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Past Exhibits at the Abbe Museum

Abbe : Past Exhibits : Headline News

Wabanaki Sovereignty in the 21st Century


Visit the Headline News Online Exhibit >

Wabanaki Sovereignty

Kani Malsom, Passamaquoddy, pictured here dancing at the 2008 Native American Festival in Bar Harbor

Photo by Anna Travers


With the signing of the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act in
1980, and later agreements, Maine distinguished itself from the
rest of the Nation by establishing a unique relationship with the
four federally recognized tribes of the Wabanaki.


The expression of these Acts creates a political arena much different than that of other states—federal statutes do not apply
to American Indian communities in Maine, unless explicitly noted within that federal legislation.


Maine has a direct relationship with the Wabanaki tribes, which
in addition to federal recognition of their sovereignty, were
granted municipal powers, and most concerns must be
negotiated at the state level.


The exhibit explores the ways in which the Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot tribes are asserting their sovereignty in the areas of:


• Recognition of Native veterans


• Controversies regarding gaming


• The retention of Native languages


• The exercise of hunting and fishing rights


• The fight against the invasive ash borer beetle


• Environmental management of traditional territory


• Concepts surrounding identity and positive and negative stereotypes


• International border issues that has divided families and traditional lands.


Headline News seeks to engage the visitor and raise awareness of contemporary challenges to Maine's Native peoples. Visitors will have the opportunity to reflect on Native perspectives while exploring these topics through a variety of media. On display will be an assortment of new and old artifacts including: objects made of ash, birch bark, cedar, porcupine quills, and sweet grass, natural history specimens and faunal remains, hunting and trapping equipment, books and CDs illustrating the four languages, traditional games, maps, photographs, a full-sized birch bark canoe, and much more.



Bead Work Toys Otter with birch bark canoe


L-R: Bead work from the Identity section, toys from the Stereotypes section and an otter with Birch bark canoe from the Hunting and Fishing Rights section.


While the information presented is focused on the Wabanaki in Maine, the exhibit offers comparative information on federal Indian policy to highlight differences between the state and federal Indian policies.


This ground breaking exhibit is curated by Raney Bench, Curator of Education for the Abbe Museum in conjunction with consultation from members of the Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot tribes, and assistance from project team members Julia Clark and Jason Brown.


Headline News: Wabanaki Sovereignty in the 21st Century introduces eight topics commonly covered in the media through first person voice of Wabanaki political and cultural leaders. Each topic is intimately connected to tribal sovereignty in Maine and continually evolving, allowing the exhibit to serve as a starting point for dialog and discussion in Maine communities and beyond.


The content of the show reflects the complex nature of these topics, and the diverse opinions of Wabanaki people. The entire text of the show can be downloaded here by topic area. For any questions or comments about the exhibit, please contact Raney Bench, Curator of Education at


Click on a category to download text only content:











Additional information about Headline News: Wabanaki Sovereignty in the 21st Century is also available from the exhibit catalog: Headline News Exhibit Catalog.


At the Abbe's 2010 Annual Meeting, Penobscot Chief, Kirk E. Francis, Sr., was the guest speaker. His remarks about sovereignty can be found here.

Chief Kirk E. Francis, Sr.'s Remarks


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