Native American peoples have inhabited the land we now call Maine for 12,000 years. Today people from the four tribes—the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot—collectively known as the Wabanaki, or “People of the Dawnland” live throughout the state of Maine. Tribal governments have a government-to-government relationship with Acadia National Park and the nearby Abbe Museum, is a native-guided museum of Wabanaki art, history, and culture. In partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, the museum holds the largest and best documented collection of Maine Indian basketry and has built an extensive contemporary collection, documenting the continuing Wabanaki craft tradition in Maine.
Generations ago, Wabanaki people traveled here overland and in seaworthy birchbark canoes. Setting up temporary camps near places like Somes Sound, they hunted, fished, gathered berries, harvested clams, and traded with other Wabanaki. Some called Mount Desert Island “Pemetic,” meaning “range of mountains.” This 'naming' was documented by the Wabanaki people guiding French colonizer Samuel de Champlain who first came to Mount Desert Island in 1604. Confronted with attempts to displace and erase them by European colonizers starting in the 1500s, Wabanaki people resisted and remained resilient. They shaped the history of their people and the place we now call Acadia National Park in the face of the colonial onslaught of guns, disease, and attempted genocide. Learn more in Ethnography: Asticou's Island Domain: Wabanaki Peoples at Mount Desert Island, Volume 1 and Volume 2
Though Acadia National Park lies in the Wabanaki homeland, for most of the last century, the federal government prohibited Wabanaki people from harvesting sweetgrass within the boundaries of Acadia National Park. In 2015, the National Park Service issued regulations for the gathering of certain plants or plant parts by federally recognized Indian tribes. This was a significant development for both national parks and the Tribes with whom they consult. It opened a path for Indigenous people to renew cultural practices and relations with valued places in their homelands. In addition, the park hosts the free, public Cultural Connections in the Park program every Wednesday from late June through September, in partnership with the Abbe Museum (sponsored by Dawnland, LLC, who operates Jordan Pond House and the Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop). Visit the park event calendar to view upcoming Cultural Connections programs.
Last updated: November 1, 2023