This Centuries-Old Canoe Was a Critical Element of Wabanaki Life

wabanaki canoe brunswick maine press herald

One of the oldest-known examples of a Native American birch-bark canoe is on display at a museum in Maine, where indigenous tribes have used them for thousands of years.

The canoe put on display Thursday dates to the mid-1700s, said members of the Pejepscot Historical Society. It’s an example of the type of canoe that was critically important to the history and culture of the Wabanaki, the first people of parts of northern New England and Atlantic Canada.

This type of canoe was “extremely important for your family’s survival” for the Wabanaki people, said the Penobscot Nation’s tribal historian James E. Francis Sr. The Penobscot, one of four Wabanaki tribes still existing in Maine, still builds them today.
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Portland Designates Second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Maine’s largest city will no longer celebrate Columbus Day as a municipal holiday. The Portland City Council voted unanimously Monday to designate the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The vote came after nearly an hour of public comment.

Portland became the latest municipality in Maine to recognize indigenous people instead of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, who arrived in the New World on Oct. 12, 1492. Belfast was the first to make the switch in 2015, Bangor did so last month and Orono followed suit last week. Later Monday night, the Brunswick Town Council voted 8-1 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Read the full article in the Portland Press-Herald. 

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That’s five towns/cities in Maine now. Durham, NH was the first in that state, just this week. Brattleboro adds its Town School Board in the ‘change” column. The time has come to recognize the rest of the story…

The Past Comes to Life in South Berwick

unting house museum exhibit

Read the article by ColinWoodward in the Portland Press Herald. 

…Relations with native inhabitants were relatively cordial in the first half-century after colonization, but the situation deteriorated after Massachusetts annexed the region in the 1640s and 1650s, triggering a series of brutal wars between the 1670s and the 1760s, during which many of the colonists’ homesteads and settlements were repeatedly destroyed.

“We associate this place with resilience and stubbornness and independence, and that all has its roots in the 17th century,” said the exhibit’s curator, Nina Maurer. “When you’ve seen your parents’ generation decimated and building a home is an uncertain undertaking, it can mark a place in ways we think you can still see.”

The Old Berwick Historical Society, which runs the Counting House Museum and raised over $100,000 to launch the exhibit, is hosting a related lecture series and history hikes this fall.

On Sept. 28, Dr. Linford Fisher of Brown University will speak on the complex interactions between Native Americans, northern New England settlers and the Atlantic slave trade at 7:30 p.m. at Berwick Academy.

Wabanaki scholar Lisa Brooks of Amherst College will take up the meaning of one of the most brutal of the Anglo-Wabanaki Wars on Oct. 26 at the same time and venue. (More information at oldberwick.org.)

The exhibit will be on display throughout the museum’s 2018 season as well.

“The 17th century tells us something about the struggle for dominance and control and the destiny of a landscape, one where people had to make choices,” Maurer said. “Those are challenges we still have today.”

Wabanaki Basketmakers Fare Well at Heard Indian Art Fair

Jeremy-Frey-Heard-Fair

Three Indian basketmakers from Maine won high honors at a national Indian art fair in Phoenix, Arizona. Jeremy Frey, a Passamaquoddy, won first place in Division B baskets (natural or commercial fibers, any form) and Sarah Sockbeson, a Penobscot, won second place in the same division at the 59th annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market, which was March 4-5 in Arizona.

Geo Neptune, a Passamaquoddy, won honorable mention in Division A baskets (natural fibers and cultural forms) and a Judges Choice award in the same division. All three were juried into the 2015 Portland Museum of Art Biennial.

 

Corn Keeper: Albie Barden Preserves Native Flint Corn for Future Generations

albie-barden-corn-keeper-norridgewock

For the past 30 years, Barden has been researching flint corn varieties, connecting with other corn keepers, and handing out thousands of rare kernels for farmers and gardeners to grow. To him, it is far more than just a hobby that has taken over his garden and fields.

“For me, it’s not about the crops,” he said. “It’s really about re-establishing a sacred relationship to the land and the plants, and honoring them as sacred beings with a history that have fed us forever.”

Read this inspiring story in the Portland Press-Herald.

Wabanaki Recall Victims of 1724 Maine Massacre

butch philips penobscot elder

Whether it’s by canoe, on foot or in his pickup truck, Butch Phillips always returns to The Pines park each year for a special remembrance. Phillips, 76, is a member of the Penobscot Nation whose ancestors were killed in an Aug. 22, 1724 massacre near the confluence of the Sandy and Kennebec rivers when British soldiers attacked an Abenaki Indian village in a fight to take over the land.

The surviving Abenaki fled, many of them going to live with the Penobscot or the Odanak Indians, and today that is how some of their descendants choose to return to the area where they were killed. For about the last 20 years, members of the Wabanaki Confederacy, an alliance of five Native American nations including the Abenaki and the Penobscot, have returned to the site at The Pines to honor and remember their ancestors.

Story at the Portland Press Herald.

Penobscots Vacate Seat in Maine Legislature

penobscot kirk francis maine

The Penobscot Nation is formally vacating a seat the tribe has held in the Maine Legislature for more than 150 years and, instead, plans to select an ambassador to work with the state and federal governments.

More than a mere title change, the switch from non-voting state representative to a full-time “government relations ambassador” is a symbolic and historic shift that reflects the tensions between state officials and leaders of Maine’s federally recognized Indian tribes, most notably the Penobscots and the Passamaquoddy Tribe.

Full story at the Portland Press-Herald.