As we celebrate Falmouth’s 300th anniversary, I find the town’s booklet and exhibit lacking important history of the Wabanaki people who lived here for thousands of years.
Many Wabanaki perished from European disease and war. Beginning in 1755, hunters claimed generous bounties for Native scalps (men, women and children) at Maine trading posts. For 300 years, tribal lands were dispossessed and treaties broken. Families were split through forced displacement and children sent to boarding schools for assimilation. Native women were sterilized, often without knowledgeable consent. As late as 1978, Native spiritual practices were illegal in this land of the free.
About 8000 Native people live among us in Maine today, most in very small northern communities. They are resilient survivors of 500 years of ongoing colonization and genocidal U.S. policies.
A few recent policy events in Maine include in 2011, Gov. LePage rescinded his Executive Order recognizing Tribal sovereignty. In 2012, the state interpreted the Penobscot Nation as limited to their 200 islands, but not the surrounding ancestral waters of the Penobscot River. In 2015, the Maine-Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Commission found Native children are removed from their homes five times more than non-Native children, evidence of ongoing cultural genocide.
I hope we can learn from our past, work towards healing, and build a future to be proud of.