Published on June 16, 2012 by Amy
Located in eastern Maine, the Penobscot are one of the two easternmost Native American peoples. The name Penobscot is an Algonquin word meaning “the rocky place” (ENAT, 183-184). This refers to the rocky falls of the Penobscot River that was home to the Penobscot people centuries ago and continues as the home for many members of the tribe. The Penobscot and Passamoquoddy nations settled a suit against the State of Maine and the federal government in 1980. The two tribes were awarded $81 million dollars to atone for the taking of tribal lands unfairly by early settlers. This was one of the first modern attempts by Native American people to have their grievances redressed through the court system. Many others have followed, but the Penobscot and Passamoquoddy victory is still one of the most dramatic victories so far.
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The Penobscot have used their portion of the settlement to make a wide series of investments. These investments are helping the Penobscot people ensure a safe and secure life for the entire tribe – all 430 of them.
The flag of the Penobscot tribal government is quite simple. A white flag bearing the tribal seal, all in black (Brenda Fields, Tribal Administrator, letter, dated Feb. 16th, 1995).
This seal bears the bust of a Penobscot warrior, possibly Sockalexis, in profile surrounded by an ornate border that resembles three tombstones, each forming a cross. On the crossbar of each cross is the name of a particular virtue – “Purity”, “Faith” and “Valor”, the three comprise the tribal motto.. Closer to the warrior in the ring around his bust is the name of the tribe in English and in the native Algonquin tongue of the Penobscot “Bur nur wurb skek”. Behind the warrior can be seen a pine forest, the most common landscape of the lands of the Penobscot.
The three crosses recall the Holy Trinity (Interview by Dave Martucci with Wayne Mitchell, Penobscot Tribal Land Use Officer). Each cross also bears a year, under “Purity” is 1605, the kidnapping of five Penobscots by English Captain Weymouth and their being taken back to England. Under “Faith” is 1687, the year the first Catholic Mission was erected on Indian Island. Beneath “Purity” is 1612, the year of the war with the Eastern Abenaki.
Two dates appear in the ring surrounding Sockalexis’ portrait. At the top is 1669, commemorating the war with the Iroquois, while at the bottom is 1749 marking the treaty of peace with Massachusetts ending King George’s War. Along with these dates, twelve flint fire starters appear in the ring. These symbolize the unity of the tribe.
At the base of each of the three crosses appear branches of a tree. These represent tribal growth. The entire seal has a serrated edge. This whole serrated circle recalls the sun.
In addition to the tribal government flag, the Penobscot people have a “tribal flag”. Insufficient data is available to reproduce it in this work. It has been described as multi-colored, bearing a wikiyup and other symbols. This flag exists in the Tribal Council Chambers (ibid.).