Wabanaki Studies > Lessons


dawn imageWabanaki World View

Key Points for Middle School

Culture - The Land - Consensus, Law & Sovereignty


What is World View?

"Worldview: an integrated system of beliefs and concepts about the universe (natural and/or supernatural), society and the self."
Wayne State University, 2001
" Worldview: The collective interpretation of and response to the natural and cultural environments in which a group of people lives. Their assumptions about those environments and the values derived from those assumptions."
McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Online Learning Center, 2002
"Wabanaki worldview is rooted in respect for the interdependency of life." 
Wabanaki Studies: Essential Understandings, Essential Questions
"Native Americans never had 'a' way of life; they had many. Indians would  not have maintained those ways unchanged over the last five hundred years, even without European and African immigration. Indians have long struggled to change their ways of life. That autonomy we took from them."
Lies my teacher told me. James W. Loewen. 1995 Touchstone. p.134-5.
" The Wabanaki are still here but they are facing another form of genocide, one that is tearing Indian people and their communities apart. Tactics to divide and conquer, destroy from within, are promoted through the imposition of the white reserve system, white government structure, white values, white language, white culture, white controlling legislation, the Indian Act, the British North-America Act, white education, white religion, white identity, white economic system, white justice system, and white-written treaties."

Our lineage is our strength, Dan Ennis, Tobique First Nation, Maliseet

Read about World View in The Wabanakis of Maine & the Maritimes:
A-15 – A-17
A-19 – A-32
C-31, C-46
C-56, C-64, C-73, C-79, C-97 (Interviews 1, 7, 10, 13, 34, 35)


Culture - Not all aspects of culture are covered here. This is should supported by classroom use of the All Cultures Chart (link downloads a Word document file).

"As a people, my tribe is accustomed to the snubs and affronts from state officials. There are many in Maine — in and out of government — who are best served if we stay quietly on our reservations weaving baskets. While we are a proud people with proud traditions, we are also a people of lawyers, doctors, teachers, therapists, builders, farmers and students. People who would like to stay in Maine but who are finding fewer and fewer opportunities to do so. " 
Barry Dana, Chief of Penobscot Nation, speech following the defeat of Question 3: http://www.timesrecord.com/website/archives.nsf/56606056e44e37508525696f00737257/8525696e00630dfe05256dd6005ee1c0?OpenDocument


"The Penobscot will move on from this learning experience as we have for the past 500 years. We have made many friends during this journey, and we will look to them for help in the future. We will survive as a people and as a culture."
Donna Loring, 11/2003: http://www.timesrecord.com/website/archives.nsf/56606056e44e37508525696f00737257/8525696e00630dfe05256de50060b726?OpenDocument

"Due to my parent’s love and concern for their children, and their commitment to protect us from being destroyed or harmed, they chose not to teach their children anything Indian. Not the language, the culture, the traditional teachings, or stories. Absolutely nothing. So none of the things my ancestors preserved for millions of years in order they be passed on to future generations were taught to me or my siblings. We were robbed of our birthright and our identity in order to fit into white society, to survive as human beings. Therefore, I, in turn, could not preserve and pass on to my children so that the seven generations to come might know, all of those things that go into making an Indian - a Maliseet - identity."
Our lineage is our strength, Dan Ennis, Tobique First Nation, Maliseet



Post-Contact and Now

Rich religion, philosophy/values, arts, music, story and legend. Stories are integral to life and spirituality, told for purposes and at specified times.

"Indian spirituality is not just an oversimplified 'love of nature and all living things'… spirituality permeates all aspects of life: physical, emotional and social. The various aspects of one's life, including religion, work, warfare, social activities, education, eating and playing are not compartmentalized into a daily or weekly schedule. All aspects are closely intertwined." (Devon A. Mihesuah, American Indians; Stereotypes & Realities, p.68)

Read John Bear Mitchell's discussion of religion at the Home transcript online.

Same, although in some Nations culture has been lost or dispersed

Wabanakis are viewed by Europeans as "savages" lacking deeply developed culture – Catholic missionaries and priests convert many Wabanakis, many of whom also retain traditional spiritiualtiy - some cultural elements still romanticized or viewed as "dead" by non-natives.

Post-contact, many nations assimilated members of other tribes (as a result of warfare and genocide) as well as adopting elements of European culture, resulting in cultural growth and change.

Contemporary Wabanakis are artists, musicians, writers, storytellers, movie-makers, religious leaders, teachers, thinkers, politicians, lawyers, businesspeople...

Oral tradition is passed down in stories which have much more spiritual, cultural and informational value than European stories – importance of Elders as teachers and conveyors of knowledge and culture

Same – history and culture are now also recorded in print and captured by media; languages are being revived

Traditional ceremonies, dances, clothing - unity of culture

Skill in hand-made technologies such as baskets, snowshoes, moccasins, wood carvings, canoes.

Wide knowledge of plant medicines and science, wide knowledge of natural world.

Same – some adoption of religion (Catholic) as well as selective adoption of elements of alternate costume from Europeans and other nations (quillwork, cotton, other headdress styles, etc.), musical styles, etc. – Worldview would allow for adoption as long as underlying spirituality (see quote below) remains true and balance is maintained.

Natives today dress and use contemporary technologies like "everyone else."

Many technologies and knowledge have become foundations for tribal economy (first through trade then through handicrafts, guiding, etc.). Some resulted in cultural change (eg. guns changed warfare, improved hunting and thus changed trade economies). 

Some income has been gained through performance of ceremonial dancing, music.

Wabanaki nations are reviving traditional culture, knowledge and language while at the same time developing new economic and social programs.

John Stevens notes "the fundamental need of the People to remain culturally themselves."

Language – the Wabanakis are in the Algonquian language family – each nation speaks a variation or dialect. Maliseet-Passamaquoddy are similar.

Language isintegral to culture and spirit, place in the world - it embodies and can not be separated from World View. "The language tells us so."

Many Wabanakis speak more than one language.

Communication between tribes is frequent and wide-ranging.

"There is no word for 'wild'" (Wayne Newell)

Compare this to European languages, which are about dichotomies (right/wrong, black/white, wild/tamed), departmentalization and classification.

" The word Waban means dawn, aki is a place where people dwell. So Wabanaki is the dawn dwellers place or the people of dawns place, however you want to interpret that into English today." (John Bear Mitchell: See the following for a longer discussion of language: http://www.mpbn.net/homestom/p8johnbear.html)


Post-Contact, many Wabanakis learn one or more European languages (English, French). Many are not permitted to speak the language. Forced learning of English is a first step in cultural genocide.

Wabanaki languages were not written alphabetically until French missionaries and scholars began to do so. Mi'kmaq was written in pictographs.

Wabanaki languages are being revived and taught to children (and adults). Names follow both European conventions and tribal language conventions.

Wabanaki nation/tribal names are Europeanizations. The nations, tribes remain distinct today, although territory and make-up have changed since contact: "Each name represents a distinct group of people, a separate political state; to call a Passamaquoddy a Mohawk is as grievous as to call a Frenchman a German."  (John Stevens, Governor of the Passamaquoddy, in an Introduction to Land of the Four Directions).

Educational Model – "He is seldom forbidden to do anything; more usually the consequences of an action are explained to him, and he is allowed to decide for himself whether or not to actŠHis entire existence since he has been old enough to see and hear has been an experimental learning situation, arranged to provide him with the opportunity to develop his skills and confidence in his own capacities. Didactic teaching will be an alien experience for him." ("Open Letter to a Non-Indian Teacher", A  Broken Flute)

Didactic teaching is the model of most public and private schools. Native students may be living two educational models daily.

Indian Boarding Schools of the 20th century enforced the didactic, English-speaking educational model.

Family - egalitarian structure with separate roles for men and women, equally respected

Family-centered with education and growth of children having great importance, respect for elders also central

Much the same, despite efforts in 19th and 20th centuries to break up Native extended families and replace them with a "central family unit" - contemporary Native families have contemporary family difficulties
Life, Time - all life is sacred and life/spirit is found in many objects as well as plants & animals. Time is recorded in tribal memory, over thousands of generations. Cyclical calendar time is measured by 13 moons, each of which embraces natural events. Different tribes have different time names, depending upon their ecologies and yearly cycles. "...I wish to say that the Indian can teach the non-Indian at least one thing of importance about how to live. To the non-Indian, time is of more value than life. For Indians, time is secondary; life is sacred. The American Indian waits....but his patience grows thin." (John Stevens, Passamaquoddy Governor, in an Introduction to Land of the Four Directions).





The Land


" Whose land is this? For us, that question goes beyond simple ownership. When thinking of our own values, the rich Teachings and History of our People explains that NO Life can Be "owned"...we cannot look upon the land as anything but alive. We know that the Earth is a living Being, and we are merely extensions of Her and the rest of Creation. WABANAKI Peoples belong to the Earth; She remains the primary source of our Being and all that we understand and will ever come to understand of ourselves as a people."
Silent and Invisible: The Rule of Law and WABANAKI Sovereignty, Minngignoti-Keteaoag, http://sisis.nativeweb.org/mk/wabanaki.html
"For Indigenous peoples' continued existence — throughout the world — land is a prerequisite. It is essential because Indigenous peoples are inextricably related to land: it sustains our spirits and bodies; it determines how our societies develop and operate based on available environmental and natural resources; and our socialization and governance flow from this intimate relationship. Because of this intimate relationship, the land is rendered inalienable: it is a natural right, a right essential for the continued vitality of the physical, spiritual, socio-economic and political life and survival of the Indigenous peoples for generations to come.
"The cultural importance of homeland is that it links a people with its past and its future. Identity is symbolized by places of significance, such as the gravesites of ancestors and locations for ceremonial activities, as well as geographical features such as mountains and lakes."
Report of the Royal Commission for Aboriginal Affairs (Canada), http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sg41_e.html#121
"The white people have repeatedly asked us to dispose of our Lands, and we have sold to them one portion after another till we have but very little left. The prospect is that in two or three generations there will not be enough for our children. To us it looks strange than white people knowing this should ask us to sell nearly half we have left, when at the same time they have in this State so many Thousand acres of wild land. If all their lands were cleared & settled, and some quantity they wanted more, we should be willing to yield them a share of our own, for we are brothers, & one God made us all. Till this is the case, leave to us this little pittance, the miserable remains of the wide lands our fathers left us, enough to sleep on while we live & to bury us when we die. And what do white people suppose we must think when we see they wish to take from us one piece of land after another, till we have no place to stand on, unless it is to drive us, our wives, & our little children away?"
Penobscot Tribal Answer regarding the sale of Indian lands, 1829, Old Town, http://windowsonmaine.library.umaine.edu/view.aspx?objectId=4-116&currentFile=0
" The land is alive and supports us and the earth must endure for us to continue. To that end, the Algonkian peoples say that balance and harmony are maintained by returning thanks to the earth for her gifts. They feel themselves to be an integral part of their homelands and that they can not be separated from the earth without loss of identity and being. This is why many traditional Indian peoples today fight to keep their lands - land is survival."
As We Tell Our Stories, The Land, http://www.birdstone.org/exhibits.html
"In an important sense, a distant world and its inhabitants gradually became part of another people's ecosystem, so that it is increasingly difficult to know which ecosystem is interacting with which culture. This erasure of boundaries may itself be the most important issue of all…In colonial New England, two sets of human communities which were also two sets of ecological relationships confronted each other, one Indian and one European. They rapidly came to inhabit a single world, but in the process the landscape of New England was so transformed that the Indians' earlier way of interacting with their environment became impossible."
Changes in the Land; Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, by William Cronon (1983 Hill & Wang), p.14-15
"The traditional values of the Mi1kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy in the context of resources of the lands, waters and air include the principles of respect, conservation, and responsibility. The Mi1kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy recognize that the basis for viable and sustainable communities is sustainable resources."
Mi1kmaq / Maliseet / Passamaquoddy Integrated Natural Resource Management Policy (Canada) – Guiding Principles – Conservation (response of First Nations to Marshall decision re: Crown control of resources)
"Land has always been the Native people’s most valuable possession. It has provided the base for his existence, his religion and his society. Today with what little land the Native people own continues to serve at least as a Tribal center to which individuals can relate and thus maintain a sense of identity in an alien world which all too often has tried to take from Native people everything they possess including their identity."
History: Then and Now - Passamaquoddy/Penobscot
- http://www.passamaquoddy.com/history.htm


Post-Contact and Now

Pre-reservation Wabanakis live in small, generally scattered bands of extended families with ancestral hunting territories inherited (generally) through the father or recognized by bands within a tribe due to claim based on use. When necessary, because of war, famine or disaster, tribes or bands share resources and territory. Boundaries may be marked by band signs. Hunting lands have definite boundaries and defined pathways. Permission to hunt, trap, at times to cross lands is required.

In Maine, Wabanakis live on reservations and off-reservation. Hunting and fishing rights on-reservation are protected by law; licenses to Natives are free. In times of need, communities share. Health care, etc. are a community (tribal government) responsibility and resources for this are shared. Reservation resources (e.g. moose, deer, fish, lumber, tribal industries, trust income) are shared.

Land is not "owned" and its resources are given (by the land or resource) not taken – The partnership between the Indian and the land is sacred.

Sharing of seasonal and plentiful resources of the land is common. Limiting or stopping access to resources available to all and providing for many in a given season (eg: alewives) is unthinkable.

Crop rotation (leaving crop land after a few years to allow it to regain nutrients) and ground burning of forests and berry patches are practiced.

There are no fences around land (Wabanakis do not raise herd animals, so they do not need to keep them out of the fields or provide pasture land).

Europeans do not understand this. In their view, "improvement" of the land is a prerequisite for ownership. They do not perceive the Wabanakis clearing/burning and rotation of crop sites as improvement. They make fences to keep growing herds of cows and horses out of farm lands. These animals intrude on Wabanaki farms. European "permanent farm" settlement changes the ecology of Wabanaki tribal lands.

They need more and more land, largely due to the economic success of the livestock market. They take Wabanaki land.As early as 1620, land in Maine was chartered and made available for grant and sale (see Maine Memory item #7541)

This concept remains. Wabanakis today also recognize "ownership" in the European sense. Ownership is often tribal, but ownership of and development/income from land is also private.

See Maine Memory - Finding Katahdin Chapter 3 for relevant primary source documents

Land use for farming is not individual, but collective. An  individual or family may farm a specific piece of land but might also farm a collective farm.

Nations (recognized) today collectively purchase, own and develop lands.  Trust fund income is expended, invested, etc. by collective agreement. Land belongs to the community; families may use a portion on which to build.

Conservation of resources, plant and animal, is essential – the land and its resources are respected – there is an essential and balanced interrelationship between the People and the land – resources have multiple uses, which are equally important and which contribute equally to the needs of the tribe.

Wabanakis practice "crop rotation" and ground burning to improve both planting (soil) and hunting ecology.

A relatively small population lives in a large space, so demands on the ecology are minimized.

Europeans change the ecology of hunting, gathering and fishing grounds by clearing forest lands, lumbering, over-hunting (to which the Wabanakis contribute), building mills on old beaver dams, flooding, and fencing.

Conservation and balance remains an essential worldview. However, Wabanakis recognize that resources have an economic use (which began with the fur trade and can be seen in the "rent in corn" to be paid by the English for use of lands on the Kennebec.). Moreover, Wabanakis adapt some European farming methods in order to survive.

Resources have become important to the economy. This is sometimes a cause of dissent within a nation (e.g. LNG).

Land-based economy – reliance on hunting and fishing, but also agriculture (varies with region and tribe).

The Wabanakis (southern more than northern) clear land for farming, generally along waterways.

There is wide-spread sharing and trading of resources. Reasons include: political alliances, personal prestige gains, assistance to those who need.

The Wabanakis do not practice "capitalism": the sale of resources accumulated beyond the immediate need of the individual or community. Resources are stored for later use (the Pilgrims find and make use of such stores). Land and its resources are not viewed as "commodities"

Most of the participation of the Wabanakis in warfare has been to defend their economic independence.

"...tribal negotiators typically made sure that deeds and treaties specifically reserved hunting, fishing, gathering, and traveling rights to Native Americans." (Loewen, Lies my teacher told me, p. 123).

Epidemics of the first half of the 17th century and the "value" of trade goods change the relationship of the Wabanakis to the land. Some resources are viewed for their "sale value" rather than for their use to the community. They contribute to the overhunting of beaver and other game.

With loss of lands and changes in the ecology of the lands and waterways (timbering, development, overhunting, overfishing, pollution), land-based economy has gradually changed. Some of their traditional resource disappear entirely by the 19th century, others are much reduced or can not be accessed.

Wage-earning, seasonal income, tribal industries, sales of hand-made items have moved Wabanakis into the market economy. Pursuit of economic independence continues.

With loss of lands and changes in the ecology of the lands and waterways (timbering, development, overhunting, overfishing, pollution), land-based economy has gradually changed. Wage-earning, seasonal income, tribal industries, sales of hand-made items have moved Wabanakis into the market economy. Pursuit of economic independence continues. See VOA transcript for discussion of Penobscot pursuits (2005).

With the loss of self-sustaining lifestyle, Nations accepted state support in terms of "welfare services" – but these services were funded largely by interest income from use of or sale of tribal lands. See also Sovereignty

Thanks are given for all resources used.


Long before "The First Thanksgiving" the Natives have a harvest celebration, one of many celebrations.

On the other hand, Europeans saw the landscape as a definable set of "commodities", providing many food and living resources that were scare in Europe. This is true today. Commodities include lumber, fish, game, recreational land-use rights, housing…

Land is not the Wabanakis to give away or trade away. It is therefore not the right of another nation to take or sell their lands. Europeans do not understand this:

"I caused the Governor and Captains then on the Island to be called in, and stated to them the effects which they were daily witnessing in the destruction of their game, and their means of subsistence produced by the progress of settlement and cultivation and suggested that the time was not far distant when the white people would destroy all the game, and they would be left destitute but that it as was within their power by a change of their modes of life, to have as many necessaries and comforts as the white people, and that by the annual profits of the sale of a part of their lands, which they did not need at present, they might procure cattle and sheep and farming utensils- and should they increase and need more land they would purchase farms when and where they pleased" (Report of Penobscot Indian Agent, 1830).


As early as 1620, land in Maine is chartered and made available for grant and sale (see Maine Memory item #7541.

Wabanakis do not recognize the right of Canada, USA, or (earlier) France & England to give their ancestral lands away (protected in this country by Act of 1790), sell them, or take them. They have entered into treaties in the last 375 years that involve their lands. 

Non-Native: "...most land sales before the twentieth century, including sales among whites, transferred primarily the rights to farm, mine, and otherwise develop the land. Undeveloped private land was considered public and accessible to all." (Loewen, Lies my teacher told me, p. 123)

Maine continued to take lands by eminent domain for development until 1980 – may still legally do so. See Indian Territory for terms of land use by State.

Penobscot and Passamaquoddy nations are currently seeking to purchase or acquire (for economic development) lands and properties in the (closing) Brunswick Naval Air Station.

"Boundaries" are not marked by deeds, fences or maps but by history and consensus.

Tribal and family "hunting districts" are respected

Reservations have boundaries that the Wabanakis recognize. However, the free passage to-and-from Canada, recognized in the Jay Treaty and the Treaty of Ghent, is  becoming restricted – this is being challenged by the Mi'kmaq and Passamaquoddy nations.

The "severing" or division of tribal lands between Canada and the US remains an unsolved issue.

Beginning in the late 1500's, Wabanakis allowed European settlers to share their lands (often for payment of some kind), but eventually the fact that such settlements restricted (eliminated) their use of the same lands led to conflict. Europeans do not view Wabanaki "use of the land" as "improvement" (European measure of successful ownership), giving them the "right" to claim it and sell it. Natives do not accept restriction of hunting/fishing rights on land sold or ceded to Europeans in treaties.

Tribal movement during the cycle of the seasons is essential to life. Tribes with agricultural settlements migrate inland in the winter for hunting. The nature of "semi-nomadic lifestyle" varies fluidly with the tribe, location, situation. This appeared to Europeans to be proof that land is not "owned."

Wabanakis live in homes and may migrate seasonally like everyone else. Fewer than 25% of Natives live on reservation lands (500 of 3,000 Penobscots). Many live and work in cities and towns, others move frequently in search of work (seasonal and other).

Consensus, Law & Sovereignty
"It is from our Birth into our Nations, that we maintain our natural, and inherent responsibilities, commonly and mistakenly referred to as "rights." Our freedom of movement, our status as nations, our self-determination, does not depend on the Jay Treaty or any other third-party agreement; these treaties merely recognize and reflect our freedom of movement, and inherent rights."
Silent and Invisible: The Rule of Law and WABANAKI Sovereignty, Minngignoti-Keteaoag, http://sisis.nativeweb.org/mk/wabanaki.html
"Under the American legal system, Indian tribes have sovereign powers separate and independent from the federal and state governments. The extent and breadth of tribal sovereignty is not the same for each tribe, howeverŠ
      "The very essence of tribal sovereignty is the ability to self-govern and to protect the health, safety and welfare of our people within our own territory."  
Mark Chavaree,
"The very essence of a treaty relationship is its nation to nation character. The Mi1kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy entered into a treaty relationship with the Crown during the 18th century. Implicit within this relationship is the recognition of the equivalent sovereign jurisdiction of the Mi1kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy nations. Also implicit within this relationship is the position that all jurisdictional areas have been retained by the Mi1kmaq, Maliseet and the Passamaquoddy as self-governing nations. "
Mi1kmaq / Maliseet / Passamaquoddy Integrated Natural Resource Management Policy (Canada) – Right of Self-determination (response of First Nations to Marshall decision re: Crown control of resources)


Post-Contact and Now

"Aboriginal title" to lands and sovereign rights, Europeans do not understand this.

"The government of Great Britain, in accordance with the principle adopted by civilized nations, considered themselves from the discovery, and settlement of the Country, as the sovereigns of it; hence in all their charters, they conveyed a qualified sovereignty, and the right of soil, subject only to the Indian right to the fee." (Report of Penobscot Indian Agent, 1830)

Rights and lands not expressly given away in treaties are still held by Indian tribes or nations (unless taken away by act of Congress) – US "Indian Law"

Decision-making by consensus (but this does not mean that there are not factions within a tribe) . Within the extended family community decisions are made for the best of the community.

The structure is: family -> kinship village -> tribe or band. Most villages or family bands (a tribe contained many family groups) have a sachem (sagamore, the term varies)have a sachem to take a leadership position, to structure communication, etc. Most tribes are patrilineal (following father's line for family units) but leadership is not strictly inherited in many tribes (it is earned but often passed from father to son). Chief or sachem is a life position in some tribes.

"Strong central authority" is not a Wabanaki government model.

"Titles" in the European sense are not used; within a tribe or community, individuals are recognized and known for their values as resources (knowledge, skills, abilities, strengths) to the community.

At times, several tribes would unite for war or survival under a "sagamore" who had leadership traits of skill, bravery, speaking, honesty, generosity, wisdom and who was often the head of a large kinship group.

Independence of tribes is an essential part of the Wabanakis worldview. Maintaining this self-governance is a major goal of the Wabanakis.

See Wabanakis of Maine & the Maritimes, D-66 and A-12,13


Post-Contact, the role of tribal leaders was strengthened (adapted) due to the need to survive European challenges and the tribal warfare that escalated for economic and land-use reasons (and the availability of guns).

The Wabanakis formalized a Confederacy in 1701.

Nations have elected leaders (sachem, chief, governor, title varies).  Also elected "Councils" and other officers in charge of important functions (Health, etc). This is not unlike the government structure of many small towns in Maine (Mayor – Town Council) and is a partial adoption of a non-Native structure which was put in place with the construction of the Reservations.

There are two non-voting Natives in the Maine legislature, one elected from the Passamaquoddy, the other elected from the Penobscot.

On Maine reservations, the nations have their own legal systems. They are, however, subject to many of the laws of the state of Maine and federal laws (with the exception of specific recognized rights, such as free passage across borders) – see Sovereignty below.

See the discussion of governance and sovereignty on Passamaquoddy.com.

Wabanaki Confederacy – begun in 1676 and formalized in 1701 – loose confederation to join nations in common issues (war, trade, cultural preservation especially). Individual nations did not always follow the rest of the Confederacy (e.g. in signing treaties, in fighting).

See Wabanakis of Maine & the Maritimes, A-14 and Abbe Museum timeline

Wabanaki Confederacy exists today as a political alliance.

Indian nations and tribes come together, regionally and nationally, to discuss common issues, to formulate consensus positions, to advise the state, regional and federal governments, and to play a management role in Native affairs. This has been true since Contact. Wabanaki leaders frequently traveled to Boston and coastal cities to meet with Colonial governments.

Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission (4 appointees, 2 Penobscots, 2 Passamaquoddies, elected Chair) - reviews Settlement effectiveness, regulates much fishing (D102, Wabanakis of Maine & the Maritimes)

Tribes have always had sovereignty. Tribes are "separate political states" (John Stevens).

Treaties made between the English and French and the Wabanaki tribes recognized this sovereignty, by the definition of a treaty ("a formal agreement between two or more self-governing states or nations").

The position of the Wabanakis with relation to British and colonial law was not clear. Leaders often appealed to local courts for redress of ills. Overall, Europeans assumed full legal authority over Native peoples.

Sovereignty is one of the major contemporary issues for the Wabanaki. Economic and environmental independence are especially important. Full sovereignty is still not recognized by Canada or Maine; (see Chavaree for a discussion of many confusing interpretations of "internal tribal matters.") 

Tribal powers retained under the 1980 Settlement Acts are: (Chavaree) "exclusive jurisdiction over certain civil and criminal matters and exclusive authority to regulate hunting and fishing within Indian territory."

Other sovereign powers, such as the right to hold bingo games on reservation lands without state regulation and the right to build and run a racino on tribal land without state or referendum approval, are not recognized (by decision of the federal and state Supreme Courts). 

Tribal sovereignty in environmental issues, especially air and water quality, continues to be debated.

The Aroostook Band of Micmacs have not received Maine recognition (have received Federal recognition).

See Finding Katahdin lesson plan 11.4 (download the .pdf file from this page).

See Wabanaki People at the Abbe Museum website for more information, lessons, and timeline



Elizabeth Sky-McIlvain

updated: 02/05/2006