The song of remembrance is the first song on wax cylinder #17 sung by Peter Selmore and recorded by J. Walter Fewkes on the 16 March 1890 in Calais Maine.

Song of Remembrance in the Passamaquoddy War Song Series. Mihqelsuwakonutomon means 'He/She tells memories of it'. This is a lament or mourning song. It is a fragment of one song in a series of songs and dances. 

Cultural Narrative: 

Mihqelsuwakonutomon pihce elonukkopon - He/she remembers what happened long ago. There were many 'war' songs that the Passamaquoddy sang, and this English title - war song - is inadequate and simplistic for understanding their independent complexity and diversity. There were songs in preparation for going to war, there were songs sung by those who were away at the battle and different songs for those still in the community thinking of those away. There were also songs for returning warriors, there were songs for loss and songs for honoring and remembering those warriors who were lost. There were also a range of spiritual and medicinal songs for warriors to help protect them at all stages of their journey. J. Walter Fewkes notes in his letters to Mary Hemenway in March 1890 that he recorded several war songs in his three days with the Passamaquoddy. All of these are different and because of their fragmentary nature (the wax cylinder could only record several minutes of much longer songs), it is difficult to understand them in relation to each other.

In this song, Mihqelsuwakonutomon, a sadness can be heard and felt. This could mean that it was a mourning song for warriors who did not return for battle. This is translated into Passamaquoddy as - 'Somakponossok etoli-ntakihtuwut (soldiers who are being mourned). This would be the kind of song sung on Veteran's Day. Molly Neptune Parker also identified similarities in this song to contemporary Passamaquoddy funeral songs. Wayne Newell describes these songs as a 'puzzle that we keep trying to put together by listening to them'. All the war songs that Fewkes recorded in the 1890 trip have been identified as a whole series of songs and they have been given the name: Matonotuwi-lintuwakon which means generally 'war songs'.


Peter Selmore
Jesse Walter Fewkes collection of Passamaquoddy cylinder recordings SR29

Engineer notes: Some damage at the beginning of the cylinder. There is a segment at 00:15 that exceeds 0 dB. The recording was made in reverse and corrected with Pyramix.; FCP notes: Announcements at the beginning and at 1:22 identify the songs.

Related Fewkes' fieldnotes are located at the National Anthropological Archives (ms. 4408:9) p. 22-23, 28.

Introductions in English, remainder in Passamaquoddy language.

Location Description: 

Calais (Me.)