Published on June 16, 2012 by Amy
Officially the Passamoquoddy Nation did not possess a tribal flag until 1995. That means simply that the council governing the had never seen fit to approve a design through a piece of legislation. That does not mean, however, that the Passamoquoddy did not have a flag. There was an unofficial flag for the tribe and it is seen both on land and at sea!
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The Passamoquoddy of Maine are part of the Wabanaki Confederacy, an alliance of Algonquin speaking tribes in the northeastern part of what is now the United States and the nearby regions of Canada (ENAT, 178). The term Wabanaki translates into “the people who dwell at the sunrise”. The tribal name means “those who pursue the pollack”; the pollack being a major food fish in the waters of the Atlantic off New England and Maritime Canada. The Confederacy has been reawakened since the relighting of the fires of the Confederacy in Restigouche, Quebec, home of the Micmac people (Margaret Dana, letter dated May 15, 1997). The members of the Wabanaki Confederacy are the Abenaki, Micmac, Passamoquoddy, and Penobscot nations.
Both of these terms are to be found in the expression of Passamoquoddy nationhood that was their unofficial tribal flag. A blue flag was used. It bore a large yellow disk in the center recalling the sun. Surrounding the disk to the hoist side is a capital ‘W’. At the base of the disk, a capital ‘S’, at the top of the disk, a capital ‘N’. All three letters act as directional beacons. Where the letter ‘E’, for East should be was a five pointed star, indicating the direction in which one will find the lands of the Passamoquoddy. This flag predated the settlement of land claims with the federal government in 1980.
In the center of the disk, appearing in white, was the depiction of a pollack, or white fish, it faced the fly end of the flag whereas European heraldic tradition would insist that the fish face toward the hoist. The pollack was skewered by a pair of fishing spears, usually in black and forming a rough ‘X’.
In the upper regions of the disk appeared the tribal name, while at the lower regions, the legend “People of the Dawn”, a version of the tribe’s name translated into English. Both were separated from the central portion of the disk by a ring of small dots. On the sample of the seal shown to the author by New England Vexillological Association member Dave Martucci, all lettering, the tribal name, the legend and the directional indicators are black. This is also true of the ring of dots. The star is yellow.
Because the flag was unofficial, it is quite possible that a variety of colors may be found in these elements. It is also not certain whether or not all segments of the Passamoquoddy people made use of the old flag. The response from the tribal office is simply that they do not recognize the “fish flag” as a tribal flag. It is known that the Passamoquoddy delegate to the Maine legislature uses special automobile license plates bearing the tribal seal as described above. The Passamoquoddy’s fellow Maine federally recognized tribe, the Penobscot also employ such tags.
With the settlement of claims in 1980 a new design was proposed that depicted the settlement, but the Passamoquoddy people were never fully supportive of that design. That design is the now official.
This latest flag of the Passamoquoddy people was adopted – on a ninety day trial- in June of 1995 (Passamoquoddy Tribal Council resolution, June 8, 1995). Because that trial period was never replaced with other tribal legislation, the June 1995 flag is accepted as the “official” flag of the Passamoquoddy nation.
That new design, called the “scroll” design is a white flag bearing the new seal of the Passamoquoddy nation. The seal begins with a circle of people (twenty in all) holding hands in four groups of five. These figures are separated by the three directions and eastern star carried over from the “fish flag”. This denotes the unity of the Passamoquoddy “with all Native Americans from the North, South, East and West” (“Interpretation of the Pleasant Point Passamoquoddy’s Tribal Logo”, unsigned, undated letter, Pleasant Point Reservation, ME). The “predominant Star” is the Passamoquoddy Representative of Eastern Tribes. Within the ring is a circular seal representing the Circle of Life. This circle is red recalling the “Red Race” (ibid.). In the four prime directional points of the red circle are plants depicted in yellows and greens, representing the Eastern Woodlands. Centered on the circle is a scroll for the settlement of land claims. This is also the symbolism of the “dripping feather” that appears in front of the scroll. Upon the scroll, in natural colors is a sunrise over the land at Passamoquoddy Bay and the reflection of that sun upon the waters of the Bay. These images attest to the aboriginal rights of the Passamoquoddy people and a recognition that this bounty was given the Passamoquoddy by the Great Spirit. The design is completed by the black dots, tribal name and legend “People of the Dawn” that originated on the “fish flag” of pre-1980 vintage. On the new seal all these elements appear in black.
As mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the flag of the Passamoquoddy can be seen at sea. Fishing boats belonging to members of the Passamoquoddy tribe frequently fly the tribal flag when plying the waters off Maine. This is the sole known instance of a tribal banner being used at sea.