Traditional Arts Fellow
Watie Akins

Watie Akins

Watie Akins, from Brewer, is the Maine Arts Commission’s 2014 Traditional Arts Fellow and a Penobscot Elder who has dedicted more than a decade to the research, collection and performance of the traditional music of his people, which he performs using the hand drum and shaker. He has performed traditional music for over 30 years and is determined to use his skills to preserve Penobscot culture and language for future generations.

 

Watie was born into a musical family beginning with his paternal grandmothers’ generation up to his father and mother.  His grandmother was a music teacher of piano, guitar, violin and saxophone. She also played the piano at the local movie theater for Silent Films.  His father was well known throughout Maine as a pianist, clarinet and saxophone player. His mother, of Penobscot and Maliseet descent, performed with her sisters on the New York stage in various shows featuring “authentic” Indian performers.  Her older sister Mary Alice or Molly Delis was quitesuccessful and traveled to Paris with a musical group.

 

Watie Akins

Watie Akins

Watie has been both singing and drumming since childhood, encouraged to do so by his family he participated in Indian pageants starting at six years old.  From there he learned to play the drum, piano and guitar, before learning to sing.

 

Watie’s Tribe is Eastern Abenaki which include the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Maliseet tribes in Maine.  The Penobscot community where he was born is Panawampskeag, more commonly referred to as Indian Island, Old Town, Maine.  The small community when he was born has now quadrupled in size and that community has recognized Watie as a traditional performer of their music. 

 

Watie states that the artform is important to him because it helps to preserve a part of the traditional style music that has been forgotten or lost to his people.  Its importance has led him to produce two CD’s, a Music Book and to perform two apprenticeship programs since 2007.  His goals are clear: to retain the culture of his people and to recover what they have lost. 

 

Watie Akins

Watie Akins

During the 1970s some of the young people traveled out west to various reservations to lend support to the American Indian Movement and were introduced to the Big Drum. When they returned to their reserves, they brought the Big Drum back with them and taught others. Watie believes that the Big Drum lacks the ability to blend with traditional Abenaki music and states that many of the current drummers lack knowledge of their traditional music.  He adds that many Abenaki songs have already been compromised by the influence of westernized music. Gone are most of the ornamentations of skips, grace notes, slides and plops, rests, rhythm and tempo changes, all those little nuances that flavored the music and made it uniquely ours. He realizes that music learned by being passed down verbally will change from generation to generation and really needs a “keeper”.  

 

Back to 2014 Fellows

Get Started in our Grants Management System (GMS)

Apply for a Grant

Need More Help?

For General Questions:
Director of Grants & Accessibility
Kerstin Gilg: 287-6719
Help by Discipline:

Performing & Media Arts Director
Brita Wanger-Morier: 287-2726

Visual Arts Director
Julie Horn: 287-2790

Arts Education Director (Interim) 
Martha Piscuskas: 287-2713

Traditional Arts Specialist
Kathleen Mundell: 236-6741

Calendar

Tue, Jun 25 - Tue, Aug 20   Poland Spring, ME
Bingo Spells Murder View »
Tue, Jun 25   Webinar , ME
Webinar: Creating a State Data Culture to Inform Investments in Arts Education View »
Thu, Jun 27 - Sat, Jun 29   Portland, ME
COLLECT: MECA’s 2019 Summer Art Sale | June 27–June 29 View »
 

Maine Arts Commission News

Art Walk LA Celebrates Pride and Community View »
Jazz saxophonist, flutist, composer and world touring artist comes to The Dance Hall View »
Local photographer featured in multiple projects View »
 

Press Release

Performance Artist Sara Juli at the Dance Hall June 28, 2019 View »
Patricia Chandler -A Solo Exhibit of Paintings- Richard Boyd Gallery View »
Seeking applicants | NAS 2019 Creative Community Fellows View »