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Major New Ethnographic Study about Wabanaki Indians in Coastal Maine

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Date: August 18, 2008
Contact: Becky Cole-Will, 207-288-8728

The National Park Service at Acadia National Park announces Internet availability of the first-ever maritime cultural history of Wabanaki Indians in the Gulf of Maine, with a focus on the Mount Desert Island and Penobscot Bay area. Researched and written by Dr. Harald Prins and Bunny McBride, Asticou’s Island Domain: Wabanaki Peoples at Mount Desert Island 1500-2000 was commissioned by the park, in cooperation with the Abbe Museum and Maine’s four Wabanaki Indian nations.

Native Americans have inhabited Maine’s coast for over 10,000 years. Today the state's four indigenous tribal nations—Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, and Micmac—are known collectively as the Wabanaki ("People of the Dawn"). Acadia National Park lies in the center of the Wabanaki ancestral homeland, which stretches from Newfoundland, Canada, to the Merrimac River valley in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

This 2-volume, 620-page document is based on extensive, in-depth scholarly research, with many hundreds of footnotes and a 37-page list of annotated references. Thick with new information that invites a thorough rethinking of cross-cultural relations in the contested borderlands between colonial New England and French Acadia, it relays the troubling but fascinating stories of the region’s indigenous peoples, their colonial friends and foes, fishermen, fur-traders, missionaries, privateers, militias, farmers, and visitors, from the time of first contact with European seafarers nearly 500 years ago, through today. It features a rich array of engravings, drawings, paintings, maps and photographs – many never before published and many others published with new identification and interpretation. A new coastal map and 12-page timeline provide geographical and historical overviews.

Of special note is the cover image. This 1627 copper engraving of Natives hunting moose on Mount Desert Island was based largely on a description by Sir Ferdinando Gorges in 1622. Because this English colonizer referred to the island as Mount Mansell, a name once briefly in use, the unique image escaped the radar of Maine scholars until now.

In the study’s foreword, Passamaquoddy tribal historian and representative to the Maine state legislature Donald Soctomah writes: “Asticou’s Island Domain is a valuable piece of work that captures important segments of history that have been hidden under so many layers. It will serve as a reminder of the lifeways of the Wabanaki people—our deep connection to and religious convictions about the land, the rivers and ocean of this region. . . . The authors tracked every clue in search of the true story—in archives, libraries and firsthand recollections of Native peoples. They heard our stories and have brought them to life in a lasting way for present and future generations.”

Since its completion at the end of 2007, the National Park Service and Acadia National Park have distributed over 150 copies of Asticou’s Island Domain to various libraries, scholars, and other interested individuals, as well as to each of Maine’s tribal nations. And NPS has just published a digital version on its website. The full study can now be found and freely downloaded at: www.nps.gov/acad/historyculture/ethnography.htm

For more information, contact Rebecca Cole-Will, Cultural Resources Program Manager at Acadia National Park, at 207-288-8728 or via e-mail.

Did You Know?

From atop Cadillac Mountain, the sun is just starting to rise over the Porcupine Islands.

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is the tallest mountain along the eastern coast of the United States. During certain times of the year, it is the first place in the U.S. to see sunrise.