1. Historical information about the culture

The Penobscot Nation settled along the largest river in modern day Maine, which is today known as the Penobscot River.   On the river, the people were exposed to a rich ecosystem for over 10,000 years.  To the Penobscot people, their river represents identity, spirituality, and livelihood.  The river allows them to make baskets, pottery, birch canoes, and moccasins.  The river is important to the Penobscot people, including priests.  To the priests, the river represents beauty, the Trinity, and spirits of Penobscot ancestors.  The aspects of ancestral spirits are also important to the Penobscot people.  Black Robes are those that converted American Indians to Christianity, and these people play a part in this value for ancestors.  There are three churches on reservations of closely related tribe, Passamaquoddy, named after Jesus’ grandmother showing this reverence for their ancestors.  During wars between the British and French, the French would send Father James Romagne to minister the Penobscots in order to keep their faith when they didn’t have priests of their own.  They were influenced by French ministers such as him, and their beliefs were also similar.  Both Christian and tribal beliefs worship a creator and believe in an afterlife, and ceremonies mark life cycle events for both.  The communities and the church were always linked; whenever the community would move, the church would move with it.
Of course, there were not always supermarkets, so Penobscot people had hunters to find food in wildlife.  They used bows and arrows, spears, and heavy wooden clubs.  They also had fishermen using special pronged fishing spears and nets.  Their artists are best known for quillwork, beadwork, and basket-weaving, all made possible by the resources from the Penobscot river.
The language spoken by the Penobscot people is called Abnaki-Penobscot, an Algonquian language still spoken by Abenaki elders in Canada.   They also spoke Eastern Abenaki, another dialect of the language.  The last fluent speakers of the languages have passed away, but there are still a few working to revive it.
In General, the Penobscot were able to trade with all other New England Native Americans, and fought with the Iroquois.  The Penobscot Nation is part of a collection of Nations called the Wabanaki (which means “people from the east” in Algonquian), which is known as a Confederacy composed of the following: Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki and Penobscot.  They were not always friends with each other, and even fought wars against each other until they formed an alliance.  This Confederacy settled in the area of modern day Maine and the southeastern Canada region known today as the Maritimes.  This confederacy was seen by European settlers as a powerful one, including Chief Bessabez, who was a ruler of the Penobscot and ruled over twenty villages in the 1600’s-1610’s.  He ruled from 1606-1616, when the nation was faced with the adversity of inter-tribal conflict.

"Penobscot Indian Fact Sheet." Facts for Kids: Penobscot Indians (Penobscots). N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
"Penobscot Nation and Their River." Indigenous Religious Traditions. N.p., 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
















2. Colonial experience of the culture

             The Penobscot people have a rich and lengthy culture that reaches back for hundreds of years. Native people have inhibited Maine and Nova Scotia for at least 11,000 years, and this area is where the Penobscot people call home. The Penobscot people are also known as the Wabanaki, and they have a deep history in Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia; areas all known as their native lands. The first contact with European’s began in 1606, marking the beginning of hundreds of years of hostile relations between the Penobscots and the alien Europeans who would soon demand their land and ultimately their culture. While the Penobscot’s have a thick, and occasionally aggressive, history, they remain a proud native people of the north, continuing centuries worth of culture in Main and the Maritime regions.
            Early European explorers arrived in Maine to find a flourishing Penobscot nation lead by Chief Bessabez, who ruled over twenty villages. Conflict arouse immediately when they arrived and infected the area with small-pox, to which Chief Bessabez fell victim to. The subsequent years were followed by times of much conflict; the Penobscots fought in wars with the Mohawk Nation from 1630-1678, and continued to fight in wars with the English from 1675 all the way to 1760! Both of these conflicts, which were vigorous in themselves, drastically changed the nation when they occurred simultaneously. The Penobscot/Wabanaki nation allied with the French, and the English allied with the Iroquois, leading to many Euro-Native wars. These conflicts and complicated alliances pitted the Penobscots against the Iroquois in mass battles and wars which were fueled by the motives of the Europeans.
            In 1760, the Penobscot and their French allies made peace with the English, but the wars had left their people exhausted. The Wabanki people then sided with the American colonists in the Revolutionary War, and fought in battles alongside future Americans. They pledged alliance to the USA in the Penobscot Delegation pledge in 1775 in Watertown, Massachusetts. Later on, several trade and treaty acts were exchanged between the Penobscots, even though many of these agreements were later annulled or broken by the United States. In 1790, the Trade and Non-Intercourse Act was passed by Congress to protect Indian land transfers, 1818 the treaty between Massachusetts and Penobscot which established reservation lands, and in 1833 four Penobscot townships were sold by the State of Maine due to pressures of expanding the United States, ultimately breaking the previous treaties that were made. Before the arrival of the English and the Europeans, Penobscot/Wabanki numbers were estimated to be around 10,000. By 1803, only 347 Penobscots remained.

"Penawahpskkewi Historical Summary." Penobscot Indian Nation. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
"Timeline of the Penobscot." Penobscot: Culture and History of the Nation. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.



3. Contemporary developments or issues

Most recently the Penobscot tribe has been pushing for a water restoration in the upstream areas of the Penobscot River and other rivers that flow in or near the reservation. During 2012 and 2013 alone, the tribe and its partners successfully had two dams removed. These dams blocked up nearly 1000 miles of habitat for a wide range of organisms including Atlantic Salmon, Short-nose Sturgeon, Alewife, and many more. This restoration project is truly one of a kind and one of the biggest river restoration projects in the nations history. Not only have they achieved replenishment of multiple animals and fish species but they have also managed to maintain energy production as well. The projected budget for this project is 30 million dollars; the Penobscot River Restoration Trust and other fundraising partners have made a considerable dent already to this cost. In other political news, the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission has continued to push forward in providing the best welfare system for the Wabanaki children and families as possible. The Wabanaki is a group of five principal nations (Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot) in the northeast area of the United States. The commission’s main goal is to acknowledge that the native people were undeniably taken advantage of, and then to move on from that reality and learn from the truth. The commission works by allowing people to share their own stories of their experiences. These testimonies elicit many opportunities for healing and change through the people of the five nations. In the end, this commission gives suggestions to the Maine child welfare system on how it can be more connected and thoughtful of the Wabanaki people.
There are many languages spoken on this world. The Abnaki-Penobscot is a Algonquian language and is not spoken by any filly fluent speaker anymore. There are still people who speak similar dialects, and these people are the Penobscot. Several of the elders in the Penobscot tribe speak it and are working vigorously to revive it. Along with reviving and developing a new desire for the native language the Penobscot tribe also have some education programs that work to develop the people of the tribe. The Penobscot tribe provides educational grant programs for 4 year, 2 year, and post-secondary degree programs. A person of the tribe must fulfill the requirements for the program in order to qualify for it. The Programs allow low-income families the chance at higher education. In addition to these grant programs, the tribe also has a learning center that prepares students for a high school diploma, GED test, or skills for employment opportunities. The learning continues to expand its horizons with adding software programs with computers, a small library, and Native American book collections.

"I Believe in Truth and Reconciliation." Maine WabanakiState Child Welfare Truth Reconciliation Commission. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
"Native Languages of the Americas: Penobscot (Eastern Abnaki, Penawahpskewi, Penobscott)." Native Americans: Penobscot Indian Tribe (Penobscot Nation, Penobscott, Penobscots). N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
"Penobscot River Restoration Project | Home." Penobscot River Restoration Project | Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.