Conversations About Aging: Wayne Newell, 77

From the moment of his birth on April 16, 1942, on the Sipayik (Pleasant Point) Passamaquoddy Indian Reservation in Perry, Maine, Wayne Newell has had to face some pretty big challenges. And yet, he chooses to see them as gifts. One of those gifts is that he is legally blind.

I don’t know what I would be or what life would be like if I had 20/20 vision. I don’t know what I’d be like. So to me this eyesight that I’m given is a special, special gift because I’m always using it, utilizing it the best I know how. That’s the lesson for me. That’s the gift.

Wayne Newell, excerpt from the podcast

Wayne has also had to face devils. The most difficult one? “Me,” he says.

Despite the challenges and the devils, Wayne Newell has succeeded in making important contributions to this world. Nearly 78 and up against the challenge of poor health, he is still contributing and also imagining what else he can do.

After getting a master’s degree in education from Harvard University in the 1070s, he returned to Maine. Not to Pleasant Point where he was born and raised, but to the Indian Township Passamaquoddy Indian Reservation in Princeton. There, he directed the first bilingual/bicultural education program for the Passamaquoddy Tribe. In addition to being a teacher, he was also a school principal, a position he shared with Sister Ellen Turner twice. First at St. Ann’s School, which was established by the Sisters of Mercy in the 1800s and later at the Indian Township School, built after the Indian Land Claims Settlement in the 1980s. Because of his health, he retired in 2012.

Wayne is passionate about helping to preserve the Passamaquoddy language and culture. He is currently writing a book that is a compilation of stories and several smaller books that he and other tribal members have written over many decades. The book is written in the Passamaquoddy language as well as in English.

There is so much more that I could say about this man, but instead, I invite you to listen to the conversation we had on a wintery day this past January (2020). If you prefer to read, I’ve also made a written transcript available below.

Listen to my conversation with Wayne Newell

Where else you can find and subscribe to the podcast

Read a transcript of our conversation

A few pictures

Wayne singing the Canoe Traveling Song with the late Blanch Sockabasin

A picture of Wayne that hangs in the library of the Indian Township School

Big Lake, frozen over

St. Ann’s Convent and Church at Indian Island

Sister Ellen Turner sitting inside St. Ann’s Church. She and Wayne have remained good friends

Indian Township School

Learn more

A Passamaquoddy Prayer

The Earth is Our Great Mother. / Skitkomiq kihci-kikuwosson.
We treat the earth as sacred. / Qosseyutomonen ktahkomiq.
Nobody owns the earth. / Ma-te wen ’topeltomuwon ktahkomiq.
Everything we need, I get from the earth: food, water, seeds for planting. / Psi-te keq eli-nituwiyiq, nit kutonomonen ktahkomikuk: micuwakon, ’samaqan, ktahkomonsol.
We think of the earth as our mother. / Ktolitahatomonen ktahkomiq ansa kikuwosson.
The earth is our great mother. / Skitkomiq kihci-kikuwosson. 
The earth is our home. / Kilun yut skitkomiq kikon.
Prayer by Stephanie Francis

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.