially starts. After that, relax and enjoy a meal until 9 when the fireworks over Passamaquoddy Bay will begin.

On Sunday, the vendors will once again open their booths at 9 a.m. At 11, a community blessing that all are welcome to will be held in the ballfield. Between noon and 5 p.m., ceremonial dances will be held to demonstrate the tribe’s time-honored method of expression and communication. Elder Wayne Newell will be the M.C. and The Little Eagles will be the Host Drum. At 5, enjoy a traditional meal at Beatrice Rafferty cafeteria.

As the celebration closes, a golf tournament at the St. Croix Country Club rounds out the communal festivities on Monday. To register for the tournament, call 454-8875.

The Indian Days festival at Pleasant Point gives tribal members and guests a chance to participate and observe traditional and modern Passamaquoddy culture. (Submitted photo)