How the Saco River Got its Name: Wabanaki Place Names in Context

Biddeford Historical Society and Biddeford Pool Historical Society are co-hosting a weekend of events illuminating life in the 17th century colonial Province of Maine. Events are free, but donations are accepted/

“How the Saco River Got its Name: Wabanaki Place Names in Context,” will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24 at First Parish Meetinghouse, corner of Pool and Meetinghouse roads in Biddeford. Joe Hall, professor at Bates College, will present the program.

Plenty of people know that many placenames in Maine, such as “Saco,” come from Wabanakis, the indigenous group of this region. A few people might know what some of these words mean, such as that “Saco” means “a river outlet.” But what did it mean for Wabanakis to use these words and not others in their conversations with English colonists? In exploring that question, participants can see how Wabanaki place names tell us not only something about English-Wabanaki relations in the 1600s, but also how Wabanakis continue to have a presence in Maine in the centuries since.

Hall teaches colonial, American Indian and environmental history. He is researching the history of Wabanakis, Maine’s indigenous peoples, and is particularly interested in the ways that Wabanakis continued to cultivate ties to their homeland even as colonial peoples sought to dispossess them of it. In his lecture he will speak about the ways that Wabanaki place names offer some clues not only to how Wabanakis inhabited their homelands before colonists’ arrival, but also how they continued to inhabit those lands in the midst of colonization.

See the original listing in the Courier.

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At SIFF: Bearing Witness to Stories of ‘Cultural Genocide’

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To watch the documentary Dawnland is to experience having your stomach clenched in a knot. Native mothers weeping about having their children taken away from them; U.S. government policies stripping Native Americans of their culture; ‘reconciliation’ staffers fully aware of their white privilege but refusing to shelf it as they do cross-cultural work.

It’s all anguishing and infuriating to take in. It also makes Dawnland a powerfully illuminating film — a history lesson that you’re ashamed to have never learned but whose truths you’ll likely never forget.

Filmmakers Adam Mazo and Ben Pender-Cudlip spent five years completing their feature-length documentary about the forced removal of Native American children from their families into White adoptive homes, non-Native foster care and boarding schools. The government’s racist intentions — clinically explained in historic footage included in the film — was to “civilize” Native youngsters. The legacy of such policies can be seen in the continued high rate of Native children in foster care and in the tortured memories of those who wanted to embrace their cultural identity but who were told, sometimes violently, that they must not.

Read the full article by Florangela Davila in Crosscut.

Brunswick Junior HS Holds Wabanaki Cultural Day

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The junior high school was abuzz with more than just typical Friday excitement May 11, when seventh-graders broke away from their standard classroom routine for a special reason. The afternoon marked the school’s first-ever Wabanaki Cultural Day, and allowed the students to try their hands at traditional native crafts and activities.

Teachers also got a break from their usual classes, as experts in each area of instruction from the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes led the activities.

Social studies teacher Carla Shaw, one of the organizers of the event, said it was made possible by a $2,500 grant from the Brunswick Community Education Foundation. Shaw and talent development teacher Sharon McCormack applied for the funding. Maine schools are mandated to teach about Wabanaki culture, but Shaw said “there’s not a lot of resources out there,” aside from some pages in the social studies textbook.

Read the article by Elizabeth Clemente in The Forecaster.

Photo by The Forecaster also.

The Story of Father Rasle at Kennebec Historical Society

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“Go and set the world on fire,” was St. Ignatius of Loyola’s famous call to the Jesuits to preach the gospel to the far corners of the world. Fr. Sebastian Rasle followed the call of his order’s founder and left France in 1689 to give his life to caring for the souls of native Americans. This he did for 30 years in a small mission village amidst the Abenaki people far up the Kennebec River. The village was called Narantsouack (i.e. Norridgewock.)

But this peaceful mission was not to last. In those few decades, Fr. Rasle’s little village got caught in a blaze of controversy that ended in the mission being burned by a Massachusetts militia and its pastor being shot. Joseph Moreshead, a seminarian for the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland, will discuss the origins of this conflict between Fr. Rasle, the New England colonists, and the Abenaki people and how competing interests among the three parties led to such a tragic end.

Joseph Moreshead is a native of South Portland, and a current student at the Catholic University of America, studying to be a Catholic priest in Maine. A graduate of Cheverus High School and Fordham University, Moreshead was educated for eight years by Jesuits like Fr. Rasle. After extensive research on the Jesuit Relations, he led a pilgrimage to Fr. Rasle’s grave last August. He holds a bachelor of arts in philosophy and classical language.But this peaceful mission was not to last. In those few decades, Fr. Rasle’s little village got caught in a blaze of controversy that ended in the mission being burned by a Massachusetts militia and its pastor being shot. Joseph Moreshead, a seminarian for the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland, will discuss the origins of this conflict between Fr. Rasle, the New England colonists, and the Abenaki people and how competing interests among the three parties led to such a tragic end.

The Kennebec Historical Society’s May Presentation is free to the public (donations gladly accepted) and will take place on Wednesday, May 16, at 6:30 p.m., at St. Mary’s Church located at 41 Western Avenue in Augusta.

Link to original article in The Town Line.

The Art of the Wabanaki: Indian Market at the Abbe Museum

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The inaugural Abbe Museum Indian Market takes place in Bar Harbor May 18-20. The market will support Wabanaki artists and the local community. We’ll discuss the art of the Wabanaki, its effect on the local economy and learn about events taking place to celebrate the inaugural event.

Hear the podcast (47:12) on Maine Public Radio here.

UM Student Art Project Teaches Importance of Community Service

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This year, seven art education students found inspiration in Wabanaki folklore for their University of Maine Art Education Student Outreach project. Students enrolled in Professor Constant Albertson’s AED 474: Topics in Art developed original linoleum blocks and used them to print t-shirts intended to be sold on campus and in the community. All of the proceeds will go toward supporting the programs and activities that the Gedakina, Inc. fosters in Native American communities across New England.

“As I was designing the course I researched many Wabanaki issues,” Albertson said. “The students talked it over and did research. We were very excited to work with Gedakina. We didn’t want the product to be another bauble, something that you shove in a junk drawer, and we thought it would be important to use relevant images and symbols.”

In AED 474, Albertson hoped to teach her students skills in collaboration, negotiation and leadership, while showing them how to integrate an art curriculum with community service efficiently.  “Art is critical to creating culture and community,” Rochelle Lawrence, an art education student enrolled in AED 474, said. “It creates awareness of the people, animals, nature and history that have come before you.”

Gedakina, which means “Our world, a way of life” in the Wabanaki language, works to bring like-minded community members and allies together to support and empower Native American and indigenous youth. They also work to challenge racism and continual colonialism and encourage inclusiveness and diversity.

Read the full article by Olivia Shipsey in the Maine Campus.

Community, Friendships Celebrated at Micmac Spring Bear Feast

In the mid-afternoon hours on Saturday, three days before the official start of spring, 21 friends both old and new sat in a circle inside the council chambers of the Aroostook Band of Micmacs Cultural Community Education Center in Presque Isle.

Tribal Elder Norman Bernard passed a tobacco pipe around to those who did not have their own and began a ceremony of storytelling and sharing of knowledge that has been part of the Micmac Spring Bear Feast for many generations.

“As the pipe goes around, if someone has a story to share with the bear, I encourage you to,” Bernard said, as he began the sharing circle part of the ceremony. “Every story has a lesson and we all have something to teach each other.”

Every spring, the Micmacs hold a daylong Spring Bear Feast to honor the coming of spring and the bear that has come out of hibernation. In their culture, the bear represents a reawakening of life after the often long, cold winter as well as strength and endurance gained from elders who have since passed on and become ancestors. They hold a similar ceremony in the fall to honor the bear going into hibernation.

“For us, it’s a way of celebrating the bear, which is very sacred,” said Bernard Jerome, former Micmac cultural director. Jerome traveled from the Native community of Gesqapegiag in Quebec to attend the Spring Bear Feast.

Read the full article by Melissa Lizotte at The County.