In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Beyond Borders: A Wabanaki Perspective

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Darren J. Ranco, PhD (Penobscot), Fall 2022

The collections in the Beyond Borders project are important and significant to many audiences, including, and especially, Wabanaki people. But the task of writing about historical documents and making them relevant to non-historians is often daunting. The Beyond Borders collections, specifically the Proprietors records represent the baseline of documents that define what becomes Maine starting in 1625, nearly two hundred years before Maine became a state. While the documents themselves do not often feature Wabanaki people or voices, it is important to think and consider the Wabanaki relevance of them, especially when we understand that the settlers referred to as the Pejepscot and Kennebec Proprietors shaped not only what becomes the State of Maine in 1820, but where we, as Wabanaki Nations and people, remain in our greater homeland, Ckuwapohnakiyik.

Taken together, the Pejepscot and Kennebec Proprietors are delineated by the areas English-speaking settlers made claim to, and are specific claims on pieces of Wabanaki territory defined by our relationship to the rivers and watersheds of our territory. Namely, the Androscoggin River where the Pejepscot Proprietors sold parcels for major settlements, and the Kennebec River watershed where the Kennebec Proprietors claimed and sold large tracts of land, including Norridgewock, the site of a brutal attack in 1724 on the traditionally inhabited Abenaki village by American militia men. For Wabanaki people, these river systems represent the location of Tribal Nations no longer here—wiped out by English and American greed, land speculation, and notions of European and American supremacy over the Indigenous stewards of what is now Maine. The descendants of these Tribal Nations are found within our Nations and communities today. Particularly recognized are the descendants of Norridgewock now in our Nations in the US and Canada at Penobscot, Odanak, Tobique, and others—so our responsibilities to these places remain ever-present, even though for non-Natives it may seem like long ago, or irrelevant.