In this Sept. 25, 2020, file photo, people walk to a connecting island across the Penobscot River during low tide in Old Town. Credit: Nina Mahaleris / BDN

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The Bangor Daily News deserves our thanks for the article on Wabanaki place names in the Indigenous Peoples Day issue. I did detect confusion, however, between the names Penobscot and Panawambskek. According to Fannie Eckstorm, who had a close relationship with many Penobscots, and who wrote the book on Indigenous place names, the name Penobscot referred to two places: One being the river from the head of tide to the Great Falls at Old Town. It means “place of the descending rocks,” and here the river is marked by a series of falls, and rapids, dropping a hundred feet between Old Town and Bangor. The second place is Dice’s Head in Castine, where the cliffs are a prominent navigational marker for canoeists crossing the lower river.

As for Panawambskek, this refers to the open valley above Old Town, where Indian Island is located. It means “place where the river widens out.” I have also seen it applied to the river just below Verona Island, where the river widens out.

One other observation: The river between Bangor and the bay was called Pemtegwatook, “the main river.”

William A. Haviland

Deer Isle

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