The planned visit of the Nao Santa Maria along the Penobscot River has drawn criticism from Indigenous leaders around the state, who have asked for the visit to be canceled. Credit: Courtesy of Penobscot Maritime Heritage Association

Two days after announcing that a controversial Christopher Columbus ship replica would cease holding tours on the Penobscot River, tours on the ship have resumed.

Dick Campbell, a former Republican state legislator from Orrington and lead organizer of a tall ships festival put on by the Penobscot Maritime Heritage Association, said Sunday that festival organizers and officials with the replica ship, named Nao Santa Maria, decided to resume giving paid tours that morning. He said that there has been a lot of demand on Sunday by people interested in taking tours of the ship.

“It was a joint collaborative decision,” Campbell said, adding that the town of Bucksport, where the ship is docked, was not involved in the decisions to suspend and then resume tours.

The ship was originally set to come up the Penobscot and visit various ports as part of a Maine bicentennial event. After outcry from Maine tribes over the inclusion of a ship sailed by Christopher Columbus, whose arrival in the Americas paved the way for the colonization of those continents, the ship’s tour was canceled on Friday night.

The ship’s previously scheduled appearances for later this week in Bangor remain canceled, Campbell said.

In a statement issued on Friday, Campbell explained the initial decision to suspend the ship’s appearances.

“In our interest to celebrate Maine’s maritime heritage and bring masted ships to the Penobscot basin and upriver to Bangor, we failed to appreciate the symbolic significance of bringing the replica of the Santa Maria to port,” Campbell said. “We are now much more aware of the impact having that vessel here has on those whose histories pre-date Maine statehood. We apologize to those who have been offended by our error.”

Maulian Dana, tribal ambassador for the Penobscot Nation, said in a Facebook post that having a ship that is a replica of one sailed by Columbus was disrespectful and a desecration of a river that the Penobscot hold sacred.

“The Penobscot Nation is disappointed and disheartened that any group would use a replica of a ship used by Christopher Columbus to celebrate the heritage and statehood of Maine,” tribal leaders said in a statement on Friday afternoon. “While offensive in numerous ways, as well as historically inaccurate, it is also deeply harmful to the Wabanaki Nations as well as the descendants of all Indigenous Nations.”

This story has been clarified to reflect that, though the Town of Bucksport publicized the decision to resume tours of the Nao Santa Maria on its Facebook page, the town was not involved in making that decision.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....