Watie John Akins
May 20, 1934 – November 2, 2019
Penobscot Indian Reservation –Watie John Akins, 85, passed peacefully with his daughter by his side, November 2, 2019 at Maine Veteran’s Home in Bangor. Watie was born at Panawamskeag on the Penobscot Nation, Old Town, May 20, 1934, the son of Watie John Akins and Mildred “Little Elk” (Nelson) Akins, both well-known musicians and artists. Watie was born into a family full of musical talent. His father and namesake played many instruments and a variety of styles of music; notably, he was a member of the United States Indian Band, which was invited to perform at the International Colonial Exposition in 1930 in Paris. Watie’s mother, known in the entertainment industry as “Little Elk”, performed traditional Native dances on many stages in New York City. Watie began performing in Penobscot pageants when he was a boy and was a drummer for over 70 years. He also held interests in guitar, piano and singing. As soon as he was able, Watie joined the Air Force to make a career for himself. After several years with the USAF, Watie received an honorable discharge as a Staff Sergeant. Watie then attended Northeastern University in Boston where he earned a Masters in Structural Engineering, a field in which he continued to work until 1997. In 1979, after moving back to Penobscot Nation, Watie did construction design work across the state in the tribal communities and served the Penobscot Nation in different positions, including as a tribal council member. Watie also had a professional role in the construction of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor. Later, after inheriting his grandmother’s baskets, Watie worked on an exhibition with the Abbe Museum entitled “My Grandmother’s Baskets”, which was a well-received exhibit. Watie made it his work to preserve the music of the Penobscot and Wabanaki peoples. Working with a traditional Penobscot handheld drum or rattle, he sought to keep the authentic drumming in his music. In 2008, Watie released his first CD, “For the Grandchildren”, which featured traditional songs. A few years later, he released his second CD, “Greeting My Relations”. Both CD’s were incorporated into educational curriculum at public schools across the state, which taught about the history and culture of the original inhabitants of Maine. His last project was to create a songbook to ensure that the traditional regional Native music survived to pass on to future generations. Through his work, Watie was featured in the American Philosophical Society’s “Collections through Indigenous Eyes” program as well as a 2013 recipient of the Community Spirit Award, a prestigious award presented by the First Peoples Fund to only a handful of American First Nations people for artistic excellence and perseverance. The award is given to those who exemplify “indigenous values of generosity, wisdom, respect, integrity, strength, fortitude, and humility. Watie also had a love for the wilderness and traditional lifestyle, which he shared with his children. He enjoyed hunting for deer and moose and would study the Gazeteer Atlas in search of remote streams he could explore by his canoe. As a father to his young children, he would put them to bed by playing his guitar and singing to them. Watie is survived by his three children, Victoria Akins and husband, Steve Krapf of Indian Island, Cynthia Akins and husband, Tom Collins of Wareham, MA, and Watie Jon Akins and wife, Patricia of Wareham, MA; 7 grandchildren, Neeburbunn Lewis, Don M’Geso Francis, Valarie Risser, Watie Ethan Akins, Isaak Akins, Mya Akins, and William Akins; 4 great grandchildren, Ava Lindsey Lewis, Wesley Lewis, Kaylynn Means, and Hayley Means; brothers, Andrew Akins and wife, Evelyn of Tennessee, Michael Akin of Hawaii; sister, Ann Wood of Lewiston; former wife, Alice Akins of Wareham, MA; as well as Jessica Claflin and Jake Claflin. Watie was predeceased by his sister, Mary Secord; second wife, Ellen Akins; and third wife of 19 years, Jane Akins. Relatives and friends are invited to call 4-7PM, Wednesday, November 6 at Birmingham Funeral Home, 438 Main Street, Old Town. A celebration of life gathering for Watie will be held Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 11:00 AM at Sockalexis Bingo Hall, 16 Wabanaki Way, Indian Island. Following the celebration of life gathering will be a pot luck at 12 PM - 2 PM at the hall. Those who wish to celebrate Watie’s life in a special way may make gifts in his memory to Team Wabanaki, 12 Wabanaki Way, Indian Island, ME 04468.
- Visitation Wednesday, November 6, 2019
- Celebration of Life Gathering Thursday, November 7, 2019
Watie John Akins
November 8, 2019
Friend and brother-in-law.
Sailed the seas together
Next time on a cloud
With our own wings
Andrea Bear Nicholas
November 6, 2019
To Vicky and family:
I am so, so sorry to hear of Watie's passing. For a man with so many talents and such a huge heart, it is a tremendous loss to us all. He was a regular at our house in Nekotkok while planning our bingo hall, and for many years afterwards. I cherish memories of our many conversations with him, his good humor, and his love for our traditions. I will mostly never forget him playing Altestakən with Dr. Granny (Margaret Johnson of Eskasoni). And I can still hear his voice whenever he phoned us. Though I am not his relative (except by marriage) he always greeted me with --Hello Cuz! And now to you dear Watie --Kci wəliwən for your friendship. and apcəc knəmiyol Cuz!
Andrea Bear Nicholas
November 5, 2019
I had the pleasure of meeting this nice gentleman at an event at Indian Island. Much kindness from him was immediately apparent. By the time I left, I had great respect for him as well. So very sorry his family and tribe have lost him. Blessings.
November 5, 2019
Watie was a kind man and a good friend. I had great admiration for him as a man who had a good career but also used his talents and abilities on behalf of his own who he greatly cherished. He did a lot of good work in collecting and sharing the traditional songs of the Penobscot. He is and will continue to be missed.
November 4, 2019
When I was reading 'Bingy' Ranco's book, 'Muskrat Stew, and Tales of Penobscot Life,' to Watie last week in his Maine Vets room, he was resting holding his braided sweetgrass close to his face. He looked so peaceful, and prepared. His ribbon shirt was hanging there as if to say, 'I am ready.' A good Penobscot man has gone home to Kci' newesk, and the Ancient Ones. Rest in peace, Nedabeh, and please pray for us. Ni'ylec.
Chief Don Stevens
November 4, 2019
Waite will be missed by all. I will remember our conversations fondly. His music and teachings will continue through the generations. He was a great ambassador for the Penobscot people.
The Vermont Abenakis send our condolences to his family and will offer tobacco for his safe journey to his ancestors.