Members of Maine’s Wabanaki tribes over the weekend and on Monday protested the continued presence in Bucksport of a replica of one the three ships Christopher Columbus sailed to the western world that led to the colonization of North, South and Central America by the nations of Europe.
Dawn Neptune Adams said Monday that members of the Penobscot Tribe discovered the Nao Santa Maria replica was part of the state’s bicentennial celebration the same day members learned that the federal appellate court in Boston had rejected its appeal over whether its boundaries extended to the waters of the Penobscot River near its reservation lands.
“To have those two things happen on the same day was a double-gut punch,” Adams, a Penobscot, said Monday.
She also said that to include a replica of one of Columbus’ ships in Maine’s birthday celebration was “ridiculous” since the Santa Maria ran aground in Haiti, which is “nowhere near Maine.”
A hastily organized rally on the waterfront on Saturday drew between 50 and 100 people from progressive organizations in Bangor, Belfast and Bucksport, she said.
The Nao Santa Maria is one of several tall ships that was to have visited various spots along the Penobscot River, considered a sacred body to the Penobscots, between Bucksport and Bangor during a tall-ships festival July 9-18. It was organized by the Penobscot Maritime Heritage Association as part of Maine’s 200th anniversary celebration, which was largely pushed back a year from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the event was criticized by members of the Penobscot Nation on Friday, the ships’ trip up the river was canceled. On Sunday, the association announced that it would remain in Bucksport and paid tours would continue through Tuesday. The ship is scheduled to depart on Wednesday.
The film, “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” was to be shown at 6 p.m. Monday on the waterfront in Bucksport in an effort to counter the myth that Columbus was a benign explorer. Adams, a Penobscot, said showing the film is part of an effort by Sunlight Media Collective, a tribal rights group, and other organizations to show how the history taught in public schools “has been whitewashed.”
A historical reevaluation of Columbus in recent years had led many U.S. jurisdictions to replace Columbus Day — traditionally held on the second Monday of October — with Indigenous People’s Day, including Maine. Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, signed a law renaming the holiday in 2019 as part of an effort to repair the state’s relationship with tribes.
A solidarity rally will be held on the Bangor waterfront from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday to raise awareness about and support for the efforts in court and in the Legislature to obtain sovereignty for Maine’s tribes.