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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Maine Museum Preserves Wabanaki Birchbark Canoe

brunswick maine wabanaki birchbark canoe

One of the oldest-known Native American birch-bark canoes will go on display at a Maine historical society museum, possibly as early as this fall, after spending three decades in a barn. Carbon dating by the Pejepscot Historical Society in Brunswick shows the Wabanaki canoe was likely made sometime between 1729 and 1789. Museum records date the canoe to the mid-1700s.

The Wabanaki Confederacy is a group of Native American nations who lived primarily in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and parts of Atlantic Canada.

Larissa Vigue Picard, the historical society’s executive director, says the Wabanaki artifact is “priceless” and could be the oldest birch-bark canoe in existence. Native Americans have been making these canoes for 3,000 years. But only a few of the earliest ones still exist because birch bark is so fragile, says Laurie LaBar, chief curator of history and decorative arts at the Maine State Museum in Augusta.

The Pejepscot Historical Society came in possession of the 16-foot-long canoe in 1889. Museum officials say it was donated to the organization after being passed down through generations in the family of William Barnes, a sea captain from Harpswell, who received the canoe as a gift from a tribe. It’s spent the last three decades in a barn behind the museum, exposed to extreme temperatures and humidity, but is in relatively good shape.

Built by standards of the 1700s, it was held together with wooden pegs instead of nails or other modern fasteners brought to America by Europeans, according to the historical society’s Stephanie Ruddock. The canoes were popular with early explorers because they were much lighter than dugout canoes made from tree trunks, and could be carried.

A craftsman in Wellington will restore the 18th century vessel before it goes on display, situated in a specially crafted cradle.

Read the original article in The Maine Edge.

Native American Heritage on Display at Annual Festival

Wabanaki Basketmaking

Folks in Bar Harbor got to experience a little taste of history. The annual Native American Festival and Basketmakers market brought music, dance, and a lesson in culture to Downeast Maine.

“You know Maine a lot of times doesn’t really know much about indigenous population so it’s a wonderful gathering of artisans and drummers and sharing.”

Each handcrafted item represents the beauty and culture of the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot people. For many visitors it’s a chance to meet artists and learn about contemporary Wabanaki art from the Maritimes.

“It’s a wonderful thing to see each other and share our music with them. We are a strong part of Maine history and we would like to bring that back.”

See the full article by Alyssa Thurlow on WABI 5.

Vermont Folklife Center Offering Apprenticeships

The Vermont Folklife Center announces the continuation of the Vermont Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program for its 24th year. Initiated to support Vermont’s living cultural heritage, the program provides stipends of up to $2,000 as honoraria and to cover such expenses as materials and travel. Under the auspices of the program, traditional arts such as blacksmithing, Abenaki basket making, Franco American singing, and Bhutanese Nepali folk dancing have received support.

A traditional arts apprenticeship brings teachers and learners together who share a common commitment to keeping these art forms alive. It pairs a community-acknowledged master artist who has achieved a high level of expertise in his or her art form with a less-experienced apprentice. The master and apprentice jointly plan when, where, and what they expect to accomplish over the course of the apprenticeship. Apprenticeship schedules reflect the time constraints of both master and apprentice and range from short-term, intensive sessions to meetings spread over the course of a year.

Read the full announcement here.

Dialogue Tour: American Flag Motif in Wabanaki Art

wabanaki flag basket abbe museum

Monday, July 3, 2017 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Location: Abbe Museum, 26 Mount Desert St, Bar Harbor, Maine

For more information: 207-288-3519; abbemuseum.org/events/?view=calendar&month=July-2017

The Abbe Museum’s education team will be hosting a specialized dialogue program surrounding the use of the American flag motif in Wabanaki art. Participants will be prompted with questions to guide the conversation and have opportunities to share insights.

The cost of participating is $9 and includes admission for the rest of the day at our two locations!

There are a limited number of spaces for this one of a kind program. Please register by emailing educator@abbemuseum.org or call 207-801-4081.

Original post in the Bangor Daily News.

The Wabanaki Way in Fredericton, New Brunswick

kolele mooke birchbark box

The Fredericton Regional Museum is putting the finishing touches on a new First Nations exhibit. It’s called The Wabanaki Way and opens to the public on June 9. But the museum offered a sneak peak Tuesday, led by Ramona Nicholas from Tobique First Nation.

“The Wabanaki means the People of the Dawn, and this is what we call each other as a larger group that include the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot,” said Nicholas. “It’s a large territory but in this exhibit we’re just focusing on here in New Brunswick.”

Read the article in CBCNews – New Brunswick.