NEW GLOUCESTER — Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village played host for the eighth year to the Native American Summer Market and Demonstration on Saturday, and more than 24 different vendors and entertainers shared their works and educated others about their culture. 

The streets were lined with cars as hundreds of people gathered to see the items for sale and learn about Wabanaki culture from members of the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Micmac and Maliseet tribes.

Handmade baskets and dreamcatchers, syrups and jewelry and whittling and stone work were on display and available for sale.

Visitors shopped for handmade objects and art, and sat on the lawn to hear traditional Native American storytelling and see an electric performance from the Burnurwurbskek Singers and Wabanaki Dancers. 

Michael Graham, the event coordinator, was excited to see the festival come together for its eighth year. He described it as parallel paths of culture, and this gathering represents a blending of two of Maine’s oldest cultures.

“We thought it would be an important tradition to put into context with another living natural tradition,” he said about how the two cultures started to work together. “There are over 200 years of historical ties between the Shakers and Wabanaki. We learned herbal medicine and basket-making, shared lands, and exchanged goods and services.”

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Sabbathday Lake is the only active Shaker community left in the United States. 

The blending of cultures began with an exhibition about Shakers and Wabanaki called Crossing Paths.

“The name is cliche but appropriate,” Graham said. “It’s two separate and distinct cultures with many similarities — insular communities with (their) own practices and culture.”

Graham said that at the beginning of this festival, artists were reluctant to attend, unsure initially of its meaning and importance.

According to Graham, the festival is a way to help promote an important storyline while assisting Wabanaki and other tribes to reach a southern Maine market.

“This is a fabric and culture of Maine, a heritage we should all be proud exists,” he said. “There is much to be learned, appreciated and gained.”

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The festival is worthwhile on many levels, he said.

“It’s not just entertainment,” Graham said. “This has meaning and importance.” 

Brother Arnold Hadd, a member of the Shaker Village, said the festival being at Sabbathday Lake is important because of a long-shared history between the Shakers and the Wabanaki.

“This used to be some of the Wabanaki’s winter lands,” he said. “And tradition says we learned basket-making from them.”

He also said that over the past eight years, the festival has grown.

“It’s great to be able to facilitate the market,” he said. 

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Molly Neptune Parker, president of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, was also present, along with several family members. She wants to revive the alliance, to start fresh by passing it on the the next generation, she said.

George Neptune of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and Molly’s grandson, is a basket-maker and tribal leader.

“A lot of people see our world as just a continuation of tradition,” he said.

Neptune said that for him, it’s always meant more than that.

“Basket-making has always been a form of resistance,” he said. “It was a defiance to the colonies.”

Instead of conforming and learning a trade and going to school, many tribes took traditional activities and turned them into a way to survive in a cash-based economy.

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Graham explained that in Native-American culture, there is a full range of people across generations — a diverse community with different points of view, but the same shared identity. 

Barry Dana, another celebrated artist and former chief of the Penobscot Nation, said the festival is a great opportunity to educate people, and it helps promote Native American craftsmanship and preserve the culture.

“It’s nice to have people appreciate the work,” Dana said. “It ain’t just about the money.

“We’re reviving Penobscot and Wabanaki culture. I preserve it by living it,” he added. “What you see is a basket; what I see is the bark of the tree and the work to make it. It’s the same with the drums, same with the clothes.” 

Dana explained that the artwork is in their heart first.

“It’s all handmade,” he said. “That takes a long time to gather the natural materials and craft it.”


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