Thursday, July 21, 2011

Indians in Eden

Wabanakis and Rusticators on Maine's Mount Desert Island, 1840s-1920s    by Bunny McBride and Harald E. L. Prins  2009

"The beautiful waters, woods, and hills, the subtle influences that hoover over them, the expanding freedom of body and soul, as they reach forward with ecstatic longing as if to kiss sweet Nature's self,____these are for him who seeks seclusion from the world in the "wild wood's vast domain. There is a fit place for rest and meditation; a fitting altar on which to sacrifice our baser thoughts and passions, long endeared to us; a place from which, with strength of body, mind, and will renewed, we may reissue, well prepared for sterner duties."

Some visitors were aware that some of the trails they followed up the mountains and through the forests of Mount Desert Island had been blazed by Maine Indians centuries ago. Those who new this...along with those who did not...were curious about Passamaquoddy and Penobscot families who camped every summer on the island to market their traditional wares and their skills as canoeists and hunting guides. The location of the Indian encampment in Bar Harbor shifted over the decades, but remained a favorite destination for the islands tourists and summer residents.

The Indian encampment at Bar Harbour will be found a pleasant place to wile away an hour or two. These Indians are expert with their canoes and at hunting and fishing. The village is composed of a score or two of little wood and canvas shanties, in which are sold a great variety of aboriginal trinkets, skins of seal and deer, canoes and baskets of birch bark, moccasins, bead-work, snowshoes, gull's breasts, stuffed birds, clubs, carved sticks, bows and arrows, etc.     (Chisom's Mount Desert Guide, 1888) 

Click on the images below yo view a larger size

From here at their Indian encampment, Wabanakis set out in their canoes to hunt porpoises in Frenchmen Bay

 Shore-side view of Wabanaki Indian encampment at foot of Bar/Bridge Street, Bar Harbor, 1881. Note the canvas
 sale tent in the background of the upper left corner and bow and arrow held by boy in lower right corner.
Adding to the family income, Indian boys earned money by shooting arrows at pennies and other small objects tossed in the air.  (Photo by Kilburn Brothers, Collection of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.)

Wabinaki guides awaiting sport-hunters on Bar Harbor's shore between the wharf and the Indian encampment, ca. 1881. Note riffles in the men's hands and animal skins draped on the canoes. (Photo by Kilburn Brothers)

Rusticators and Wabinakis making arrangements for a guided canoe tour on shore between the steamboat wharf and the Indian encampment, circa 1881  (Kilburn Brothers photo)