HOULTON, Maine — It has been a productive year for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians.
In July, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the tribe a $2 million allocation to improve housing on Maliseet land. The tribe also plans to establish a $2 million health center on their land to build upon health and wellness services already offered to its members.
These developments and more will be on the minds of tribal members as they attend their 29th annual Recognition Day Celebration today. The festivities run all day and are open to the community as well as tribal members.
The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians has been federally recognized as a government by the U.S. since October 1980. This year, as they do every year, Maliseets will gather on tribal lands for a fete that includes a sacred fire, dancing, singing, drumming and a traditional feast, Tribal Chief Brenda Commander said Thursday.
This year’s theme, Celebrating Native American Veterans, will honor those who have served in the military.
“We are so pleased to host this event every year and to see how it has grown,” she said. “Every year we come up with a theme for the event, and this year we chose to honor our veterans.
“When thinking about a theme, we realized that sometimes people forget about veterans and all that they have done for this country,” said Commander. “It just seems like the right time to honor Maliseets who have served.”
The theme was proposed after a tribal ceremony held in June, where the Maliseets celebrated their inaugural Native American Veterans Day.
Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill in April to establish June 21 of each year as Native American Veterans Day in Maine.
Commander said organizers felt that Recognition Day Celebration served as another opportunity to shine the spotlight on Maliseet veterans.
The chief said she expects a large crowd to attend the celebration this year
“This started out so small,” she said. “The first Recognition Day started out on our front lawn with just a few picnic tables. Now we have dancing and drumming and we will have crafts. There is more awareness of our culture now, and we want people to come join us for this celebration. We are inviting everyone to come enjoy our culture, our dancing, our language.”
An opening ceremony will be held at 10 a.m., followed by Grand Entry at 1 p.m. and a traditional feast at 5 p.m.
Bingo and other games will take place all day, and native crafters will have artifacts on display and for sale.
Most of the events will take place in Bell Road Field, and the supper will be held in the tribe’s gymnasium.