Wabanaki people rolled and tied birch bark pieces, creating a cone. When blown through, the call imitates the sound of a moose, a useful tool for hunting. Wabanakis continue to hunt this way.
Gene Hale, left, and respected Penobscot Indian guide Joe Dennis, right, pole their canoes up the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Hale and Dennis worked as guides for the region's sporting camps.
The scene is somewhere near Abol Falls, and Mt. Katahdin is in the background.
Carvers who made rootclubs often carved walking sticks as well.
The sticks often were ornamented with chip carving and relief-carved designs. Each carver developed a distinctive style.
Maine Indians used birchbark or wooden bowls as tableware or for mixing cornbread. Some of the bowls were 18 inches in diameter or more.
This bowl has Pauline Shay's name written in it.
In 1913, she married Andrew Sockalexis, the marathon runner, and, after his death, operated a basket and novelty shop on Indian Island.
Naturally waterproof, odorless and resistant to insects, birch bark can be cut into any shape, bent, folded, and sewn.
Wabanaki people harvest large sheets of bark during the month of May, by carefully separating it from the trunk, without cutting the wood or harming the tree. Wabanaki people used birch bark for housing, food storage, hunting gear, ceremony, and artwork.
Snowshoes were essential for Wabanaki people traveling around Maine in the winter, and quickly became popular with Europeans and Euro-Americans following their arrival in Maine. These snowshoes are very similar to a pair owned by Henry David Thoreau, made for him by a Penobscot craftsman for use in his travels in the Maine wilderness.
This image is of N.M. Francis and his wife in a birchbark canoe. Birchbark canoes were the primary means of travel for the Wabanaki for thousands of years, and the traditional craft of making them has been revitalized in recent years.
According to William A. Haviland in Down East Maine, for the Wabanaki, the canoe was the equivalent of today's pickup truck. Because of this, birchbark canoes greatly ranged in both length and weight depending on where and what they were used for.
This illustration appears in the book Algonquin Legends of New England, or Myths and Folklore of the Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Tribes, by Charles G. Leland (1884).
Glooskap (Gluskap, Gluskabe) is a legendary figure in Wabanaki history, purported to have created the earth and taught the Wabanaki people the skills to survive. He is both creator and teacher.
This handkerchief box was created and carved by Tomah Joseph, of the Passamaquoddy tribe in the late 19th century.
Tomah Joseph (1837-1914) is perhaps the best-known Passamaquoddy birchbark artist from the late 19th and early 20th century. His beautifully decorated birchbark work can be found on everything from canoes to coat racks to letter boxes. He was also a friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt throughout his life, spending time together at Campobello Island in easternmost Maine.
Lucille Shay, daughter of Florence and Leo Shay, and Teddy Solomon, son of Clara and Nicholas Solomon were from the Penobscot Tribe and lived on Indian Island. The photo probably was taken at Gala Day on Indian Island.
Birch bark has been an essential material for the Wabanaki for generations. It was used to create everything from canoes to shelters.
With the growing market for Native crafts exemplified by the Bar Harbor encampments, Wabanaki birch bark artisans developed new forms and decorative styles to appeal to buyers.
Depictions of Wabanaki life and stories, along with scenes from the natural world, were popular at the turn of the century.
This image, from Scribner's Magazine, depicts a man stirring a cauldron of blubber. Cooking pots at the Wabanaki encampment in Bar Harbor were also used for “trying” (extracting) porpoise oil by boiling the blubber.
Porpoise hunting was common among Wabanaki men, especially the Passamaquoddy. The oil was in great demand for fueling lighthouses and lubricating clockworks.
This little basket is one of three made by Snow, in the early 20th century, for Dr. Henry Stebbins, of Seal Harbor Maine and his siblings when they were young children.
John Snow (1868-1937) lived most of his life, and raised his family, on Mount Desert Island. He would travel door to door selling both his own work and pieces made by other Wabanaki artisans. His work often features delicate trees and leaves.
John Snow lived most of his life, and raised his family, on Mount Desert Island. He would travel door to door selling both his own work and pieces made by other Wabanaki artisans. His work often features delicate trees and leaves.
The sale of baskets and other such items was often the primary source of income for Native American families. The entire family could work all winter to prepare for summer when tribes would set up encampments to sell their wares near resorts. When not camped near the resorts and during the non-summer months goods would be taken door-to-door for sale.
Rusticators canoeing in Frenchman Bay. Original drawing by Charles S. Reinhart. Engraved for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 73, No. 435, August 1886, pg. 419.
Rusticators were vacationers who flocked to the island from cities, which sought relief from the noise and pollution of crowded urban life without forsaking any of the comforts of urban life.
Boasting as many as 300 members, the Mount Desert Island Canoe Club encouraged “cooing, wooing, and canoeing,” as well as serious training in the “fine art of paddling.” Most members of this rusticators’ club aspired to having their own Indian-made paddle and birchbark canoe, and many turned to proven experts from the Indian encampment for instruction. Rusticators also took great pleasure in seeing Wabanaki paddling skills displayed at the Club’s annual canoe races.
Former Penobscot Chief Barry Dana creates birchbark containers, decorating them with both etched designs and quillwork.
This powder horn is reported to have been owned by Penobscot Chief Joseph Orono (1688-1801). On close inspection of the horn two of the many images that it is possible to see are a man holding a musket and a square-rigged three-masted ship.
Chief Orono’s nickname, K’tolaqu, translates to “Big Ship.” He was given this nickname as a result of the many tales he told of the big ships he saw during a trip to Boston in 1780 to offer Penobscot aid to the Americans in the Revolutionary War.
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