2014 Winning Essays

2014 Winning Essays

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First Place High School Division

Dominick Frank
10th Grade, Home School

Reliable Transportation in Pre-colonial Maine

Many inventions make the lives of people both more enjoyable and easier to manage. Over the course of human history there have been many inventions that have risen to fame and then been forgotten with time or impracticality. But there are a select few that are just so useful that societies use them for centuries. On top of that is an even smaller group that remains in wide spread use for much longer. There are two common items from todays world that fit into that last category. They all originated in North America. Over a period of thousands of years the Native Americans, particularly those from Maine, invented, developed, and perfected, two modes of unpowered transportation that were an important part of their way of life. These inventions are the snowshoe, a device that effectively disperses the wearers weight letting one walk on top of deep snow, and the canoe, a vehicle specifically designed and uniquely adapted to navigate the rivers, lakes, and coastal waters of Maine.

Before Europeans colonized the continent of North America, Maine Native Americans lacked any form of powered transportation, such as horses, ships, or oxen. In fact, they traveled mostly by foot. Which was a problem considering that, due to Maines climate, the ground was covered by snow for many months out of the year. Maine Native Americans solved this problem by deploying one of their most useful inventions. The snowshoes used by the Native Americans of Maine differed slightly from tribe to tribe, but the design was relatively the same and they all helped increase the walkers speed by decreasing the effort needed to walk. Those worn by the Micmacs of Maine had a frame constructed out of strips of beech, while those of other tribes were primarily ash. The mesh of these snowshoes consisted of a hexagonally woven pattern of moose-hide strips. The mesh size varied based on the purpose of the snowshoe. For example, shoes worn for hunting had a large holed mesh pattern to decrease snow accumulation, and snowshoes used for traveling had a finely woven mesh to keep the traveler on top of the snow. John Josselyn, an early colonial traveler, described snowshoes as he first saw them: In the winter when the snow will not bear them, they fasten to their feet their snowshoes, which are made like a large racket we play at Tennis with, lacing them with Deer-guts (rawhide) and the like (Bourque 279). These large rackets as Josselyn described them, were seen as so useful by arriving Europeans in the early seventeenth century that they were immediately adopted, and they remain in use to the present day.

Although the snowshoe was a useful invention itself, there is another vehicle developed by the Native Americans of Maine, that was far more versatile and important to the Natives way of life: the canoe. The canoe was the invention of Native manufacture that most impressed the Europeans (Bourque 273). This vessel was extremely well adapted for use in the narrow rivers found in the heavily forested landscape of pre-colonial Maine. A typical bark canoe, such as those used by all tribes of Maine, weighed less than 100 pounds and could hold several people plus supplies. The lightness of these canoes made them very mobile. One canoe could be transported over land by two people. Canoes used in Maine varied, like the snowshoes, from tribe to tribe. Those used by the Abenaki are perhaps the most versatile. They typically never exceeded four meters in length, small in comparison to the other tribes canoes. They were well adapted to the winding narrow rivers of inland Maine. In fact their usefulness as inland vessels made them a popular trade item, with boats traded with tribes as far away as Ontario. On the other hand, the Passamaquoddy bark canoe was among the largest versions used in the state of Maine. These canoes ranged any where from six to eight meters in length, with a width from sixty to one hundred and ten inches. Such canoes as these were used strictly for coastal travel.

Also similar to the snowshoes, the materials used for the canoes of Maine remained the same from throughout the state. The basic supplies needed to build a common birch bark canoe consisted of: large pieces of birch bark; strips of cedar wood, used for ribs; spruce roots, for binding; and fir gum (tree sap), used for sealing. Other than bark canoes, the use of only two other types of canoes was ever recorded in Maine. These other canoes included dugout and moose hide. Dugout canoes were primarily used along the coast west of the Kennebec River where there was not enough large birch trees to make sufficient vessels. To make a dugout canoe the natives felled a large tree, taking a long section of its trunk. They would then use a combination of fire and sharp stones to hollow out the inside of the log. When finished, a dugout canoe was at least four times as heavy as a bark canoe, although they would last far longer. In comparison, canoes made with a shell of moose hide were considered temporary vessels. Sewing together several layers of moose hide, waterproofing them with tree sap, and attaching the hides to a typical cedar frame completed the construction of a moose hide canoe. The Maliseets used such canoes as temporary vessels at the end of winter hunting expeditions.

The Native Americans of Maine independently developed two very useful forms of transportation over thousands of years. These vehicles were an important aspect in their lifestyle, making it easier for them to travel from one place to the next in the Maine landscape. The snowshoe and canoe were so well adapted for North America that the Europeans arriving in the early 1600s created their own versions that we still use and know so well today. These vehicles are among the small group of crafts from the pre-colonial period that survived to the present time.


Bourque, Bruce J.. Twelve Thousand Years. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.
Giles, John. Memoirs of Odd Adventures, Strange Deliverances Etc. Cincinnati: Spiller and Gates Printers, 1869.
Josselyn, John. New Englands Rarities Discovered. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1972.
Podruchny, Carolyn. Making the Voyageur World. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

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2nd Place High School Division

Chelsey Frank
11th Grade, Home School

The Passamaquoddy Land Claim Case: A Legal Battle for Land

One day, over fifty years ago, in 1959, the Passamaquoddy tribe discovered a long lost and highly illegal treaty that would start what would become known as the Passamaquoddy Land Claim Case. The document, from 1794, lay in a sweet grass envelope, gently tucked in a trunk, long forgotten by both the native community and the Maine government. It was in the possession of Louise Sockabasin, great-aunt to Indian Township Gov. John Stevens wife (Woodward). The Passamaquoddy Land Claim Case was one of the largest land claim cases in the country; it covered close to two thirds of the state of Maine. The case also lead to the largest settlement act in the history of the United States. This settlement act is known as the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1970. A key figure in this story, Donald Gellers worked hard to bring this case to the attention of both the state and national government.

In 1794, a treaty was negotiated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which included what would soon become the State of Maine in 1820. In this treaty, the Passamaquoddy handed over their land that they had owned for centuries in trade for perpetual ownership of 15 islands in the St. Croix River, two in Big Lake, 10 acres at Pleasant Point, and the entirety of what came to be called Indian Township, 23,000 acres of forest, streams and lakes in what would later be eastern Washington County that the tribe had used as winter hunting grounds since time immemorial (Woodard). Overall, the Passamaquoddy lost over a million acres of land through this treaty. Since the U.S. Congress never approved this treaty, it was later declared invalid. In fact, not only was it invalid, it was also completely illegal because of the Federal Trade and Nonintercourse Act that was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1790. This Act prevented individual states from legally making treaties with any Native American tribe.

When this treaty resurfaced in 1959, the Passamaquoddy nation was stunned into action. Donald Gellers, representing the tribe in legal matters, began to work towards the land claim case for the Passamaquoddy. Gellers found that the treaty was illegal and brought this to the attention of the tribe and the Maine government. The Maine government however, viewed it differently. The state argued that because the Passamaquoddy were not a recognized tribe in the state of Maine, the Treaty of 1794 was legal because, according to them, the Passamaquoddy werent a native tribe. Therefore, the treaty did not violate the Federal Trade and Nonintercourse Act of 1790. At this point, Tom Tureen, a young lawyer, became Gellers successor in the case. In 1972, Tureen and his colleagues filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Interior Department. The lawsuit included other tribes in the Wabanaki Confederacy that had lost land as well. The Confederacy was an alliance between the native tribes of Maine. Tureen and his colleagues claimed that the tribe should be federally recognized and, therefore, its lands should be protected under the Nonintercourse Act. In 1975, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Passamaquoddy tribe. This decision was later upheld by the federal appeals court (A Timeline of the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980).

Finally, in March of 1980, the state government and the tribes of Maine came to an agreement on the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. In September, the Act was passed by both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. On October 10, 1980 the Act was signed in to effect by President Carter. The Settlement Act gave the Wabanaki of Maine $81 million, federal recognition, the right to purchase at least 300,000 acres of land at fair market value, and limited immunity from state laws(Ganter).

Overall, the Native American tribes of Maine lost far more than can ever be accounted for today, yet the Wabanaki Confederacy continues to work towards regaining many other parcels of land and hunting and fishing rights that have been lost through other controversial treaties and agreements with the Maine government. For example, tribal members were promised the right to fish and hunt on their land without regard to state regulations, yet this right has not always been upheld by the state. The Passamaquoddy Indian Land Claim Case and the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act were a big step towards a redress of grievances for the Maine Native Americans. Thankfully, the tribes have been able to regain many of the rights taken from them centuries ago.

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1st Place Middle School Division

Carolyn Frank
8th Grade, Home School

Ash-Splint Basketry: A Native Craft

Some are shaped like strawberries, and some are shaped like cobs of corn. Some are woven with decorative curls and spikes, and some are plain. Some are very large, and some are very small. What are these objects They are ash-splint baskets. Ash-splint basketry was an important part of Maine Native American tribal life because of their use in everyday work, and today these baskets are still made for modern uses. Although the process of making a basket is long, the finished product can be very useful. Large baskets, usually with no woven pattern, were mainly used for gathering and carrying outside of the living space. Small or decorative baskets, usually with a woven pattern, were used mainly indoors for storing food or small objects.

The process of making an ash-splint basket involves many techniques invented by Maine natives. To begin, the basket maker selects a tall, straight Black ash tree with minimal branches and no blemishes or knots (Nuss). This tree is cut down and sawed into one or two 8-10 foot logs, which are then stripped of bark. These logs are pounded with a mallet all the way around and down the length of the log (Nuss). As the log is pounded, the growth rings separate from each other, leaving very thin rings of wood that can be cut to the desired width. These are the ash-splints, which are coiled and stored for basket-making. To make a basket, the basket maker first smooths the ash splints and splits them thinner if making a small basket. To make the bottom of the basket, a flat part is woven, either a round bottom with spokes, or a square bottom with a regular weave of crosspieces for a square basket. The ends of the splints used to make the bottom are bent up and more ash splints are woven in between them to make the sides of the basket. If wanted, a lid or handle finishes the basket.

The uses of these baskets depended on their size and design. Large baskets, such as gathering baskets and pack baskets, were made to carry such things as home furnishings longs distances or to gather food such as berries, roots and herbs in the field. Fish traps were also made about the same size as a large basket for catching trout or salmon. Medium sized baskets were made for storing food and utensils, mostly in the living space. Small baskets, usually woven with a decorative pattern, were used for storing very small amounts of food, small objects, or personal items (Basketry). The most common decorative patterns used in basket making were the porcupine curl and the loop curl. The porcupine curl involves a thin strip of ash, which is woven over the plain weave, but with small spikes, made by creases in a loop of the ash, made into the crossweave. The loop curl is just a plain loop made in place of the spike curl, giving the basket a curly look. These curls could be woven in patterns that skip rows in the weave, or just around the rim, on the lid, and in many other ways.

Today, Black ash basketry has evolved to fit modern uses. In the pre-colonial tribes, baskets were used for gathering, carrying and storing. After the colonization of America, Native Americans started trading baskets for beads, steel knives and cloth. Around 1880, basket makers started using dyes to give their baskets color (Overview). These colors, combined with patterns made with the loop and porcupine curls, made baskets that became more and more like artwork. While still made of traditional Black ash, some baskets are shaped like strawberries, blueberries, corncobs, pinecones, Uncle Sam, sea urchins and much more. Today these baskets are sold mostly as artwork. Work baskets too are sold and have evolved to fit the modern world. Baskets such as the potato basket, fishscale basket, and fishing creel are used today for things the native tribes never would have used them for. There are also baskets such as stair baskets, picnic baskets, laundry hampers and handkerchief boxes that are examples of present-day basketry (Mundell).

Black ash basketry was once a very important part of Maine tribal life, and black ash baskets are still made and sold today. Before the colonization of America, Maine tribes knew nothing of houses, farming, or food markets. Instead they used their own hands and tools, such as baskets, to get what they needed. Baskets were used for gathering, fishing, carrying, and storing food and objects. But throughout time, slight changes have been made in the design, color and use of these baskets to make a more modern art than was seen in the pre-colonial tribes. In the future, though, the invasion of the Emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive insect that kills ash trees, could be a threat to Maines ash basket market, which many Native Americans rely on for income. Scientists and basket makers across Maine are working to prevent the spread of the Emerald ash borer before it reaches Maine and to prepare to fight an EAB invasion if it does reach Maine. The whole basket industry relies on what will be done about this invasive pest.

Reference List

Basketry. Penobscot Brown Ash Basketry. Francis, Barbara D. 2 Mar 2010. Web. 6 Nov 2014.
Maine Crafts Association, Colby College Museum of Art, and University of Maine at Presque Isle. Maine Basketry: Past to Present. Lewiston: Penmor Lithographers, 1989.
Mundell, Kathleen. Basket Trees, Basket Makers. Augusta: Maine Arts Commission, 1992.
Nuss, Susi, Ed. Black Ash Basketry: The Process. Basket Makers. BasketMakers Forum. 2013. Web. 4 Nov 2014.
Overview of Maine Indian Basketry. American Native Arts and Antiques. 2014. Web. 30 Oct 2014.

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2nd Place Middle School Division - Tie

Ethan Brown
8th Grade, Auburn Middle School

The land is sacred. These words are at the core of your being.
The land is our mother, the rivers our blood.
Take our land away and we die.
That is, the Indian in us dies.
- Mary Brave Bird

Mr. President you must look at the serious problem we have at hand, youre allowing the uneducated people of our country to spread false information about Native Americans or as your citizens call them Indians. It is everywhere! Childrens books, cartoons, mascots, names of common things and movies. It is the same thing as disrespecting African Americans. We must act because not doing anything is only making it worse. There are many negative stereotypes about Native Americans in the world and we have to find the cure to end them.

The start to this horrific problem is in childrens books and cartoons. Stereotypes are in almost all Native American childrens books and cartoons. In the Walt Disney cartoon A Cowboy Needs A Horse the Indians are all dressed the same, have feathers on, are usually almost naked, and are always associated with violence and war. These are all false stereotypes that make the young children of our country scared and dislike the First Nations. The Native American Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe once said, and I quote, We do not want riches. We want peace and love. This shows that the stereotype implying all Native Americans are violent from the cartoon A Cowboy Needs a Horse is not true. Childrens books and cartoons arent the only Native American stereotype spreader; mascots also spread these harsh stereotypes.

There are many negative Native American stereotypes in sports team mascots. The Kansas City Chiefs are a NFL football team, and happen to have the most offensive pre-game ritual I have ever seen. Every Friday during the regular season it is Red Friday in Kansas City, when fans dress in their chiefs gear and get ready for the game. If you thought that was bad, prepare yourself for this. Just before kickoff a selected guest hits a large drum three times and the entire Indian-themed crowd starts screaming, dancing and swinging their arms in the tomahawk motion over their heads. I find this offensive because when doing some research about the Native American Tomahawk I found that it is what the Native Americans call an axe. With this used as a pre-game ritual we are only acknowledging the Native Americans as violent people. The stadium is named Arrowhead to continue the Native American theme. What I find most interesting about the team is that when the vote for the last change in the team name occurred a total of 4,866 entries were received with 1,020 different names being suggested. Less than one percent selected Chiefs, however, chiefs came out on top. The problem doesnt stop there, Native Americans are being disrespected around their reserves.

My teacher went to a program given by the TRC. She was telling me that the speaker was a Passamaquoddy tribal member who said both she and her son suffer severely from depression as do many members of her family. This is all because of the harassment by Americans who live around the reserve. The speaker said the children in her tribe are afraid to leave the reserve because everywhere they go they are called names and made fun of. How come when Ruby Bridges was going to school we got National Guard members, but not for the Native Americans around their reserve It is the same situation, we hurt the African Americans, we hurt the Native Americans, but we only helped the African Americans!

In conclusion there are many negative stereotypes about Native American people. They come in many forms such as mascots, childrens books, cartoons and even face to face. As President I ask that you do all within your power to change this terrible problem. What is it going to take to end this problem The first Native American President.


Go Go Gophers Moon Zoom. N.p., n.d. Web.
Legends of America Home Page. Legends of America Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2014.
Native American Wisdom Quotes. Native American Quotes, Native American Wisdom Sayings: Pearls Of Wisdom. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2014.
Tomahawk (axe). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2014.
Native American Mascot Controversy. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2014.

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2nd Place Middle School Division - Tie

Haleigh Chambers
8th Grade, Windsor Elementary School

Molly Ockett

Weve all learned that Native Americans had their own medicine, and that Native American healers had remedies for many diseases, but who were those healers and how did they do it Who helped the people who were infected with diseases, injured, or dying These might be questions youve asked in the past when your teachers talked about Native American healers; I know I certainly did. Ive done research to answer my questions and this is what I have found about one of Maines most famous Native American healers.

One Abenaki woman was called the Abenaki Healing Woman. Her Christian name was Marie Agatha, but she probably pronounced it as, Mali Agit. We say her name today as, Molly Ockett, and she was once referred as, Androscoggin Valleys Florence Nightingale.

Molly was the only doctor available to most of the early settlers. She had been taught the ancient arts of healing by her ancestors. She knew how to collect her healing medicines and provide for herself.

Once she saved the life of an infant, Hannibal Hamlin, and predicted that someday he would become a very famous man. She was right because he became the fifteenth Vice President of the United States. Hamlin was Abraham Lincolns Vice President during the Civil War, and her was the first Vice President from the Republican party.

People of the time described Molly as, pretty, gentle, a generous squawpossessed a large frame and feature, and walked remarkably erect even in old age and kind in her disposition and unswerving in her devotion to truth. Molly got along with the whites, but she didnt quite understand their attitudes, as this story from the Internet, (www.nedoba.org/bio_molly01.html) illustrates.

One Sunday, Molly picked some blueberries and brought them to Mrs. Chapman of Bethel. The woman scolded Molly for picking berries on Sunday. When Molly returned several weeks later, Molly said, Choke me! I was right in picking the blueberries on Sunday, it was so pleasant, and I was so happy that the Great Spirit had provided them for me. She is quoted as saying Methodists were, dretful clever folks and at times she attended their church services.

Molly claimed that the springs in Poland had medicinal powers. Because of her beliefs, local residents thought of Molly as an old, drunken squaw or a witch, and paid very little attention to what she thought. However, Mr. Rickers family payed attention to her beliefs, and it was actually one of his family members that established the famous Poland Springs Resort, and promoted the healing qualities of their spring water, which is now world famous.

Molly was said to be the daughter and granddaughter of chiefs. There are several theories that go with that thought. One is said that Molly was orphaned at a young age when Pagus, Mollys father, was killed in the battle with Lovewell (Fryburg) in 1725. This would make Molly at least ninety-one when she died.

Some people think that Molly was fifteen when she hid in the bushes during the raid by Rogers Rangers at Odanak (St. Francis) in 1759. That would place Mollys birth around 1744, which would mean she died around the age of seventy-two.

There is one more theory and this is the most likely one. Around 1755, smallpox nearly wiped out the Native American tribes living along the Upper Androscoggin and Upper Connecticut Rivers, which may have resulted in unburied bodies. This would make Mollys birth and death date unknown.

Many people believe that Molly was married to Captain John Sussup about 1766, but she was also remembered as living with Sabatis. It is believed that she had some children with one man and other children with the other man. It is known that she had at least one daughter.

Molly became ill when she camped at Lake Molechunckamuck. Her friend brought her to Andover and tried to take care of her. Molly is buried in the town of Andover where she died. Her headstone reads: MOLLYOCKET Baptized Mary Agatha, died in the Christian Faith, August 2, A.D., 1816. The last of the Pequakets.

Today, molly Ocketts name is on buildings and landmarks, throughout Western Maine. Molly Ockett was a well known Maine Native American, who did wonders for her people and white settlers. She will be remembered as the Abenaki Healing Woman, a wise woman who saved many lives.

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