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EAC to Host 'Stories We Tell' Festival, Spanning Five Months

Updated: Jun 10




Stories provide people with maps for living and by sharing our stories with others we pass on both a community’s history and its values.

Eastport’s “Stories We Tell Festival” will present stories from Maine in a dynamic five-month event that will allow storytellers to share their tales of place, culture, and history in multiple ways. 

“We know that many stories are ancient and they’re meaningful,” says John Bear Mitchell, one of the festival storytellers and a lecturer in Wabanaki studies at the University of Maine. “It’s really important we continue to tell them because if we don’t, we deprive the future generations.”

Presented by the Eastport Arts Center in collaboration with the Sipayik Museum and The Quoddy Tides, the festival begins on Saturday, June 22, at 7 pm with a free storytelling event by Jo Radner, an internationally known folklorist and professor emerita from American University. Radner’s performance focuses on the 1947 fire in Brownfield, Maine.  

Radner’s presentation is preceded that day by a workshop on eliciting memory from 1-3 pm. The cost is $10, and students must register in advance, via this site, or by email to workshops@eastportartscenter.org.

Other events in the festival include storytellings by John Bear Mitchell, on Saturday, July 13, at 7 pm; the Sipayik Museum’s Dwayne Tomah, Passamaquoddy Language Keeper, on Saturday, August 17, at 7 pm; and internationally recognized storyteller Antonio Rocha, on Saturday, September 15 at 7 pm.

Mitchell’s stories will focus on the traditional stories told by Wabanaki people regarding Espun, the trickster raccoon.  “He’s mischievous and does things that nobody else does, and he likes to make up stories and go to different places,” Mitchell explained.  

Tomah will share traditional Passamaquoddy stories, including those from the times of residential schools, when Native children were taken from their families and housed in government- or church-run schools.  

The story told by Rocha, an award-winning international folklorist, is of the Malaga, a slave ship built in Brunswick, Maine, in 1832.  Although it was illegal to traffic African slaves to the United States at that time, the Malaga engaged in the illicit trade for years.  

The festival concludes on Saturday, October 5 at 7 pm, with a StorySlam revolving around stories told by local residents.

All these stories are crucial for society to engage in and remember.

“Everybody has stories but too often we just don’t tell them,” Mitchell said. “But if your hoard stories, and you hoard information, nobody else gets to share in their beauty.”

To know ourselves, he continued, we need to know our stories.

“Stories inform us about everything – history to culture. They tell us who we are and how we’re shaped.  They’re our past, our present, and our future.” 

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