In Memoriam

Abbe Museum trustee David Moses Bridges passed away on Friday, January 20, 2017. David was a kind and generous artist, and his contributions and accolades are numerous. Internationally known for his art, canoe-building, and activism, David was also known as a loving husband, father, and friend. He never hesitated standing up when he needed to, and he always said what needed to be said. Our hearts go out to his family and the Sipayik community as they wrap their minds around this loss and fill their hearts with his smile, humor, creativity, and love.  

Many people have asked how they can make a donation in memory of David, and you are welcome to make a gift directly to his family via The DMB Fund Facebook page

The Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News published touching tributes in the days following David's passing. 

New Passamaquoddy Language App

The Passamaquoddy tribe, located at Indian Township and Pleasant Point in Washington County, Maine, has released a new app for iPhone and Android users, specifically designed to encourage the use and retention of the Passamaquoddy language—one of the few Native languages still spoken on the east coast.

Until the early 1980s, the Passamaquoddy language had been passed down entirely through oral traditions, when the tribe began developing a written system using 17 letters from the modern English alphabet. After the writing system was developed, it began to be implemented in tribal schools.

In 2008, the Passamaquoddy tribe published the first complete dictionary of the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet language, containing over 18,000 entries. At the same time, the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal went live on the World Wide Web, providing people all over the world with access to the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet language.

The new smartphone app, available through the Apple App Store or Google Play, teaches users how to speak Passamaquoddy through written examples, audio recordings, videos, quizzes, and even games, allowing users to track their progress and improve their fluency. With categories such as office phrases, household items, commands, and traditional clothing, this app provides an easy way to practice speaking Passamaquoddy in a 21st century context.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this app is it's lack of availability—while anyone can download it, only members of the Passamaquoddy tribe have access to the PIN numbers required to activate the app. Cultural appropriation is a rampant problem not only in Maine, but throughout Indian Country, so the restrictions placed on the app is one way that the Passamaquoddy tribe has chosen to enforce their rights to self determination, sovereignty, and to prevent misappropriation of the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet language.

For anyone interested in learning more about the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet language, please visit The Language Portal is free to use and open to the public, and includes audio and video links as well as pronunciation guides.

For more information on the Passamaquoddy Language App, please contact the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township or Pleasant Point , Maine.

Meet a Wabanaki Artist Fellow: Emma Soctomah

Emma Soctomah is 11 years old and a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe living at Indian Township. She is an Honor Roll student who skipped the 4th grade, and will be in the 7th grade this fall.

Artwork is very important to her, and she spends much of her time outside of school making baskets. She has attended the Santa Fe Indian Market twice and has returned with top awards each time.

"My inspiration would definitely be my Gram, Molly Neptune Parker. She is always working on baskets and stopping to help me or my cousins. I am very thankful to have my Gram because she always helps me when I need it. She also makes very beautiful baskets. I am my brother George Neptune's apprentice, so I go to markets with him. He helps me work as hard as I can, but sometimes too hard, but that's okay. He just wants me to do as good as I can."

Here she is (in the pony tail), teaching Franklin Delano Roosevelt's great grandchildren how to weave a basket. Roosevelt was good friends with Tomah Joseph, who was from Indian Township, and a family relation to Emma and George.

As a Wabanaki Artist Fellow, Emma is off to the Santa Fe Indian Market this month to see what other awards she can win. But, it's not just about winning awards; making baskets is about keeping a tradition alive and well.

"I want to be sure that basketmaking keeps going so that we don't lose the tradition. At one point we started losing the tradition but my Gram started teaching more and more people. I want to be just like her and teach people to make baskets and keep it going. I will teach all of my children that I have in the future."

The Wabanaki Artist Fellowships were made possible through support from Dawnland, LLC, the concessioner in Acadia National Park.

Wabanaki Antiques Expo

During the Wabanaki Antiques Expo held on Saturday, May 9th, four Master artists from the Wabanaki communities assembled to allow Abbe visitors to pick their brains for knowledge on pieces that wereor in some cases, were notmade by Wabanaki people. The panel included Master Basketmaker and beadworker Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot; Master Basketmaker Richard Silliboy, Micmac; Master Birchbark worker David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy; and Master Basketmaker and Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy.

A wide range of objects were brought before the panel in hopes of having them identified. Tucked among several beaded "flapper" adornments and a few pieces of southwestern pottery were a few objects that piqued the panels' interest: the first object being a seal-skin belt, likely dating back to the Indian Encampments of Bar Harbor, making it easily one hundred years old.

While other objects were identified as "non-Wabanaki," including a shaker-style basket and several pieces of Southwestern pottery, many Wabanaki basketsboth utility and fancy styleswere brought in to be identified. While it's difficult to identify work by specific artists, the panelists were able to identify which tribes the baskets came from based on aesthetic trends from each community. The basket that brought up the most discussion: a red "sweetgrass flat" style purse with woven ash handles. A Potawatomi flute that dates back to the early 1800s also garnered a lot of discussion, and even some playing!

Hawk Henries, a member of the Nipmuck tribe, brought the flute in for the panelists to inspect. Hawk has a lot of experience enchanting audiences with flutes; he also crafts his own eastern woodlands flutes (out of a single piece of wood!). 

The final object discussed by the panel was a beaded leather jacket. According to the oral histories around the item, it was constructed nearly two-hundred years ago, with the beadwork eventually being added by an Ojibwe beadworker. Jennifer Neptune confirmed that the beadwork was in the Ojibwe style, however, the presence of thread in the seams and use of trade-cloth and "greased" beads led panelists to believe that the jacket was made after the Civil War when thread became much more accessible for Native peoples.

Donald Soctomah Honored for Contributions

Some of the Abbe staff and trustees had the privilege to celebrate a momentous occasion on March 30, 2015. Donald Soctomah, Passamaquoddy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, received the 2015 Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize, which is the Maine Humanities Council's highest award.

Photo courtesy of Donald Soctomah.

The Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize honors an individual, institution, or group in recognition of exemplary contributions to public humanities in Maine. Donald has worked to steward and protect native culture and lands through resource management, policy-making, teaching, and the promotion and dissemination of history and language. Thanks to his groundbreaking efforts during his eight years in the Maine State Legislature, Maine K-12 students learn about Maine Native American history in school, and Maine place names now show cultural awareness and sensitivity toward the state’s native populations.

You can read more about Donald's impressive work via the Maine Humanities Council and Indian Country Today.