Burnurwurbskek Singers enjoy reconnecting with Sisters of Mercy at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. Nick Bear put his arm around Sister Janet, his teacher of many years ago. L to R: Sister Maureen Wallace, Nick Francis, Sister Mary Fasulo, Sister Ellen Turner, Nick Bear, Ron Bear, Sister Janet Campbell, Sister AnneMarie Kiah, and Sister Mary George O’Toole. Missing from the photo was drummer Dean Francis. Photo: Kimberly Post.
The Center for Faith and Spirituality and the Center for Sustainable Communities at Saint Joseph’s College were pleased to welcome The Burnurwurbskek Singers — the Keepers of the Penobscot Drum — to campus in October to share their traditional music and experiences of life on reservations today with students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the public. President James Dlugos officially welcomed them to campus with gifts of blankets. Several Sisters of Mercy attended the event, which led to much fond reminiscing about shared family history and the Sisters’ time spent serving in several Wabanaki communities across the state.
Sister Mary George O’Toole commented, “Any Sister who was ever missioned to the Indian Reservations here in Maine (and this all started as early as 1879) leaves with a deep love for the people.”
After the event, President Dlugos and Kimberly Post, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Communities, invited the drummers to tour the College’s pilot hydroponics facility, the first Freight Farm in the state of Maine. This conversation addressed issues of food insecurity and availability of fresh produce on reservations in Maine and the innovative ways that that could be addressed.
Representing Maine’s Wabanaki people (i.e. Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac tribes), the Burnurwurbskek Singers have been drumming for nearly 25 years, performing traditional northeast woodland songs and intertribal songs. These songs have been passed down from generation to generation. They have performed at many national events for Native American organizations.
Dean Francis talks about reservation life today with the crowd.