The Fall foliage in Northeast Maine is some of the most beautiful in the country and for the people on the Passamaquoddy reservation, it’s a time to prepare for the upcoming winter months. It’s important for our youth taking part in Camp Vohokase to serve and give back to the community that has provided for them since birth.
The Vohokase Cultural Leadership Program believes strongly in giving back and its importance to becoming a great leader in your life and your community. You must first be willing to serve others to truly know what it means to become a great leader in life. Quarterly visits for the Vohokase Leadership Program are a good time for these young men in the program to help their neighbors, and to stop and reflect on these opportunities to do something good.
Our Camp Vohokase Junior Class consists of Isaiah, Xavier, and Dalton — and they have each played a vital role in these community service projects on the Reservation over the last three years. These young men now understand what it means to the elderly in their community to carry on lost traditions as part of the Passamaquoddy culture. These three young men have helped pick flag root for medicine, deliver frozen moose meat, and now restore the area surrounding a historic landmark of the Passamaquoddy.
This quarterly visit to Maine included a dose of community service as our young men took part in cleaning up trash along Split Rock Park, a place where the Passamaquoddy on the Reservation take part in tribal ceremonies and family gatherings. Dalton’s father, Ernie Neptune, was gracious enough to lead our clean-up efforts. He explained the Passamaquoddy culture to us as well as some teaching points we were unaware of. Passamaquoddy means: “people who spear pollock.” It’s a phrase that helps outsiders understand the efforts made by this indigenous tribe to provide for and survive on its own.
We are thankful for Ernie and the other elders in the community for educating our Light Foundation team about the customs and traditions of the Passamaquoddy. Native American Culture isn’t taught in our schools as it should be, so these hometown visits really teach the young men in our program who they are and where they come from. We also learn the significance of this shared history along the way.
By the end of the community service project, Isaiah, Xavier, and Dalton had a much better idea of the importance of their land – where they live, worship and give back to. They also understand more with each visit just how much has been sacrificed by their ancestors for them and for future generations. It’s critical for them to respect their Reservation and to care for it so that they can enjoy it for years to come. We hope efforts like these stick with the young men we mentor and that they continue to carry the torch of leadership forward even after they’ve graduated the Camp Vohokase program.