2016 Winning Essays

2016 Winning Essays

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Hamel Award

First Place High School Division

Victoria Hamel
10th Grade, Maine Virtual Academy

Human history is in essence a history of ideas H.G Wells. This quote illustrates a humble concept that is true for all peoples throughout time. This is made even more evident regarding the ancient people who laid the foundations, that todays ideas are built upon. In Maine, those who laid these founding ideas were the people of the Wabanaki Confederacy. The Confederacy was created out of necessity in response to Iroquois aggression. It included five tribes, the Abenaki Indians, the Penobscot Indians, the Maliseet Indians, the Passamaquoddy Indians, and the Mi'kmaq Indians. The human urge to advance is universal; but innovation without cause is useless, the Wabanaki Indians innovated in their everyday lives, their hunting practices, and their methods of agriculture.

To begin, the people of the Wabanaki Confederacy had ingenious systems of architecture and transportation. The Wabanaki Indians mainly lived in wigwams, a wigwams was a round (sometimes square) structure about the size of a tent made out of birch bark. The frame of a wigwam was made out of several poles pitched into the ground, which meet at the top, to create the iconic shape. The outside of the wigwam was covered in a layer of birch bark that was sewn from end to end with split spruce roots. Best said by Bruce Bourque, the advantage of using birch bark was that, As wet birchbark closes around any perforation, the awl-holes made in the wigwam cover for stitching would close around the root thread and thus keep the surface impervious to rain and drafts. (Bourque, 271) Wigwams had other fascinating features such as a removable floors made out of intertwined fir branches, poles that could be laid against the structure for increased stability, and some wigwams were even reported to have extra scaffolding inside for household goods. Another equally important structure to the Wabanaki Indians was the canoe. Wabanaki canoes were mostly comprised of birch bark, but some favored canoes consisting of moose hide. Canoes were an important method of water based transportation. The process of creating a canoe starts with finding the largest birch tree possible, then proceeding to cut a piece of bark the desired length of the canoe. The piece of bark needs to be two feet wide at the middle tapering down to the ends. Next the bark is shaped and two round sticks, the thickness of a cane, are sewn into the rim with split fir roots. Thirdly, four smaller lengths of beach are added crosswise, one in the middle. Finally ribs and slates of cedar are added to reinforce the birch bark. Transportation and architecture were just a few areas where the tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy demonstrated their innovative solutions for everyday problems.

Additionally, the designs of Wabanaki hunting devices such as bows, atlatls, and fishing contraptions displayed their resourcefulness. Nearly every Native American tribe used some form of bow and arrow as a weapon for hunting, war, or both. (Native American Bows and Arrows") The Wabanaki were not an exception. They used bows of wood with sinew strings and arrow heads hewn out of some type of hard stone, such as flint. Similarly, the Wabanaki frequently used spears. Spears were thrown with atlatls. An atlatl was a thin wooden shaft with a hollowed out cup at the end. Atlatls where also sometimes referred to as, spear-throwers, throwing sticks, or throwing boards. A spear, with an atlatl, was thrown by balancing the end of the spear in the cup and swinging the throwing board. The benefit of using such a device was that it allowed the spear thrower to gain more leverage, therefore achieving the ability to throw the spear farther and faster. Some Conquistadors and early Europeans who fought with Native Americans using such devices reported that spears thrown with atlatls could pierce chain mail. Another variant of spears that the Wabanaki Confederacy employed were fishing spears. A Wabanaki fishing spear consisted of one long prong in the middle of two specially shaped pieces of wood; all of this is lashed to a wooden pole. The fishing spear is intriguing because the shape of the two side pieces held the fish from the bottom and sides while the prong skewed the fish form the top. Hunting devices such as atlatls, bows, and fishing spears illustrated the resourcefulness of the Wabanaki.

Further, the people of the Wabanaki Confederacy had agriculturally remarkable ideas in planting and food preservation. The Wabanaki used what can be referred to as companion farming. In companion faming, crops are planted in groups of sisters. The three sisters; corn, squash, and beans; for example, where planted together on a mound. The corn acted as a natural support for beans to climb while the squash or pumpkins acted as ground cover, kept in moisture, and prevented the growth of weeds. The three sisters where harvested together and a portion of their yield was separated for winter use. To preserve food for the winter the Wabanaki either smoked it or dried it. They smoked meats such as salmon and dried vegetables such as the three sisters. Afterwards the food was stored in bark lined pits to keep over winter. The Wabanaki ideals on planting and food preservation were notable methods of agriculture.

Ultimately, the people of the Wabanaki Confederacy laid the foundation that Maine, today, is built upon. With their ingenious ideas on architecture and transportation they presented their deceptively simple, but highly innovative solutions to everyday problems. They displayed their resourcefulness with their designs for hunting equipment such as, fishing spears, bows, and atlatls. Lastly they exhibited their remarkable ideas on agriculture with their methods of planting and food preservation. If history is made up of ideas then the Wabanaki should have the most extensive untold history in existence.


Bourque, Bruce. Twelve Thousand Years: American Indians In Maine. The University of Nebraska: The University of Nebraska Press, 2001. Print.
COWASS North America Inc.,. "What We Ate". The Cowasuck Band of Pennacook Abenaki People. N.p., 2008. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.
Guyette, Elise. "Native Americans In Vermont: The Abenaki". The Flow of History. N.p., 2013. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.
"Native American Houses". www.native-languages.org. N.p., 2014. Web. 7 Nov. 2016.
Treat, Joseph and Micah Pawling. Wabanaki Homeland And The New State Of Maine: The 1820 Journal And Plans Of Survay Of Joseph Treat. Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007. Print.

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Mavor Award

2nd Place High School Division

Lana Mavor
10th Grade, Maine Virtual Academy

The lives and economic well-being of the Native Americans in Maine

Maine Native Americans have a long history. Although they had many disputes with newly-arrived Europeans, various economic challenges, and overall survival due to diseases, there are still five active Native American tribes in Maine today, all part of the Wabanaki Confederacy. These tribes include the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, Abenaki, and Mikmaq nations, all speak Algonquian languages.

There were approximately 25,000 Abnakis in the 16th century. Today, the Penobscot Nation is one of the oldest continuously operating governments in the world (Penobscot Culture & History of the Nation.) with 2,398 members, residing on 86,357 acres of trust land and 28,004 acres of Fee Land. It also has an Island System of 4,840.88 acres, Matagamon Reservation of 24 acres, and Smith Island of 1 acre. Ancestral Territory had numerous rivers that flowed into the Gulf of Maine, and all of the watersheds from the Machias River in the east, to the Cape Ann in Massachusetts. (Penobscot Culture & History of the Nation.)

Maliseet is yet another well-known tribe in Maine. Before coming in contact with the Europeans, the Maliseet Indians lived in what is now the eastern border of the U.S and Canada. The Jay Treaty in 1794, allowed the Maliseets to have free border crossing rights between the US and Canada as their villages were located in both countries. Since 1980, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians (HBMI) has been federally recognized as a government by the US, which promoted a unique government to government trust relationship with the US. Therefore, this recognition entitles the Houlton Band to many services provided to Indians by the US, including health care through Indian Health Services (IHS), housing through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the ability to govern our own Tribal Affairs. (Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians.)

With the arrival of the Europeans, the tribes were able to improve their economic situation by supplying the items in demand, such as fish, furs, forests and other natural resources. Initially, fur trade was beneficial to the Wabanaki Indians, and they welcomed the Europeans into their homelands. Trading transpired into substitution of their traditional tools and equipment with copper kettles, metal hatchets, knives and arrow points, as well as colorful cloth and firearms, which made their way of life easier. Also the Indians were able to set advantageous terms of trading by playing French, English, and Dutch traders against one another. However, by the end of the 17th century, the fur trade had changed the Indian economy for the worse. It disrupted the traditional round of hunting, fishing, and gathering, which was in tuned to seasonal changes. These new patterns changed family dynamic, tribal and intertribal politics, traditional family hunting territories, and the Abenakis spiritual relation with the animal world. (Indians, Furs, and Economics, Richard Judd.) It also changed tribal dynamics by giving status to tribe members based on possession of European goods. Competition among tribes for the trade also caused tensions and led to a series of inter-Indian wars.

These disruptions came together with other disastrous events in the first half of the 17th century. Between 1616 and 1619, contagious diseases transmitted by Europeans swept through the Abenaki villages killing 75 to 90 percent of the population. Death was so sudden and so widespread that whole villages were deserted, with sculls [and] bones lying on ground, as Richard Vines described it. (Indians, Furs, and Economics, Richard Judd.)

Today, Maines tribes face a balancing act in an effort to become more economically independent. Tribe leaders state that tribes need more federal government funds to help spark new business, but they also try to avoid long-term dependence on federal money. Also, each tribe struggles with high unemployment rates. According to Penobscot Tribal Chief Kirk Francis, more than 30 percent of the Penobscot Nations Indian Island residents are without jobs. The job situation is even worse for Passamaquoddy members in Washington County. More than 50 percent of them are unemployed, according to Tribal Governor Joseph Socobasin, and that number might be closer to 60 percent or 70 percent, he said. Tribes want to shed the image that theyre tax-takers, Francis said, and instead become stronger economic contributors. (Maine tribes say they need more help from federal government in order to need less, 2011.) In order to accomplish this, tribe members need an opportunity to move away from federal aid by getting jobs, but each tribe has its own idea as to the occupations. Passamaquoddy are working on a tidal power project, exploring wind turbine energy production, as well as harvesting and selling maple syrup and looking into bottling and shipping water from their land. The Aroostook Band of Micmac focuses on farming. However, competition for federal funds is intense as Maines tribes are competing not only among themselves, but also among more than 560 recognized tribes in the U.S. By the time the funds are distributed the amounts are usually so small that Maine tribes need more help from federal government in order to need less. (Maine tribes say they need more help from federal government in order to need less, 2011.)

Native Americans lived through many changes over the centuries and experienced various hardships ranging from arrival of the Europeans to disease infestations and economic struggles. Despite all the challenges there still five active tribes in Maine and they continue to work hard through the new challenges they face today. Despite the lack of federal funding, Native Americans in Maine continue to be innovative and explore new options to combat high unemployment rates and become a successful nation.

Works Cited

Treat, Joseph and Micha A. Pawling. Wabanaki Homeland and the New State of Maine: The 1820 Journal and Plans of Survey of Joseph Treat. Amherst: U of Massachusetts, 2007. Print.
Bourque, Bruce J., Steven L. Cox, and Ruth Holmes. Whitehead. Twelve Thousand Years: American Indians in Maine. Lincoln: U of Nebraska, 2001. Print.

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Tibbetts Award

1st Place Middle School Division

Daniel Tibbetts
Grade 7, Windsor Elementary School

Maines #1 Sports Star

Crack! That is the sound of the bat as Louis Sockalexis hit home runs. That's what he did as one of the best baseball players in MLB history and probably the best in the Cleveland Spiders (now known as the Cleveland Indians) history. As an MLB player, be broke many records in baseball history and some people say he was the greatest player ever, yet, what is crazy is that he was called many names, like Indian playing a white man's game, but it did not bug him as he would dazzle every night with home runs, solid hits and diving catches. That is just what he did.

Sockalexis was a part of the Penobscot Tribe and lived near Bangor. Louis Sockalexis was the first Indian baseball player and, splendidly, he is from Maine, making him the first professional baseball player from Maine. When Louis Sockalexis was a kid, he would cut pine trees every day, but instead of swinging an ax, he wanted to swing a baseball bat. One day he was in his canoe and went across the river and there were people there that were playing baseball. Sockalexis wanted to learn, so he joined them. By the time he was 12 years old, he finally knew he wanted to be a professional baseball player. Every time when Sockalexis had free time from cutting trees, he would be practicing baseball.

As a college player, he broke many records in baseball history and some people say he was the greatest player ever at Notre Dame and Holy Cross College. Yes, he went to two different colleges.

How was his professional baseball career He was known for his arm strength. He could throw a baseball 600 feet across the Penobscot River! During his first game in the MLB, he was batting and all the fans of the opposing team were yelling at him calling him names, but he tried to ignore them, but he felt alone. Then he looked into the stands and he came across some of his tribe, who had come to see him play all the way from Maine. Sockalexis was up to bat against one of the best pitchers in the league. He looked, got ready and in three pitches, he found what he wanted and swung. Crack! And it was gonea home run! The crowd went wild! As Sockalexis rounded the bases, he looked at his tribe, pointed at them and smiled.

Sockalexis, also known as Firewater and Socks only played two years in the MLB. He had joined the Spiders in 1897 and in his rookie year, he had a .338 batting average, drove in 42 runs and stole 16 bases. Sockalexis played 94 games in his career. He played right field, batted left and threw with his right hand. In addition some people wanted him to play shortstop, because of his strong arm. Sockalexis played in four World Series games. He has been compared to players like Jackie Robinson, who is one of the best players in MLB history. In fact, John McGraw a Baseball Hall of Famer said, If Sock had stayed up for five years he could well have been better than Cobb, Wagner, or Ruth!

When he played for the Cleveland Spiders, Sockalexis was not expected to be that legendary. But it turns out, that he was one of the best in their franchise. Because of this, they changed their name to the Cleveland Indians. Most people, today, think that it is disrespectful having a mascot being an Indian. The mascot is Louis Sockalexis with a warrior feather and smiling face. In fact, The legacy is something that Sockalexis left, as far as Im concerned, Penobscot tribal elder and council member Donna Loring Says of the teams nickname. But the logo is very demeaning, and its insulting. However, it doesnt seem like the team will change their name or mascot.

Louis Sockalexis was more than one of the best players in MLB history, to his tribe he was a legend.

Man of the forest, island son
Fleet-footed runner with arm like a gun
Holy Cross man for two magical seasons
Played your heart out, best in the nation

--Baseballs First Indian: The Song of Sockalexis by Siu Wai Stroshane

Works Cited

@baseball_ref. Chief Sockalexis Statistics and History / Baseball-Reference.com.
Baseball-Reference.com. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.
@pressherald. Maines Penobscots Tell Cleveland: Win the Series, Great, but Lose the Logo
The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram. The Portland Press Herald Maine
Sunday Telegram Maines Penobscots Tell Cleveland Win the Series Great but Lose the
Logo Comments. 28 Oct. 2016. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.
Contributed. Lets Build a Statue to Louis Sockalexis, Baseballs First Indian, in Bangor.
Bangor Daily News RSS. 15 Nov. 2015. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.
Fleitz, David L. Louis Sockalexis: The First Cleveland Indian. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2002.
Rice, Ed. Baseballs First Indian: Louis Sockalexis: Penobscot Legend, Cleveland Indian.
Windsor, CT: Tide-Mark, 2003. Print.
Wise, Bill, and Bill Farnsworth. Louis Sockalexis: Native American Baseball Pioneer. New York:
Lee & Low, 2007. Print.

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Fielder Award

2nd Place Middle School Division

Kelsie Fielder
7th Grade - Windsor Elementary School

Women Who Sang the Songs of Strength

Imagine, going back in time. To a time where Native Americans actually had to hunt and fish to get food for themselves and their family. You may think that the Native American men were the ones to go out in any type of weather, so he and his family could survive. Maybe you think the women stayed home and took care of the children. Believe it or not some Native American women went out to fish and hunt. The truth is women did many things including hunting, fishing, taking care of the children, cooking, and keeping the fire going in the winter. They were strong and powerful. Three of the strongest of these Maine Native American women were Molly Ockett, Molly Molasses, and Molly Spotted Elk.

One Maine Native American woman that did it all was Molly Ockett. Molly Ockett was born near the Saco River in 1740. Mollys life wasnt the easiest. Throughout her whole childhood her family moved constantly, to avoid the perils of the French and British. On the other hand, Molly was the princess of her tribe, and everyone adored her. Her tribe called her Singing Bird. However, later Molly was baptized as a Christian. Her Christian name became Marie Agatha. Turning to her adulthood, Molly Ockett became a well known medicine woman. She traversed the local region visiting the sick. Everyone described her as kind, gentle and caring. During 1759 while trying to take cover Molly witnessed the brutal death of her parents during the British and French colonial war. By 1764 Molly was happily married to Chief Sabattus, a Native American hunter, his Christian name was Peter Joseph. Molly and Peter had been happily married for eight years, then Peter gasped for his last breath. It was the year of 1772 and Peter left Mollys life forever. Molly was the last of the Pigwacket Tribe and she remained in that territory until her death in 1816. Molly Ockett was a very special medicine woman to her family, friends, and tribe.

In addition, another very important historic Maine Native American woman was Molly Molasses. She was born in the Penobscot camp in 1775. Molly also was a very well trained medicine woman. She helped many people in her time. Since there was no modern medical community, any Maine Native Americans called on Molly Molasses, who was named that because she was so sweet. The people believe that Molly had powers. They believed she used her powers to do good, like healing wounds, or any type of injury. It was believed that these powers had been passed down through her family, and had come to her. Most people respected her, but others mocked her. It is said that she used her powers poorly on the people that had mocked her! Molly was a great person who helped and cared for many of her people.

Finally, one of the most famous of the Maine Native American women is Molly Spotted Elk. Molly was born on November 17, 1903. She was born on Indian Island, near Old Town. Mollys father was the first Penobscot to attend Dartmouth College. Her grandfather was Chief of the Canadian Maliseet Tribe. When Molly was a child, her dream was to become an actor. As she got older her lifes dream was set on this. She became an actor in small plays. For a long time, Molly stayed home and helped raise her seven brothers and sisters. After a while, she decided she wanted to do something else with her life. She decided she wanted to go to college. She attended the University of Pennsylvania for about two years and studied to be an archeologist. After college, Molly went to Dr. Frank Gouldsmith to learn and study about her tribe. Throughout college and even after in her free time she wrote her own songs. However she was also an actress, author, poet, dancer, and the first Maine Native American woman to play a major role in a movie. Molly was a very talented woman, who inspired many other women to do more with their lives.

As you can see Native American women did and do a lot more than you really think. They were and are a huge asset to their tribe and family. All three of these women truly helped people have better lives, but they were also strong and independent and were people that were respected.

The Old Ones say the Native American women will lead the healing among the tribes. Inside them are the powers of love and strength given by the Moon and the Earth. When everyone else gives up, it is the woman who sings the songs of strength. She is the backbone of the people. So, to our women we say, sing your songs of strength; pray for your special powers; keep our people strong; be respectful, gentle, and modest.

-Village Wise Man, Lakota

Works Cited

Francis, Sr. James Eric. Molly Spotted Elk. Molly Spotted Elk. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
McBride, Bunny. Women of the Dawn. Lincoln: U of Nebraska, 1999. Print.
Molly Molasses. Maine An Encyclopedia. 08 Oct, 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
Molly Ockett. History of American Women. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

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