MAINE 200 –– The land commonly called Maine today has been home to indigenous populations for thousands of years before the claims of distant empires.
The multi-ethnic term “Wabanaki” has come to describe Mi’kmaqs, Maliseets, Passamaquoddies and Penobscots, along with Abenaki groups, and derives its meaning from the word Wabanakiak, or “people of the dawn.”
Ancestors of the Wabanaki arrived in present-day Maine roughly 12,000 to 13,000 years ago, thriving among mixed woodlands and along the ancient seacoast. With a population likely near 20,000 before the arrival of Europeans, extensive economic networks and kinship politics connected the Wabanaki to the wider indigenous world on the eastern half of the continent. Although the arrival of Europeans in Wabanakia dramatically changed the cultural landscape, indigenous groups adapted and resisted colonial efforts of control.
Despite European diseases, territorial displacement, and cultural diminishment, eastern indigenous nations remain present and continue to grow in Maine today.
Successful steps, like eliminating racially caricatured indigenous mascots in the state and recognizing ancestral homelands at places like the University of Maine in Orono, are only the beginning of wider conversations on cultural awareness and more accurate histories of this land.