Michael Shaughnessy, president and co-founder of Friends of the Presumpscot River, participates in a smudging gathering led by Mihku Paul, right, at the Chief Polin Memorial in Westbrook on Monday morning. The ceremony was held in observance of annual Indigenous Peoples Day.

The sunrise gathering included a walk to the top of Saccarappa Falls along the Presumpscot River. Saccarappa is Wabenaki for falling toward the rising sun.

Mihku Paul, a writer and activist from Portland, leads a smudging, burning herbs. Smudging is a way to acknowledge the importance of an event and enter into prayer, Paul says.

Vivianna Adams carries her daughter Lennox Lurvey, 5, as they participate in a smudging ceremony led by Mihku Paul. Paul burned white sage, sweet grass and pine needles in a conch shell.

The Presumpscot River was an important fishing ground for Indigenous people, and that was acknowledged at the event.

Meret Bainbridge of Saco reaches her hand into the water at the top of Saccarappa Falls.

Mihku Paul says the smoke from the smudge is a way to reach out to ancestors.

Mihku Paul greeted the sun, “Good morning. It’s a beautiful day.”

A prayer and welcoming song were led by Mihku Paul at Monday’s celebration.

The second annual Indigenous Peoples Day event ended at the river. The Chief Polin memorial, where the gathering began, is dedicated to the Abenaki leader who was a powerful leader and advocate for the river.

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