BANGOR, Maine — Men, women and children — many of them wearing their colorful tribal regalia — danced to the beating drums Saturday at the 20th annual Wabanaki Spring Social.
There also were prayers and blessings from elders, most in the traditional tongues of the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet tribes, as well as fry bread and hull corn soup, and Native American crafts and other products.
An estimated 700 members of the region’s Wabanaki Confederacy and other tribes were expected to gather at the Anah Shrine for the event, Susan Romero of Wabanaki Health and Wellness, a key organizer of the social.
Passamaquoddy Steven Holmes of Bangor said he has been attending the yearly gatherings since they began. He noted that the spring social brings together Wabanaki elders, brothers, and sisters together from around Maine, New England, and eastern Canada.
“We look forward to it every year. It’s like a really big homecoming,” said Holmes, who among things has volunteered with Wabanaki Health and Wellness and service on the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission.
One of his cousins, Ann Paul, traveled from St. Mary’s First Nation in Fredericton, New Brunswick, to be on hand .
“I come down here just for this,” said Paul, who turned out in stunning red regalia that she made herself. Paul is of Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Micmac descent.
“It’s like spring. Everybody’s been all cooped up all winter and it’s just nice to get to see everybody, a homecoming, a celebration, all that stuff,” said Paul, who dances at powwows, along with her son.
Penobscot Nation elder Ruth Attean Johnson also has been involved in the event from the start, but she said she was unable to volunteer this year for health reasons.
“I’m full blood. I’m from the royal bloodline, actually,” she said, referring to her father’s ancestors. She said she, too, looks forward to the yearly gatherings.
“After a long winter, it brings people from all around here and you see friends you haven’t seen in five or six months,” she said. “It’s to me spiritual.”
She said she’s pleased that the number of young people taking part continues to grow.
Among that group were Mye and Sgoagani Taliman, who brought their children, Wasgotesq, 2, and Akeama, 3.
The couple said they want their children to grow up knowing about their culture. Mye Taliman, who is Navajo, is an eastern war dancer, while his wife, who is Micman, is a jingle dress dancer.
“They love dancing. Both their parents are dancers,” he said.
The Wabanaki Spring Social is the largest yearly community gathering in Maine for Wabanaki people. It is organized by Gedakina Inc. and Wabanaki Health and Wellness.
The event was created as a way to check in on community members, especially elders, after Maine’s hard winters, and as a way to support continued culture for Wabanaki people from New England, southern Quebec and the Atlantic Province, according to the event’s website.