The Passamaquoddy

Published on December 28, 2012 by Amy

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The Passamaquoddy
The Passamaquoddy

The Passamaquoddy (Peskotomuhkati or Pestomuhkati in the Passamaquoddy language) are the First Nations (Native American) people who live in northeastern North America, primarily in Maine and New Brunswick. The Passamaquoddy had a purely oral history before the arrival of Europeans, occupied coastal regions along the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine and along the St. Croix River and its tributaries. They dispersed and hunted inland in the winter; in the summer, they gathered more closely together on the coast and islands, and primarily harvested seafood, including porpoise. The name “Passamaquoddy” is an Anglicization of the Passamaquoddy word peskotomuhkati, the prenoun form (prenouns being a linguistic feature of Algonquian languages) of Peskotomuhkat (pestəmohkat), the name they applied to themselves. Peskotomuhkat literally means “pollock-spearer” or “those of the place where pollock are plentiful”, reflecting the importance of this fish. Their method of fishing was spear-fishing rather than angling.

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The Passamaquoddy were moved off their original lands repeatedly by European settlers since the 16th century and were eventually limited in the United States to the current Indian Township Reservation, at 45°15′57″N 67°36′43″W, in eastern Washington County, Maine. It has a land area of 96.994 km² (37.450 sq mi) and a 2000 census resident population of 676 persons. There are also Passamaquoddy off-reservation trust lands in five Maine counties; these lands total almost four times the size of the reservation proper. They are located in northern and western Somerset County, northern Franklin County, northeastern Hancock County, western Washington County, and several locations in eastern and western Penobscot County. Their total land area is 373.888 km² (144.359 sq mi). There was no resident population on these trust lands as of the 2000 census. The Passamaquoddy also live in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, and maintain active land claims but have no legal status in Canada as a First Nation. Some Passamaquoddy continue to seek the return of territory now comprised in St. Andrews, New Brunswick which they claim as Qonasqamkuk, a Passamaquoddy ancestral capital and burial ground.

The Passamaquoddy population in Maine is about 2,500 people. About 500 people, mostly if not all over the age of fifty, speak the Malecite-Passamaquoddy language, shared (other than minor differences in dialect) with the neighboring and related Maliseet people, and which belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algic language family. The University of Maine published a comprehensive Passamaquoddy Dictionary in 2008. Another resource for the language is the online Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal, which includes many videos, subtitled in English and Passamaquoddy, of native speakers conversing in the language.

While the Passamaquoddy population in Canada is much smaller, it has a formal structure and a chief, Hugh Akagi. It is not, however, recognized by the Canadian government as constituting a first nation. The fact that Chief Akagi was able to speak for the Passamaquoddy at events marking the 400th anniversary of French settlement of St Croix Island (the first French effort at permanent settlement in the new world) indicated that they had made some progress.

Passamaquoddy Bay, which straddles the United States-Canada border between New Brunswick and Maine, derives its name from the Passamaquoddy people.

Special political status in Maine

The Passamaquoddy, along with the neighboring Penobscot Nation, are given special political status in the U.S. state of Maine. Both groups are allowed to send a nonvoting representative to the Maine House of Representatives. Although these representatives cannot vote, they may sponsor any legislation regarding Native American affairs, and may co-sponsor any other legislation.

Source: wikipedia

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