Reflections on MollyOckett Day
To the Editor:
Thank you to my generous community.
Last month, I was truly heartened to be from this western Maine community. The former Chief of the Penobscot Nation, Barry Dana, standing at the Bethel Green Gazebo, warmly thanked us all for the positive changes we’ve made in our annual celebration of the Abanaki healer MollyOckett.
There is a quote attributed to MollyOckett herself that says, “Remember as you pass through life’s journey, your greatest troubles will be found to result from ignorance.” I hope that she is smiling on us now that we are working on that ignorance. The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation process has brought much of our sad history into the light. I myself have learned things I never would have dreamed of: like MollyOckett lived during the time of a bounty on the heads of native people (she managed to escape it). That is what “redskin” is really referring to – taking the scalp of a native person and turning it in for 50 pounds.
Our willingness to expand our community celebration, and open the door to a native presence, is a testimony to the openness, kindness and generosity of the people who live here. My hope is that local citizens do not feel that anything has been taken away, but that this celebration, unique in Maine, is expanding to create even more meaning.
I also want to thank the three judges who helped us select the two best essays in the first annual MollyOckett Essay Contest: Raney Bench, Educational Curator of the ABBE Museum; James Francis, Cultural Historian for the Penobscot Nation; and Richard Blanco, Presidential Inaugural Poet. My thanks as well, to Robin Zinchuk of the Bethel Chamber who also deserves great credit for her leadership in helping to guide this expansion.
The most important thing to me about honoring MollyOckett, whose role in healing was so encompassing that local people never forgot her and commemorate her still, is we are also beginning to heal a long-standing injustice by including her descendants in this celebration.