Truth, Healing and Change. High School students Skye Fournier and Hunter Cline at Gould Academy wrote the winning essays about the truth of why we still celebrate the Abanaki woman MollyOckett. REACH’s (Maine-Wabanaki Reconciliation, Engagement, Advocacy, Change and Healing) educational activities in the Bethel Community have created positive change, and healing has occurred in the creation of this new tradition of the Essay Challenge that replaces the former “Miss MollyOckett.” Both were juniors. The judges were Jennifer Pictou, Micmac Educational Curator, Abbe Museum, James Francis, Cultural Historian Penobscot Nation, Richard Blanco, Presidential Inaugural Poet. The Essay Challenge Winners rode in the parade on MollyOckett Day, each received $350 and will meet the former chief of the Penobscot Nation, Barry Dana. Their essays will be archived at the Bethel Historical Society.
MollyOckett Day: a Commemoration of One of Bethel’s Heroes
The spirit of MollyOckett must live on through the habitants of the Androscoggin area of Maine because MollyOckett is Maine’s symbol of hope, healing, and strength as a Native American woman who dedicated her life to serving others.
MollyOckett experienced the hardships and terror inflicted upon the Abenakis during the French and Indian War, and it’s important to know the truth about what happened to everybody involved. Celebrating MollyOckett guarantees the accurate truth about the past is carried on for generations. MollyOckett is an example of how many Native Americans chose to live a life of peace, avoiding the violence surrounding them. This fact has been misconstrued for many years, as Indians have been portrayed often as violent warriors. During the French and Indian War, Susanna Johnson and her family were captured by the Indians. Terrified by what was going to happen to her, she recalled the event in later years with a calm disposition. Johnson said, “We expected a severe beating… but we were agreeably disappointed when we found that each Indian only gave us a tap on the shoulder” (Brumwell 43). Susanna’s experience with the Native Americans challenges the belief that was still alive in Bethel until a few years ago. When a Wabanaki Indian watched the Bethel parade in 2012 with Arla Patch, she was horrified to see a float harboring children in face paint, whooping and hollering, holding tomahawks. This was how Bethel saw the Wabanakis at that point, and Patch knew that she had to educate the town of Bethel about the truth. Since then, her dedication to revealing MollyOckett is important to the town because the community needs to understand what life was truly like for the Native Americans who once lived where we do now, so we can honor and appreciate them.
MollyOckett was important to Bethel and the neighboring towns because she served as a bridge between the white settlers and the Abenakis during a momentous time. She was a role model of peace and good will for everybody in the New England area. She was respected by everybody, and it’s important to celebrate her grace and power as a Native American woman. Former headmaster of Gould Academy, Nathaniel T. True said “That she possessed more than ordinary ability among those of her sex and people is evident. She gained the respect and even the love of whites at a time of life when the mere mention of an Indian was wont to kindle up in the breasts of white men anything but pleasing emotions” [Sic] (Dr. Nathaniel T. True). During the French and Indian war, the tension between the white settlers and Indians was prominent. MollyOckett helped the white settlers when it was needed, but she never strayed from her roots as an Abenaki Native American. Gale Courey Toensing, a reporter from Indian Country Today, said that MollyOckett “was called a bridge between the worlds of the Abenaki and the white settlers and was once referred to as “Androscoggin Valley’s Florence Nightingale” (Toensing). MollyOckett was as a Christian Indian “Doctress” who was committed to healing any individual who was in need. One person was Hannibal Hamlin, who later grew up to be Abraham Lincoln’s first vice president. MollyOckett not only helped to heal many people around the area, but she did so even after the fall of Quebec and the burning of Odanek by Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers in 1759 that scared her for her life. Her return home after the Treaty of Paris was signed, marked her dedication to healing others.
MollyOckett was a healer during confusing times for Native Americans, yet she continued to “walk a straight line,” not faltering from her beliefs. Tumkin Hagen, the leader of the last Indian Raid of August 2-3, 1781, was to kill Colonel Clark. MollyOckett didn’t believe in this, so she went against what was expected of her as a Native American and saved the man’s life. Her courage to put herself in danger by warning the man was seen as an act of humanity. Actions such as this make MollyOckett a role model for every citizen of the Androscoggin area. The Bethel community believes that by celebrating MollyOckett, we commemorate all she has done for this land and the people who lived here. During the presentation from members of “Truth and Reconciliation,” we learned that some of the stories and the way MollyOckett was represented during the MollyOckett Days festival was inaccurate. It is important to celebrate MollyOckett to educate the Androscoggin area about who MollyOckett really was, and how she dedicated her life to healing the people of her community.
Celebrating the life of MollyOckett is important to honoring the valuable things that she did for the people surrounding her. As a Native American woman during the French and Indian War, she contributed to the success of the white settlers in addition to her people. Frequently MollyOckett would travel to Newry and Riley Plantation, where white settlers lived. She taught Martha Russell ways of Native Americans, showing she didn’t want to see the white settlers leave this area. By helping the white settlers adapt and learn to live in a new world, she became a role model for how to treat people. Today, her capacity for goodwill serves as one of the reasons we still celebrate her, and strive to educate everybody in the community about how powerful of a woman MollyOckett was.
MollyOckett Day is an event that is important to the community of Bethel, not just on the day of the festival but for the entire year. Cultural Assimilation of the native americans was a tragic time for the Indians, and it is hard for the Bethel community to hear about it now, many years later. By celebrating MollyOckett, it is ensured that the people affected by the horrors of the past can move on, and as a community, Bethel will be able to heal from the past and look forward to our future. Like the Androscoggin Valley’s Florence Nightingale served as a bridge between two divergent cultures, MollyOckett Day is the bridge between accepting the truth about the past, and using the knowledge to grow and learn as a community. “The truth is our resilience, strength, humor and intelligence have saved us from extinction, will enable us to heal from generational trauma and will restore our culture so we may thrive as the distinct, unique, beautiful people the Creator meant for us to be.” (Esther Attean, American’s Who Tell The Truth).
It is important to celebrate MollyOckett Day to serve the purpose of recognition of the damage and impact the white man caused the to the Native American culture and society. The white man forcefully converted natives to Christianity and calling MollyOckett by her Catholic given name gives perspective on the control and force of the Europeans. It is important that Americans recognize the heroic acts of MollyOckett and other brave natives. Our respect is deserved by the Abenaki tribes which were attacked and slaughtered by Major Rodgers (AKA; the White Devil). Through all of the hardship that was caused to MollyOckett she continued to bless all men and women with food, provisions, crafts, and skills. She helped anyone in need and her courage and kind heart still affects the men and women of Bethel today.
The Abenaki deserve respect for the damages caused upon their society. The Abenaki Indians were forced to pick a side in a war that was not theirs. They treated the earth with respect and lived true lives. To the Abenaki the most important thing was nature. When the white man came to take and destroy all of it, the Abenaki suffered. Forced into the French side, they were then slaughtered by the British. A sad tale of the destruction of a tribe by a man known as the “White Devil.” The attack killed most of the tribe while “MollyOckett witnessed… and” she, “survived by secreting herself in some bushes nearby”(Catherine S-C. Newell; Patricia Stewart; Pauline T. Bartow; and Bunny McBride). MollyOckett Day allows people to pay respect to this fallen society that was caught in the crossfire. Major Rodger’s ruthlessness and brutality is recorded through the novel, “White Devil.” Historians say that “when Rodgers struck, Canada was fighting for its very survival” (Brumwell 206). Rodgers showed no mercy towards the native people and treated them and their land with complete disrespect and disregard. The celebration of MollyOckett Day draws upon the history of the natives. It gives the citizens of Bethel a chance to show condolence. It is a way of saying that the Abenaki have earned the respect of everyone in this community and that we all strive to be like MollyOckett and have a strong connection with what’s important.
MollyOckett’s courage and kindness towards all men serves as an example to all the people of Bethel. When her whole culture was demolished in front of her eyes she did not seek revenge or more blood. She only sought to use her talents to help people in need. She was a skilled medicine women, hunter, and craftswomen. She offered her services to men of all race even after what happened to her people. She serves as a symbol of compassion and kindness. Henry Tufts found himself unable to feed his family and on his trip to Bethel he received money from MollyOckett while “she rallied him on the score of his coming to borrow of the poor Indians, who (she said) were generally despised by the white people”(Tufts). Although the Indians were poor and sought vengeance with the white man, she went out of her way and put trust into this white man and helped him when he was in a time of need. MollyOckett is someone that we would all be proud to be like. The annual celebration of her life reminds us of her heroics and compassion. She will always be remembered by the people of Bethel and she will be looked upon as a role model.