2017 Winning Essays

2017 Winning Essays

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Raymond Award

First Place High School Division

Ella Raymond
9th Grade - Casco Bay High School

Authenticity, Equity, and Connectedness In Wabanaki Communities

As far back as we can go in history, the Wabanaki people of Maine have held a prized example of what a thriving community should be. Showing a great respect to the other people in their tribe, they uphold a great example of equity. Through their elaborate clothing, art, and jewelry, they show great authenticity in all they do. And traditionally, through their respect for the environment and ecological balances, they embody connectedness with the natural world. Over time, like all other communities, they have changed dramatically, but this is mostly due to an influx of disturbing external forces such as contact with Europeans and a constant battle for sovereignty with the government of Maine. But they still hold true to their traditional ways, as well as adapt to fit the new world in their lives. The native people of this land are a truly successful culture in terms of how they continue to maintain a society where authenticity, equity and connectedness are vital. The Wabanaki people of Maine hold the happiness of their people as their highest priority. This is shown through the sharing of important objects and elaborate burials in which the dead receive gifts for the afterlife. If a person were to die, instead of leaving a will, all of their possessions are left with them, which almost gives them a living quality, brought to life by the Wabanaki people. The article "Wabanaki Society 400 Years Ago," a resource explaining life in the Wabanaki community before the arrival of the Europeans, states, "The Wabanaki did not hope that the deceased had left these things to them as a part of his or her will, but believed that it was the dead person, in fact, who needed them. These customs show their willingness to share possessions, and that their concern for others extended even to their welfare after they were dead." This is overwhelming evidence in favor of the Wabanaki communities embodying the quality of equity in their everyday lives and rituals. Not only does the concern for others extend through that person's life, in continues after that person dies. The elaborate burials performed by the Wabanaki show their commitment to others and how they are a great example for a community in the ways they show respect for others and how the embody equity in their community.

Along with their commitment to equity, the Wabanaki tribes of Maine show great authenticity in their elaborate baskets, jewelry and clothing. A representative from the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, discussed stereo types in the Native American community, such as alcoholism being a problem in their community or always being a very stern culture. This, of course, has its roots in history. Before signing treaties, Europeans settlers used to get Native American leaders drunk because of their low tolerance to alcohol because of the fact that they were a completely sober community before Europeans came. And, of course, all cultures have their disputes, but thinking an entire group of people would behave the same way is absurd. These stereotypes completely miss the true beauty of the Wabanaki culture and are not a representation of this culture. Gracefully weaved baskets made with sweetgrass, maple syrup, and beaded necklaces and other pieces of jewelry are some of the amazing things offered by the Wabanaki. These creations are like nothing else from other communities, and embodies how authentic and true to their nature they are as a thriving community.

A very important part of the Wabanaki community is respect and staying connected to the world around them. We have come to a point where many societies around the world don't make an effort to maintain the delicate ecological balances around them, and this has resulted in the global problem of climate change. Traditionally, the Wabanaki people lived off the land, only taking what they needed and nothing more. A quote by the article "Wabanaki Society 400 Years Ago," further proves this. It states, "The rich natural environment remained rich. The Wabanaki were careful to maintain an ecological balance. Throughout most of the year and often throughout the entire year, there was more than enough." Their means of keeping the environment safe and as it was, is a quality all communities in Maine should strive emulate. Their connectedness to the natural world and there commit to being sustainable and flexible community is needed in the twenty-first century if we mean to save the ecosystems around us.

The Wabanaki people of Maine are a very successful community with great attributes that we need to embody in our community. Their willingness to share with others shows how they embody equity. Their amazing jewelry and elaborate and colorful clothing shows their authenticity, while their respect and care for the environment shows connectedness. The fact that this community has gone through so much and still holds true to their roots shows how stable they really are. In order for them to maintain this balance, we must let the people of this community have some of their own sovereignty and run some of their own government. Our government should take to having more voices from all citizens and understand that they all matter, like the Wabanaki do. These are not people from textbooks, they are our neighbors and citizens of Maine. All in all, the Wabanaki people are an alive and thriving community, living their life through a delicate balance that makes them their own amazing community.

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Hanington Award

1st Place Middle School Division

Saber Hanington
7th Grade - Windsor Elementary School

Farming of the Dawnsmen

Raising my bone hoe above my head, I let out a weak sigh. The sun was strong and my arms were weak. While churning the soil with my hoe, squash and sweet corn seeds fell from my deer skin holdall. The sun was beginning to set. My work was soon over. While walking the thin trail, my thoughts wandered back to the tall corn and squash soon to be in place of the seeds I had planted that morning. It was the village’s food, the food that kept my family and I not only surviving, but thriving inside of this paradise that we had built upon thousands of years of oral tradition and hard work. A work we did to continue the livelihood of the village. This, to me, would be what it was like to be a Native American Farmer.

The North Eastern Native Americans often survived off farming, especially the Wabanaki Tribes. The Wabanaki Tribes (Abenaki, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Micmac, and Penobscot) all farmed similarly, because of resources available and the terrain. The crops of the tribes often consisted of squash, red com, sweet com, beans and sunflower, as well as, many more species and varieties. These crops were the Native American's lifeline, planting in April with the harvest scheduled for October. These farmers worked from sunrise to sunset in fields designed for the growth of the crops, ensuring a sustainable harvest. Each crop had a purpose in mind, when the seed was planted. A great example of this is the beans the Wabanaki planted. These beans were filled with essential proteins. The proteins normally found in meat. The northeastern Native Americans knew this and made use of it quickly. Also crops like gourds and corn husks could be used for things not pertaining to their primary use of food. A gourd could be dried and hollowed out, then sealed shut with a fitted com husk creating a water resistant container. This would be used like our regular Tupperware and plastic containers of today.

Along with the Wabanakis' ingenious ways of working and using their agricultural lifeline, they acquired a second feat of ingenuity for farming, their tools. From hoes to fertilizer the Native Americans crafted tools out of strict necessity. These tools were made from the sources around them, materials such as chert, iron wood, red maple and bones from the same animals they hunted and trapped, and even the animals themselves. While working in the fields, a fanner may carry things like a hoe that consisted of an ironwood handle and the shoulder blade of a raccoon or opossum. The head would have both been latched to the handle with sinew and "glued" with birch or pine tar. Also blades were put through a process of striking and grinding stone called flint knapping. After the blade and handle were engendered into the shape, the handle or tang would be wrapped with hide or any natural fibers coming from indigenous plants. Blades weren't solely made from gathered stone, despite their popularity among the Native American. Also blades were carved and ground out of bone and antler. The tasks of these blades were most likely used during the harvest for more meticulous work like food prep due to their small size. Varying in shape and size, the blades would help in the harvest of com along with the crucial care for the field itself. Alongside of the hoe and handcrafted blades, fertilizer was a common tool, as well as, one of the most used tools by these people of the North East. Fertilizer was often made from a mixture of rotten fish, as well as, any other natural compost. When a farmer from a Wabanaki Tribe or band planted a seed, they would also bury the concoction of fertilizer. Every ingredient in the fertilizer was lush with minerals and vitamins that would substantially benefit the crop and the overall the tribe, as well.

Throughout of the months of September and October, it was a time of harvest and braggadocio for the Wabanaki. Men of the tribes would harvest the crops, while the women and children would preserve and prepare food for the upcoming winter, as well as, harvest festivals. The harvest itself was a time to collect the crops from the fields followed by storing them with clay sealed jars. The harvest was more than just a time of grueling work for the Wabanaki, it was a time of celebration. While the leaves turned to their annual reds, yellows and oranges, these people of the Dawn land would dance in their most valued wear. Dances were dedicated to the work of the tribe, as well as, an offering of praise to the spirits. Dancers would wear feather bracelets, headdresses, anklets, fur shawls, wampums made from shell beads and many more handcrafted works of art. After the dances, the tribe would gather together for a feast of praise and gratitude. Smells of venison, bear, and moose filled the noses of these people, but the vegetables fresh from the fields were the most highly honored and celebrated. Often Powwows were held in the name of corn and squash. The farmers were even jubilated by their hard work and work ethic throughout the long months. The harvest was also a going away party for many. Nomadic bands of tribes would begin their annual travels, before the first snow. These small bands would often take a small portion of the tribe's food for their winter.

The word farmer to a Wabanaki man was far more than just a farmer. He was an inventor, a fieldsman and most importantly a provider. The future of his people were in his calloused hands. A burning will inside for his people, became the fuel of this northeastern farmer. A burning that no storm was capable of putting out. This burning was the lifeline of the Wabanaki, the lifeline of the ancient Dawnsmen.

Works Cited:

American Indian Moons, www.wwu.edu/skywise/indianmoons.html#Algonquin.
Flame Tempering of Wood, www.forestryforum.com/board/index.php?topic=68281 .0.
Caduto, Michael J., and Joseph Bruchac. Native American Gardening: Stories, Projects, and Recipes for Families. Fulcrum Pub., 1996.
Hassinger, Amy. Finding Katahdin an Exploration of Maine's Past. University of Maine Press, 2001.
Kowalski, Chuck. "Learn About Planting and Harvesting Seasons for Corn Crops." TheBalance,
www.thebalance.com/corn-planting-and-harvest -seasons-809309 http://www.wabanaki.com/wabanak-inewlTraditionaI-Foods.html
"Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal." Harvest I Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal,
Squires, John L., and Robert E. McLean. American Indian Dances: Steps, Rhythms, Costumes, and Interpretation. Ronald Press, 1963.

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2nd Place Middle School Division

Collin Joyce
7th Grade - Scarborough Middle School

Maine Native Americans Inventions

"The future is nothing without the past" -Aaron P. Goffney. This quote represents Maine's Native American history. Our state would not be what it is, if not for the Maine Native American imaginations and inventive minds. The Maine Native Americans laid the foundation for our society today. Their inventions still inspire us and our inventors. "Wabanaki canoes, and thus by extension the birchbark canoes of Maine and New Brunswick can be said to be direct ancestors to most modern canoes"(Cayard 1). Canoes, a popular mode of transportation in modern America, were the idea of the Maine Native Americans. People today still enjoy their most famous invention, the canoe, which L.L Bean continues to sell throughout the world.

To begin, the Maine Native Americans had incredible systems of building and transportation. The Maine Native Americans lived in wigwams, a wigwam was a round 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. 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 even had extra scaffolding inside for household goods. Another equally important structure to the Maine Native Americans was the canoe. Native canoes were mostly comprised of birch bark, but some favored canoes consisting of moose hide. Canoes were an important method water 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, are sewn into the rim. 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. In fact, the oldest Maine Native American canoe was recently found in a Pejepscot museum (Green 1). Transportation and building were just a few areas where the Maine Native Americans demonstrated their amazing solutions for everyday problems.

Additionally, the designs of Native American hunting devices such as bows, atlatls, and fishing methods showed their resourcefulness. They used bows of wood with sinew strings and arrow heads made out of some type of hard stone, like flint. The Maine Native Americans 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, or throwing sticks. A spear, with an atlatl, was thrown by balancing the end of the spear in the cup and swinging the atlatl. This method of throwing a spear allowed the spear thrower to gain more leverage, therefore achieving the ability to throw the spear farther and faster. "Conquistadors and other early Europeans who fought with Native American tribes reported that spears propelled from atlatls were capable of penetrating chain mail armor" (Native Americans Weapons 1). Another type of spear the Maine Native Americans used were fishing spears. A fishing spear consisted of one long prong in the middle of two shaped pieces of wood; all of this is connect to a wooden pole. The fishing spear is cool because the shape of the two side pieces held the fish from all sides while the prong speared the fish from the top. Hunting devices such as atlatls, bows, and fishing spears showed the resourcefulness of the Maine Native Americans.

Finally, the Maine Native Americans had agriculturally ingenious ideas in planting and food preservation. They used what is known as companion farming. In companion farming, crops are planted in groups of sisters (the three sisters). The three sisters (corn, squash, and beans) for example, where planted together in a mound. The corn supported the beans climbing while the squash or pumpkins cover the ground, kept in moisture, and stopped weeds from growing. The three sisters were harvested together and some was separated for winter use. To preserve food the Maine Native Americans either smoked it or dried it. They smoked meats such as venison and dried vegetables such as beans. Afterwards the food was put in bark lined holes to keep over winter. The Native American ideas on planting and food preservation were important methods of agriculture.

In conclusion, the Maine Native Americans laid the foundation that modern Maine is built upon. With their ideas about hunting, transportation, and building, they showed us that even old seemingly simple technology can make all the difference in a society. The showed their resourcefulness, using the materials they had, to create solutions to everyday issues and made their lives better. If social studies is about the important events in our country's history, Native American topics should be a larger part of it because they were important in every one of the original 13 colonies.

Works Cited:

Steve Cayard: Birchbark Canoe Builder, www.stevecayard.comlab_history.html.
"Native American Indian Weapons." Native American Weapons: Bows and Arrows, Spears, Tomahawks, War Clubs, and Other American Indian Weaponry, www.native-Ianguages.org/weapons.htm.
Tegna. "Oldest Birch Bark Canoe Found in Maine Museum." WCSH, 29 Aug. 2017,
The Wabanakis of Maine and the Maritimes: A Resource Book About Penobscot, Passamaquoddy,
Maliseet, Micmac and Abenaki Indians with Lesson Plans for Grades 4 Through 8. American Friends Service Committee, 1989.

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