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Maine Indians

Although the earliest European settlers found Indians of the great Algonquin stock throughout Maine, evidence unearthed and correlated in the last fifty years has firmly established the belief that these Algonquin tribes had been preceded by an earlier, different group of men who are called Pre-Algonquin or Red Paint People.

Red Paint People have been so named because each of their ancient graves contains from less than two quarts to a bushel of brilliant ocher, usually red but occasionally yellow or brown. The burial with the bodies of ocher (a mineral from which paint may be made) and stone implements, which are unlike Indian implements, distinguishes these people.

The story of the Red Paint People is vague and incomplete, but the mute remains - scattered bits of bone and stone - are among the oldest archeological heritages in North America.

Over five hundred shell-heaps scattered along the Maine coast, and others in southern New England, are believed to be the accumulated debris of countless aboriginal "shore-dinners" of clams, oysters and other sea food. Archaeologists have estimated the age of these shell-heaps to be between one and five thousand years. The arrowheads and other Indian implements lying among the fragments and rubbish in these piles are entirely distinct in type and workmanship from the implements found in the Red Paint graves.

When European settlers explored Maine, they found Indians of two major divisions of the Algonquin stock, the Abnakis and Etchimins; the first were usually camping west of the Penobscot River, while the latter were east of it. The close relationship between these two divisions has resulted in frequent inclusions of both under the Abnaki name. In modern times there is confusion and uncertainty about Indian names for tribes and bands.

The word Etchimins (Etechmins) means "the Men" and they are referred to as being seafaring Indians.

One of the three principal bands of Etchimins, according to one recognized authority, was the Passamaquoddy (Pestumokadyik, meaning "People who spear pollock") Indians of Machias and the St. Croix River Valley.

Indian bands in Washington County normally moved several times each year in response to available food supplies. Each spring they fished the rivers for alewives, shad and salmon and planted corn, squash, beans and other vegetables in selected spots on the river banks. In June their camp sites were moved to the seashore. The frosts of September called the red men to harvest the crops previously planted on the river banks. With harvesting done, October found them further upstream, prowling the deep forest for game. According to tradition, two weeks thanksgiving feast, late in the fall but before Christmas, featuring turkey, cranberries and Indian pudding, has its modern Thanksgiving Day counterpart. Winter snows marked another period in the big woods hunting moose and trapping smaller game.

The Abnaki language, when compared to modern tongues, was a limited and awkward method of talking. This unwritten language was studied by the French Jesuit missionaries, whose writings on the subject are the most complete available.

The Indians were not excessively warlike. Their peaceful, and friendly disposition has been obscured by the drama of warring episodes.

Warfare between English settlers and the Indians did not break out until 1675 when there were about six thousand English settlers in Maine.

Warfare between settlers and Indians, which continued intermittently for eighty-five years (1675-1760), consisted of six so-called "Indians Wars," of which two lasted ten years, and each of the rest for six years or less.

The Indians Wars resulted in over one thousand Maine settlers being killed and hundreds captured. The first three wars marked the period of Indian aggressive action, and although nearly ruining the fur, fishing and lumber business for the settlers, exhausted the strength of the red tribes. Beginning in 1722, the last three wars saw the English vigorously raiding Indian villages and camps. The French, who had been open allies of the red men in the last two Indian Wars, made peace with the English after the sixth and last Indian war (1755-1760). "When the French joined the colonists in the Revolution, the Maine Indians became entirely friendly, and never since have they disturbed the peace of their white neighbors."

Before the Revolution, and before Maine became a separate State, treaties made between each of the two remaining tribes and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts established the Penobscots and Passamaquoddies as "nations" within the State. These treaties also gave each tribe certain lands, Penobscots at Indian Island (Old Town), Passamaquoddies at Pleasant Point (Eastport), and at Peter Dana Point (Princeton), and guaranteed the annual delivery of specified; items of arms, cloth and food.

Since Maine became a State in 1820, it has acted as guardian for the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Tribes and has assumed the responsibility for fulfilling the treaty agreements.

In 1822 there were 379 Passamaquoddy Indians; today there are more than 2,000.

On a visit to either Peter Dana Point or Pleasant Point you'll be able to make your choice of beautiful Indian craft.

As the result of finding a copy of an ancient agreement, the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Indians were able to win in court a payment from the federal government of $80,000,000 back in 1981.

Investing large parts of this money in new industry, purchasing existing companies and woodlands and building new homes, recreation centers, tribal office buildings and a vocational school, the Indians have greatly improved their life style and are building a new future.

Pleasant Point Indian Reservation, Perry

The Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe reservation is in Perry and has a population of 549. Since the Indian Land Claims Settlement in 1981 there have been many changes in the Indians' lifestyle. New homes, an administrative center, recreation building, stores and industry have been created.

This summer, on August 12, 13 and 14 the members of the tribe will be celebrating the Revival of Indian Ceremonial Days at the Pleasant Point Reservation and the general public is welcome. Dances by Indians in full regalia, a beauty pageant, children's contests, adult races, a bonfire and fireworks are only part of what is planned.

Visitors Welcome At Sipayik Museum on Pleasant Point Indian Reservation

The Sipayik Museum at Pleasant Point Indian Reservation in Perry has many treasures for anyone wishing to know more about the Passamaquoddy tribe. We have been most fortunate to have many contributors who have presented the museum with fascinating artifacts, old baskets and a 17-foot birch bark canoe - all of them more than 100 years old!

Many large photographs grace the walls of the museum. Old photographs tell the stories of so many accomplishments of those people who struggled to preserve and pass on to younger generations the more positive aspects of our history. All of this will help future generations to have a good positive image of themselves.

In the rooms of the museum there are several mannequins modeled after actual residents of the Reservation, and some of these very realistic figures have been on display at the Maine State Museum in Augusta.

A room is set up for other aspects of our culture: this is where David Francis, Sr. ably teaches our new written language for those who are interested. Over the years many books and tapes, dictionaries and reference books have been developed to assist in preserving our language.

The Sipayik Passamaquoddy Tribal Governor and Council have fully endorsed and continue to fund the museum staff and maintain the building.

Several thousand visitors have registered with us since the museum was opened three years ago, including visitors from ten foreign countries. They captured the museum's displays on film to show their television audiences what we have to offer. Among the countries represented were Russia and Japan.

Much more work needs to be done but we are always optimistic for we are sure that in due course this museum will become one of the main attractions in this area. It will also serve to dispel the stereo-typical Indian in the minds of some people.

The museum is open on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. We encourage advance notice for group tours. Calls may be made during those hours at (207) 853-4001.


Other Washington County Links

Washington County Maine - Washington County - A Look At Downeast Maine

A Little Washington County History - At Machias the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War was fought - a land and sea action which resulted in the British schooner "Margaretta" being captured by the American residents with the loss of only one man on the American side. The captain of the British craft died that night in the Burnham Tavern, a well-preserved example of a colonial inn now open to visitors. The oldest building east of Bangor, it's maintained by the local D.A.R.

Everyone Loves Blueberries - Washington County, responsible for more than 90 percent of the nation's blueberry crop, is the world's largest producer. The glacially formed "barrens", vast rolling plains of sandy soil, are perfect for raising wild, lowbush blueberries. Thus, the growing, harvesting and processing of the blueberry is a major industry in Washington County. Nearly a quarter million acres of barrens yield an average of 30 million pounds of blueberries annually, all of which are canned within the county.

Sport Hunting in Washington County - The face of this land is a succession of valleys with ridges between, stretching from the Narraguagus to the St. Croix and beyond. The rivers that drain the valleys are born of spring-fed lakes and ponds that lie embossed in the highlands to the north, hidden away in the forests of pine and spruce, of balsam fir and hemlock. These are the haunts of the whitetail deer, the black bear and the moose, and this is the land where they are sought by the hundreds of hunters who venture forth come fall.

Native American Indian History - Although the earliest European settlers found Indians of the great Algonquin stock throughout Maine, evidence unearthed and correlated in the last fifty years has firmly established the belief that these Algonquin tribes had been preceded by an earlier, different group of men who are called Pre-Algonquin or Red Paint People. Red Paint People have been so named because each of their ancient graves contains from less than two quarts to a bushel of brilliant ocher, usually red but occasionally yellow or brown. The burial with the bodies of ocher (a mineral from which paint may be made) and stone implements, which are unlike Indian implements, distinguishes these people.

Natural Wonders - TIDES: The greatest rise and fall of tides on the shores of the continental United States occur along the Washington County coast. The tall pilings at Jonesport, Lubec and Eastport attest to the gigantic fluctuations of the ocean's level where 18-foot variations are average. Actually, the greatest tides occur way up the St. Croix River at Calais where the average is 20 feet. At certain times of the year, however, the water level will vary 28 feet every six hours or close to one inch every minute!

Beaches And Tidal Pools - No visit to Washington County would be complete without the thrill of discovering the beauty of the beaches and rocky cliffs that form the boundary between the pounding sea and the land. This narrow band between the low and high water mark is a world of its own populated with plant and animal life peculiarly adapted to living part of each day submerged by the ocean water and the rest of the time exposed to the drying sun and wind. The scene is an ever changing one as each tide slowly rearranges the pattern of the rocks, the sand and the residue from the sea.

Campobello Island - Campobello Island, N.B. is nine miles long and about three miles wide. It has two fishing villages, Welshpool and Wilson's Beach, both of them home port to many colorful vessels which go out many miles to catch fish. After you go through customs and get a friendly nod you'll climb a hill. When you get to the top, stop and turn around so you can take in the view of Lubec, Maine across the "Narrows", where, according to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, the strongest tidal currents on the east coast flow --around 12 knots or 15 miles an hour.

Ten Exciting Places To Enjoy Yourself Absolutely Free - There are several excellent facilities in Washington County which are open to the public at no charge. All that is asked is that visitors leave the areas clean and unspoiled. Depending on the location of the site, provisions have been made so that people of all ages may enjoy picnicking, tenting, boat launching ramps, fishing, hiking and swimming.

Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge - The Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, an area comprising 28,686 acres, was established in 1937 for the protection, study, perpetuation and management of certain species of wildlife, particularly waterfowl and other migratory birds, in the area. Moosehorn is the only one of more than 540 national wildlife refuges that is devoted to the study and management of the American woodcock.

Five Great Places To Hike - If you're looking for some interesting hiking trails, you've come to the right place. Here are five locations you might want to try some of these.

Washington County Wildflowers - From the time the first Mayflower blooms between the patches of melting snow on the sunny hillsides until late in the fall the great natural lands of Washington County are filled with hundreds of varieties of wild flowers and greens. Plants have structures and abilities which suit them for living in particular environments and therefore each distinct area of seashore, woods, fields and roadsides brings forth its own individual bouquet.

Points Of Interest - When the phrase Down East came into common usage is unknown but some historians feel the description goes into the early 1600's. It is rather a puzzling phrase but as you can see from examining a map, the coast of Maine does go east but, at the same time, it runs northward too, or up. However, what early explorers quickly found out was that the prevailing winds blew from the southwest, as they do today. Therefore, they most frequently sailed with, or down the wind, as they moved to the eastward. Thence, Down East.

The Glaciers Did It - A million or more years ago the world grew very cold. Great sheets of ice formed over the northern lands, retreated, grew again, drew back and for the third time advanced far south of what is now Maine. As recently as 15,000 years ago there were tongues of the huge glaciers extending into Washington County.

The Communities Of Washington County - St. Croix Island, set about midway between the United States and Canada in the beautiful St. Croix River, was the scene of the first white settlement in the New World north of St. Augustine, Fla. It was here, in 1604, that Samuel Champlain and his fellow French explorer, Sieur de Monts, led a band of about 100 soldiers and traders and spent the winter. It was from this island that Champlain explored the coast of New England as far south as Cape Cod.

Boat Launch Sites - Washington County has some pretty good boat launching ramps on lakes and the salt water. Here is a fairly complete list of the fresh water launching sites.

Salt Water Fishing - A salt water sports fisherman, to borrow author Kenneth Roberts' words; "has always with him the clean, salt tang of the sea, the roar of waves on the ledges, the fatalistic scrutiny of clownish seagulls and is never annoyed by mosquitoes, black flies, midges or horseflies." A description which should knock fresh water fishing into a cocked hat, but won't. Nevertheless, salt water fishing in the county can offer every member of the family some wonderful thrills whether you cast from a ledge or wharf or dangle a line from one of the charter boats that ply from Red Beach, Jonesport, Cutler or Eastport. The fish to be caught include flounder, sculpin, cod, pollock, smelt, mackerel, halibut, sea bass or "stripers" and tuna, although tuna are very rare. In fishing for flounders, we notice that the most successful fishermen use worms, either the garden or sand variety; this keeps the bait from being eaten by the sculpins.

State Parks - Washington County offers several nice public parks including the ones listed on this page.

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