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Home > Winners Page > 2005-06 Essays

2005-06 Essays

First Place High School Winner, Scott Stilphen
Brunswick High School, 11th Grade

Treaties with the Wabanakis: A One Way Street

When European explorers of France and England first came to the northeastern region of land known as Maine there was a clash of cultures, understandings, and principles that can never be forgotten. Cultural concepts, understandings of land, and principles of life all played a major role in the history of treaties between Wabanakis and European settlers. Treaties between Wabanakis and European settlers revealed how Wabankis stuck to their word and followed treaties to the best of their knowledge while European settlers either broke the treaties they signed or let others break the treaty with no opposition.

One of the key factors in the failure of treaties between Wabanakis and European settlers was the concept of the land. The general European and Native American concept of land was extremely different. Native Americans like Wabanakis believed that land was a sacred creation of the Creator that no man or woman could ever own. Europeans like the English saw land as an object that could be owned and privatized to gain wealth. The large differences between these concepts of land makes it clear that there would need to be a change in one of the concepts in order to have successful treaties between the two cultures.

Differences in the two concepts of land led to major misunderstandings when it came to treaties. When the English signed treaties to Wabanakis' land they thought they were receiving full ownership of the land. English also assumed with this ownership that Wabanakis had given up their right to even be present on the land. With a completely different understanding, Wabanakis thought they had given English the right to share the land and Wabanakis could use the lands as they had previously. After treaties were signed between English and Wabanakis both sides thought they had a complete understanding, when in reality neither one knew. When Wabanakis continued using their land as they had always done English felt they were insulted. When Wabanakis were kicked off the land they felt deeply disrespected by the English.

All the Wabanakis wanted was peace from the start. On the other hand British government was plotting to use allusions of peace and agreements to obtain ownership and power of Wabanakis' land as well as rob Wabankis of any rights to the land they had lived in for hundreds of years. It seems as though the English had only created these treaties so that they could break them and dupe Native peoples like the Wabanakis.

The conflict that rose from the broken treaties between the English and the Wabanakis rose all around the land of the Americas . Treaties between Wabanakis and European settlers revealed how Wabankis stuck to their word and followed treaties to the best of their knowledge while European settlers either broke the treaties they signed or let others break the treaty with no opposition. The broken treaties not only reveal the differences in concepts and understandings of land, but also differences of intentions.

Bourque, Bruce J. (2001). Twelve Thousand Years. Lincoln: University of Nebraska.

Wabanaki Program of the American Friends Service Committee. (1989). The Wabanakis of Maine and the Maritimes, A Resource Book by and about Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Micmac and Abenaki Indians. Philadelphia: Author.

Second Place High School Finisher,  Jessica Turcotte
Poland Regional High School, 10th Grade

Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Relations with European Settlers

For many years the beautiful state of Maine has been home to generations of Native Americans. European settlers often relied upon their knowledge of the land and their wide network of trade. This network of trade extended northeast. Europeans brought irreversible change to the Native American Community. Despite all of the past changes, early Native American traditions have managed to survive and continue to this day to play an important role in the lives of present day communities.

Penobscot and Passamaquoddies were among the many American Indians living in the state of Maine when thorough exploration of the land by Europeans and others began in the 16th century. Traditionally they lived a majority of the year in family band camps which relocated often. They relocated on a seasonal basis, which was based on hunting, fishing and gathering for their daily needs. Both Penobscot Indians and Passamaquoddies speak closely related Algonquin languages. Native Americans have been around well before recorded history.

Relations with European settlers could have been much better. Between 1616 and 1619 more than 75% of Maine's Native Americans died from diseases such as smallpox, cholera, measles, and the plaque brought by Europeans. Later in 1794 the Passamaquoddy of Maine signed a treaty with Massachusetts (included Maine at the time) giving up all their land except for a few parcels. The Passamaquoddy tribe received absolutely nothing in return. They came into this agreement believing that they'd get protection and aid from Massachusetts or the federal government. The treaty was never actually ratified by Congress as is required by the federal law.

Native Americans had dealt with a lot, because they were threatened by European plaques and warfare, and the Europeans desire for land. The Europeans disrupted their seasonal activities and destabilized tribe politics. Some Native American leaders began to claim ownership of what was share land. They made new boundaries in order to either negotiate alliances or to keep the European settlers out.

Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians were one of the first to have contact with European settlers. European settlers were attracted by the long bays along the coast of Maine. Fishermen and explorers were especially interested in this as they were searching for a sea route through the continent. A few of the first encounters with European settlers were friendly, such as the Samuel de Champlain's exploration and settlement of Maine's area in 1604. Others were not, such as Henry Hudson's bombardment and looting of a village on the Penobscot River in 1609. An even more significant devastation had come from a terrible pandemic in 1617. This pandemic wiped out over 75% of the inhabitants along Maine and the New England coast. The surviving Passamaquoddies and Penobscot had traded furs with the English for quite some time until the French had established dominance in the area in the 1630's.

Overall Maine's Native Americans did not always have desirable relations with European settlers. Their loss of land unfortunately continued though. Native Americans were often taken advantage of, in an unfair way.

Work Cited

Brodeur, Paul, David Ghere, and Kenneth M. Morrison. "Passamaquoddy/Penobscot."

Encyclopedia of North American Indians. Houghton Mifflin. 13 Oct. 2005

Bruchac, Marge. " Native Land Use and Settlements in the Northeastern Woodlands."

Background - Native Land Use. 19 Oct. 2005

"Historical Timeline of American Indians." Maine Press Herald. 13 Oct. 2005

"Maine's Native American Heritage." Maine Offices of Tourism. Maine Office of Tourism. 13 Oct. 2005

First Place Middle School Winner, Alysha Michaud
Massabesic Junior High School (Waterboro), 8th Grade

Don't You Wish You Had a Magic Wand?

Wouldn't it be nice if you could wave a magic wand and erase the black spots on our country's history? You could undo the wrongs, and make things right. Unfortunately, the magic wand does not exist. Our only hope is to learn from our mistakes, and try to make restitution for the wrong. Throughout our history, Native Americans have been treated cruelly. They were forced from their land, made to learn our religion and accept our way of life. In fact, they weren't even considered people "Within the meaning of the laws" until 1879. The state of Maine has a black spot on the pages of history concerning the Native Americans, but it is trying to correct the injustice that was done.

It is true the state of Maine was one of the last states to comply with the Indian Citizenship Act passed in 1924. It would be 30 years later in 1954 before the reservation Indians could vote in a national election and 43 years later in a state election. However, progress in restoring equal rights since that time has been steady. Maine is the only state to allow the Penobscots (1823) and Passamaquoddies (1842) to send representative to the Maine Legislature. The tribal representatives are not allowed voting privileges, but they are able to address the first Native Bill and in 1999, a rule change allowed them to co-sponsor any bill, statewide. The Native Americans of Maine are allowed to vote in national and federal elections, as well as have state representation.

It is a fact, that the Europeans and colonists tried to force their culture, religion, and form of education on the Native Americans, but that way of thinking has changed. In 1965, the state of Maine established the Department of Indian Affairs to help the Native Americans with social, health, and economic programs. This agency was first of its kind in the nation. One purpose was to meet the needs of Native Americans, and to help them preserve their culture and govern themselves. Also by 1973, the state of Maine granted the four Indian tribes aboriginal rights, as well as special educational scholarships. Native Americans are turning back to their heritage with pride, and are not forced to conform to the majority.

Finally, throughout the history of the United States, Native Americans have been forced to leave their land. Sometimes they left because of treaties, other times the government moved them to relocated them. Once in a while they would sell their land for corn, cloth or salt. They were taken advantage of, but the Native Americans in a Maine fought this injustice and won. In 1972, the Passamaquoddy tribes and Penobscot Nation filed a lawsuit claiming 12.5 million acres (or 2/3) of Maine had been illegally taken away from them. The land was given away in treaties but Congress never ratified the treaties, so it made the transaction void. President Jimmy Carter signed the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, which agreed with the Indian tribes and awarded them $27 million in a trust fund and $51 million to buy 300,000 acres of land in exchange for the land. Even though the Native Americans might have been removed or tricked off their land they did receive some compensation for it.

In conclusion, the state of Maine recognizes the injustice done to the Native Americans, and has started to rectify it. In the present day, Native Americans are not only represented in government, but may introduce bills. The movement in Maine is going forward to respect the Native culture and tradition instead trying to make it conform. Most importantly land is being preserved for generations to come. We may not have a magic wand to erase the pages, but we do have the future to write.

Second Place Middle School Finisher, Alexis Servidio
St. Joseph's School (Lewiston), 6th Grade

"The Government Structure of Native Americans in the State of Maine"

The Maliseet, Abenaki, Passamaquoddy, and Micmac are 4 different tribes that lived in different parts in the state of Maine long before the Europeans came to North America. Europeans used their own laws when they arrived in North America. They believed that the Native Americans had no social, cultural, governmental, or legal institutions. They did not think that they had to follow the laws of the Native Americans. The Europeans did not respect the Native Americans. They viewed them as nomadic people that lived in the woods. The Native Americans did have societies, culture, government and laws, the Europeans did not recognize this because they were so different from what they were use to. They did not have Kings, Governors, Mayors or other Officials like the Europeans did.

The government system of the Native Americans reflected values of their culture. In order for them to survive it was important for them to cooperate with those in their tribe. They chose to be part of their community, because things were much easier when they worked together. Native people rarely had to be told what to do, they just did what needed to be done. Everyone was considered to be an important part of their community. Laws were not written down. Indians created treaties by using wampums. Wampums were purple and white beads made from the shells of quahog clams. These beads were strung together to form designs. These designs represented messages. The word wampum means, "white string". These designs were not exact works, they just reminded them of what to say at their meetings. These wampums were used to establish, maintain and terminate political relations among the Indian tribes.

The government of the Micmac Nation is known as the Grand Council. It includes seven districts of Micmac territory. The government consisted of local chiefs, which were chosen by clans living in each district. These leaders would elect a district chief who would represent the entire district at the Grand Council. The Grand Council would advise the Micmacs and defend their national territory. There are three leadership positions at the Grand Council. The Grand Chief, the Grand Captain, the Wampum reader. The Wampum Reader would guard the law of the nations and would read the treaties signed with other nations. The Smagn'ss (soldier) serves as the protector the people. Local chiefship, the Grand Chiefships were hereditary within the families. Another person might be chosen if no one in the family thought they were suited for the position. The Grand Council fulfilled both governmental and spiritual responsibilities. These leadership positions still exist with the Micmacs.

In the Abenaki tribes, their chiefs had their positions for life, unless they were taken out of power. An Abenaki chief could be taken out of power if the tribe suffered misfortune or they acted badly. These chiefs had limited authority. They were governed by custom and by public opinion; they did not always have great influences. These chiefs are also know as Sagamores. These chiefs or Sagamores, were respected for their skills as a hunter, bravery as a warrior, power as a speaker, honesty, generosity, and wisdom. Their most important task was to settle differences between the tribe members. Abenaki groups usually formed alliances. They did not usually recognize one single supreme chief. Peace Chiefs had separate jobs from war captains. Ties between families held the Abenaki's together. When decisions needed to be made, men, woman, and children got together to give their opinions. The advice from the older Indians was treated with great respect. Decisions would be made for the tribe when the group came to a general agreement.

The government structure of the Maliseet Indians consisted of six member council, plus an elected tribal chief. These leaders were chosen by the election process. The tribal chief served a four-year term. The tribal council members also served for four years, their terms were staggered.

The Passamaquoddy had its own government and laws like a small country. The leader of the tribe was called "Sakom" which meant "governor". The Sakom used to be chosen by tribal members. Today the Sakom is elected like a governor.

As you can see by my essay the usual government of Native Americans was a very simple one. There were no written laws. When punishment needed to be given it was usually best suited for the situation at the time and was not based on punishments given in the past. There was no need for a rigid set of laws. These Native American tribes can still be found today in reservations, towns, and cities across the state of Maine.