The Penobscot River flows through the heart of the Penobscot ancestral territory. Katahdin is Maine’s tallest mountain, and this sacred mountain rises greatly in the center of the watershed. The slopes of Katahdin guide water to rivulets, streaLogoNewms and brooks until they all converge in the form of the Penobscot River. This sacred flow weaves its way through the landscape creating the falls and islands that comprise the Penobscot Reservation. The Penobscot River is the heart and soul of the Penobscot Culture.
The long and rich cultural tradition the Penobscot people have shared with their river has recently been renewed. The Penobscot Nation’s involvement in the Penobscot River Restoration Trust has brought back the ancestral flow of the lower Penobscot River. The stretch of river containing the racecourses proposed in this bid for the Open Canoe National Championships is the stretch most affected by the restoration project. Two dams were removed in the last few years releasing impoundments of water and revealing the ancient rapids through which we propose to race.
This section of the river holds historical significance to the tribe. In 1604, Chief Bashabez, the first Penobscot leader documented by the Europeans, canoed from Indian Island to Brewer where he met with Samuel de Champlain, an explorer and cartographer from France. Champlain had followed the Penobscot River north as far inland as Kenduskeag (now Bangor, Maine) and it was there that he was met a few days later by Chief Bashabez and thirty Penobscots who had arrived from upstream aboard six canoes. Chief Bashabez and the local Penobscots sang and danced in greeting. In the summer of 2014, the Penobscot Nation hosted the first annual Bashabez Run, a canoe race from Indian Island to Brewer, to commemorate this significant meeting.
The river between Indian Island and Brewer was an important travel corridor up to the late-nineteenth century. This section of river linked Indian Island, the Nation’s principal village, and Brewer, where a village was seated until the late 19th century. The principal watercraft of the Penobscot people was the birch bark canoe and using these the Penobscot people traversed the waters of their ancestral territory with ease and efficiency, until the advent of dams. The canoe design was so well adapted for use on the river and lakes and streams that it is speculated that the early canoe factories in Old Town, Maine, adopted the traditional design of the Penobscot Canoe for their products.
Penobscot people have a long tradition of paddling. Historically it was the primary means of transportation. Penobscot place-names and portage routes map out an ancient waterway, which was both well known and well traveled. Penobscot people have always shown great skill at paddling canoes. In recent decades many Penobscot people have competed and won in many National Canoe Championships.
The Penobscot Nation is proud to be the host of the 2015 ACA WWOCD National Championships on our river. As part of being a host to the Championships, we will provide educational and cultural activities during the event. Community tours and historical and cultural presentations are just a few of the culturally relevant river-focused educational opportunities we will provide.
The Penobscot Nation, as host to this event, offers a unique opportunity blending the excitement of the restored portion of our ancient river with a cultural experience embracing and sharing our cultural connection to our river, the Penobscot.