HOULTON, Maine — A solemn crowd gathered at the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians’ reservation Monday afternoon as the tribe marked Native American Veterans Day in the state.
This was the inaugural event for the band, after Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill in April to establish June 21 of each year as Native American Veterans Day in Maine.
The bill’s primary sponsor, tribal Rep. Donald Soctomah of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, said the holiday would promote greater public awareness of American Indians’ contribution to national defense.
The bill was co-sponsored by tribal Rep. Wayne Mitchell of the Penobscot Nation.
As a whipping wind blew across the reservation, Maliseet veterans were flanked by their families, friends and fellow tribal members as they gathered outdoors around the tribe’s flagpole.
Brenda Commander, the chief of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, said during the ceremony that the day was a “holiday well-deserved.”
“It is a privilege to know and have known our tribal members who have served in the armed forces,” she told a crowd of approximately 30 attendees.
During the ceremony, Commander read the names of more than 45 tribal veterans who have served in various wars.
The crowd stood silently as the names were read and watched as the Four Winds Maliseet Women’s Drum Group played and sang a song to honor the veterans.
Commander said she believed the day was one that should be observed each year and would shine a spotlight on Native American veterans across the state. She added that it was important to recognize those who have served.
“We are very proud of our veterans,” she said Monday.