MADAWASKA, Maine — Gwen Nancy Deschaine uncovered a family secret when researching her ancestry.
Deschaine said her great-great-grandmother, while given the surname Cyr, was actually a descendant of the Mi’kmaq tribe.
Since the discovery, Deschaine has learned to make medicine bags and play native drums. When she prepares a meal, she places a plate of food at the north side of a tree as an offering to the spirits of her late relatives. She also performs smudges at people’s homes when asked, to keep bad energy at bay.
“And a lot of people ask,” she said.
Deschaine is the founding member and secretary of the Matuweh’s Porc-Epic Porcupine Group, whose aim is to maintain the Mi’kmaq heritage and traditions.
Her late brother, Clifford Deschaine, was just as welcoming to learn about his native American heritage, but died in 2017. He was also a founding member of the group.
“I’ve got to keep the traditions going,” Deschaine said.”We’ve got to keep it going. We’ve got to not hide anymore.”
Maine Senate President Troy Jackson helped Deschaine fill out the application to form the nonprofit corporation.
“My job is to help when I can. I am also supportive of tribal issues overall and she is trying to push the history and culture of Native Americans,” Jackson said.
The group has 27 members and plans to participate in the Acadian Festival parade in Madawaska this summer. Deschaine also wants to begin teaching members to sew regalia and native crafts.
Deschaine designed the group’s porcupine logo and has ordered T-shirts, baseball caps and utility pens to promote it.
All are welcome to join the group, regardless of whether they are of native American ancestry.
“It’s for everybody who wants to learn about our heritage and traditions,” Deschaine said.
Anyone interested in learning more can call 207-436-0972 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org