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Wabanaki Timeline

Abbe : Research : Wabanaki : Timeline : Hard Times

Hard Times – The Survival of the People


The Wabanaki communities lost much of their aboriginal territory in a series of land transfers, sales and expropriations. The State of Maine took over management of tribal assets, doling out annuities to the tribes. In spite of the loss of self-determination and many traditional ways of making a living, the Wabanaki endured the hard times. Entrepreneurial Native performers, basketmakers and guides took to the road to peddle their wares and an image of their culture to tourists. Many other Wabanaki left reservation poverty, seeking employment in Northeastern urban areas.


Ferry to Indian Island













Postcard, Ferry to Indian Island



1940-1945Donald Sanipass

Donald Sanipass - Bob Noonan Photo

Many Wabanaki serve in the U.S. and Canadian armed forces during
World War II.


During WWII, Micmac basketmaker Donald Sanipass works in a Canadian munitions factory building parts for the Mosquito Bomber. At the time, Donald
was 17 years old and New Brunswick's lightweight boxing champion.










Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribal representatives are ousted from the Hall of the State House of Representatives. In 1975 seating and speaking privileges are restored.


What led to the ousting? Tension and anti-Indian feelings in the State House concerning the roles and rights of the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribal representatives had been brewing for the years leading up to this event.






A Department of the Interior report to the Commissioner, Bureau of Indian Affairs, describes deplorable health conditions of Passamaquoddy people:


The undernourished bodies of the tribal members are easy prey for tuberculosis and apparently no attempt is made to weed out suspect cases to give proper treatment. A boy of 19 years has been invalid since he was a child. He suffered from infantile paralysis and did not receive proper medical attention. No effort was made on part of the State authorities to have given him treatment in a hospital and he spent his life enduring physical and mental suffering without a chance. Now his frail wasted body cannot be made strong because of years of neglect.


The State pays for medical aid rendered to the Tribe, with the exception of maternity cases. I wonder why the mothers and their babies are not given the best of care at the expense of the State or their expenses paid out of the Tribal funds. Unsanitary living conditions and impure water from condemned wells are not conductive to good health. In 1934, State authorities had done nothing about the water supply and as a result typhoid fever and pneumonia were prevalent during the year and the death rate was high, as many as 20 members of the Tribe are listed as dead.


The small dwellings in which they live are so old and in need of repair that the Indians suffer from the cold in winter. There are holes in the roofs and sides and windowpanes are broken in some. In the case of one large family, the sleeping quarters are inadequate and 5 older boys and girls are obliged to sleep in one small room. Certain families do not have beds, not even mattresses to put on the floor on which to sleep.


Another contributing element to the unhealthy condition of so many in this community is the fact that for many years they have been using aniline dyes in the basket making.




Crooked Knife Crooked Knife 2

Crooked Knife, made in the woods by
Sebattus Solomon about 1863 shown in
The Handicrafts of the Modern Indians of Maine.
Abbe Museum Collections

The Handicrafts of the Modern Indians of Maineis published by the Abbe Museum, documenting the Wheelwright basketry collection and the continuity of traditional arts and crafts by Wabanaki people. One of the most interesting objects included in the publication is the crooked knife.














Silent Enemy

Molly Spotted Elk, Long Lance and Cheeka. From How the Silent Enemy was Made souvenir booklet

Molly Spotted Elk, Penobscot, stars in The Silent Enemy, a docu-drama about Ojibwe (Anishinabe) struggling to survive in wintertime. The film is unique for its adherence to factual representations of Native American societies and for casting Native Americans.







Pleasant Point Reservation receives electric lights.

A contemporary account from The Eastport Sentinel newspaper:

The families of the Passamaquoddy Tribe can now toss away their obsolete tallow candles and kerosene lamps as electricity has been introduced into their reservation on the St. Croix River. It was no great expense for poles and wiring as the State highway is less than 2 miles from the reservation. Even the town of Perry, 2 miles from the reservation did not have electric lights installed until late last fall and the country roads were then properly lighted for the first time and in many of the Perry farm houses and country stores electricity is now enjoyed."

Courtesy of Donald Soctomah


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1928: Abbe Museum at Sieur de Monts Spring Opens

Old Abbe

Architectural sketch of museum by Dr. Robert Abbe

The opening of the Abbe Museum increases local interest in archaeology, leading to the museum's first excavation in Frenchman Bay. In 1929, the first in a series of Abbe Museum research bulletins is published on the project.




Native people become United States citizens by an Act of Congress, but in Maine and many other states they are not given the right to vote in either state or federal elections. Many Native people reject citizenship, refusing to give up their tribal sovereignty.



The Passamaquoddy Tribe petitions Maine Governor Carl Milliken to support the Tribe's exemption from United States citizenship.


"We, the undersigned members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indians, humbly beg the State of Maine to use her influence against making Indians citizens of the United States, for the following reasons... We are satisfied with our lot as Indians. The Passamaquoddy Tribe is always loyal to America. In the Revolutionary War, the Passamaquoddy Tribe gave her whole strength for the cause. We fought under Col. Allan. In his speech when the Massachusetts Congress voted for thanks, Col. Allan said in part; "These Indians who have been in the service of the United States shall be taken care of in a fatherly way, by the United States, and they shall enjoy every right and privilege." In the Civil War we raised a company of 14 men, and in the World War we raised a company of 24 men out of our male population of 100. Please use your kind influence. If the law be already passed, let us be exempt from it."


A petition signed by 64 Passamaquoddy presented to Maine Governor Carl Milliken by Passamaquoddy Governor William Neptune, Feb.29, 1920, from the Maine State Archives.


Courtesy of Donald Soctomah




Many Wabanaki serve in the U.S. and Canadian armed forces during World War I. The following excerpt from "The Indian Heroes of Patriotic Pleasant Point World War I-Full Quota Volunteered"

August 6, 1919


Perhaps nowhere else in the world not even in our good old USA did an entire village contribute its quota of soldiers to the world war independent of conscription, as did the Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe located at Pleasant Point, Perry, Maine. The town of Perry, Washington County, displays a single gold star on the service flag, for enlisted man Roger Sullivan, a mere lad. But from the Indian reservation, located at Pleasant Point went forth 37 native men, eager to do their bit, scornful of the tardy draft; 15 enlisted in Canadian ranks before our colors challenged the German flag, 9 entered on the struggle under the Army Stars and Stripes, and the others are with the Navy. On the service flag before the little Tribal chapel the crimson of five proud stars has already turned to shining gold. Two boys linger in France, others yet sail the seas, one is in the hospital, and three "by the skin of their teeth" were returned with battle-scarred Company 26.


A call at the gubernatorial home reveals Tribal Governor William Neptune, a middle-aged man possible with a little white blood, but speaks direct English. When approached on the subject of his son who claimed burial in France, there is no demonstration of grief. The letters of his boy are without comment laid in the inquirer's hand, and only silence betrays the heartache of him and of the lad's mother- a daughter of a white woman. There is another boy left, and three girls, but Moses Neptune, enlisting at 19, "while dead, yet speaking through the correspondence that was never allowed to lag till his pencil was stilled forever. His handwriting is uncommonly graceful and legible, and he urged his people 'You must not let a week go by if you can help it. Every chance I get I always write.'"


Courtesty Donald Socomah


To the Tribal settlement came this letter from the company chaplain:

"Dear Governor Neptune: Your son gave his young life for freedom on the day the Armistice was signed... "



Corpus Christi Day, 1913


Corpus Christi Day, 1913

The greatest event of the entire Passamaquoddy Tribe is the celebration of Corpus Christi Day conducted Thursday, June 21. The day was clear and warm and 400 strangers visited the reservation, making trips from many towns in Washington County in autos and trains. There were prominent Indians from Indian Township and Old Town as they are closely related from frequent marriages. American flags were conspicuous in all parts of the village, and the large church flag occupied a prominent place near St. Anne's $10,000 church and handsome convent. All doors were thrown wide open for the annual festival and a welcome was given to white visitors. Although the average house is small, and yet there are a few pianos and phonographs owned by the natives and they were not overlooked on Thursday. Chief Sopiel Mitchell, the aged chieftain and leader of the Tribe, extending the keys to the village to all visitors. The famed Passamaquoddy brass band, under the leadership of Professor Bennett Francis, known as one of the best solo clarinet players of Maine, furnished music during the day. Headed by Sabattus Mitchell as Marshall; Andrew Lola carrying a large cross; Indian brass band; Rev. Sullivan carried the Blessed Sacrament under the canopy held up by 4 altar boys; Sisters of Mercy, followed by numbers of Indian girls and boys from the convent school and church; then the men and women villagers. There were picturesque native costumes conspicuous during the day. It was the day of rest for the Tribe, although the afternoon was given over to sports and games. Several stores in the village carried on a thriving business in refreshments; the musicians gave several selections on the village green, and then followed an interesting ballgame on the diamond a short distance from the streets. It was a novelty for many, and Indians composed the teams. They were dressed in regular suits. It was late in the afternoon when the annual Corpus Christi came to an end, and will go on file as a successful and enjoyable event among the Passamaquoddy Tribe, who are devout Catholics, a quiet and peaceful Tribe of citizens who live among themselves and expect no favors but their just dues from the State. One of the conspicuous Indians during the day was Chief John Nicholas, who celebrated his 102nd birthday on June 15th."


A contemporary account from The Eastport Sentinel newspaper Courtesy of Donald Soctomah



1912People In a Canoe

Governor and Mrs. Francis, Penobscot Tribe, postcard

Native performers and crafters sell images of themselves in regalia and costumes. Postcards are popular souvenirs and Native entrepreneurs capitalized on the public's interest in Native Americana.






Oral Tradition: How Glooskap left the World

In the beginning there was just the sea and the forest - no people and no animals. Then Koluskap came. He possessed great magic. Out of the rocks, he made the Mihkomuwehsisok, small people who dwelt among the rocks and made wonderful music on the flute. Next Koluskap made the people. Wiith his bow he shot arrows into the trunks of Ash trees. Out of the trees stepped men and women. They were strong and graceful people with light brown skin and shining black hair. Koluskap called them Wabanaki, people of the dawn.


Adapted from The Algonquin Legends of New England

by Charles G. Leland, 1884





Joe Piel Pole, Passamaquoddy, spearfishing circa 1910.

Archives & Special Collections, Harriet Irving Library, Univ. of New Brunswick

Salmon spear-fishing is outlawed by the state, eliminating an important traditional hunting practice for the Wabanaki.


















Census indicates for Passamaquoddy and Penobscot populations near all-time lows.


1897 Andrew Socalexis Andrew Socalexis

Courtesy of the National Baseball
Hall of Fame and Museum

Louis Sockalexis, Penobscot, joins the Cleveland Spiders baseball team in 1897. As a rookie, he bats .331.


His cousin, Andrew Sockalexis, Penobscot, finished second at two Boston Marathons (1912 and 1913) and placed fourth at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912.

In 2000 Andrew and Louis were inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, Tulsa, Oklahoma.




























Passamaquoddy Lewis Mitchell speaks to the Maine State Legislature, decrying the state's failure to live up to its treaty obligations.




Postcard showing the Indian encampment in Bar Harbor circa 1890

Electric lights come to Bar Harbor, one of the largest resort communities on the east coast and one of the primary summer markets for Natives selling their wares.









The first money order from Bar Harbor is sent by a Passamaquoddy Indian to Eastport.






Chief Big Thunder

Frank Loring, Chief Big Thunder

"Big Thunder, the famous Indian Chief, gave an exhibition at the pavilion on West Street last evening. He was supported by his wife and family. The exhibition consisted of an exemplification of Indian customs and ceremonies."

The Mt. Desert Herald documents the Native summer community









1879: "Kill the Indian and save the man."

The U.S. government establishes the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the first of many co-educational, government funded, residential schools designed to assimilate Native peoples into the mainstream of American society. Carlisle's founder, Henry Pratt coined the phrase "Kill the Indian and save the man."


Carlisle's rosters include 5 Abenaki, 8 Passamaquoddy and 44 Penobscot students.



The Wabanaki Alliance, a political alliance of tribes in the northeast that existed for several hundred years, is effectively dissolved when the Penobscots and Passamaquoddies withdraw from the Great Council Fire Alliance.



Joseph Attien

Joseph Attien

Joseph Attien (1830 –1870) drowned while working as a log driver on the Penobscot River. Like many Penobscot men of his time, he earned seasonal wages working on the river drives.


Mr. Attien acted as Henry David Thoreau's guide on Thoreau's second trip to the north Maine woods in 1853. He also served as Governor of the Penobscot Tribe from 1862 to 1869.










Peter and Alice MitchellCivil War veteran Peter Mitchell, Passamaquoddy, and his wife, Alice.


Peter served in the 7th Maine Volunteer Regiment. His widow finally received his pension in 1902, 37 years after his death, and built herself a new house at Pleasant Point.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Nicholas,
Waponahki Museum















International boundary established between Maine and Canada after the Aroostook War divides Passamaquoddy and Maliseet territory.



Most Passamaquoddy tribal homes are wooden structures with only a few wigwams left.



Maine sells about 100,000 acres of Penobscot tribal lands, leaving the tribe with less than 5,000 acres and opening the Penobscot Valley for large-scale lumbering.



Deacon Sockabasin lives in the only wooden framed home at Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Reservation.



Maine becomes a state and assumes responsibility for the Indian communities. The annuity supplied to each tribe as their treaty provision includes: 500 bu corn, 15 ba wheat flour, 7 ba clear pork, 1 hogshead molasses, 100 yards broadcloth, 1 year to be red, the next blue, 50 good blankets, 100 lb gunpowder, 400 lb shot, 6 boxes chocolate, 150 lb tobacco, $50 in silver.


Annuity cloth: the black, red or blue cloth annually given to Native people as part of the State of Maine's treaty responsibilities.


1812: War of 1812

Traditional dress

Portrait of Denny Soccabeson,
Passamaquoddy, painted in 1817 by
Lt. Villars at Ft. Sullivan, Eastport, Maine.
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art
Museum, Williamsburg, VA

This image of a young Passamaquoddy woman depicts her in traditional dress of the time. She wears a peaked cap and dress made from red trade cloth and sewn with glass beads and silk ribbon. Notice the soldiers drilling on the parade ground through the window.

She was probably painted by an English officer during the War of 1812. Both Great Britain and the United States claimed the Eastport region. The British Navy seized the fort without a shot being fired. They held it for four years until 1818.

Quick Links

A New Dawn (Present - 1950)

Resistance – Making War & Negotiating Peace (1796 - 1675)

Strangers in the Land – European Contact (1675 - 1500)

Time of Dawn (500 - 12,000 years ago)

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