In all of this work, Wabanaki are engaged as creators and advisors in designing and fabricating the tangible spaces and signage as well as agreements governing ownership of the work. Of equal importance are the intangible: the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual experiences in creating the Projects and its associated frameworks. While grappling with, and finding healing from, legacies of colonialism, erasure, discriminatory policies, appropriation, and genocidal actions against Wabanaki people, the Projects make visible what Wabanaki Board member Natalie Dana-Lolar, member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, terms “The Invisible Monument.” An ancient and resilient living heritage is thus threaded throughout the Projects. Each has its own theme but all employ stories of the past, present, and future through individual and group creative collaborations.
Wabanaki Double Curve - The Wabanaki Advisory Board worked with artist James Francis (Penobscot) to create new double curves to represent each nation working together on this project. These double curves were then combined into this circular design to symbolize the strength and unity of the tribes united in support of each other, yet each separate while sharing kinship ties, culture, and connections though our shared history and belonging to the dawn land.
Symbolism of each double curve:
Mi'kmaq - This double curve incorporates a step design found in many traditional Mi'kmaq double curve designs. Within the step is a rising sun, representing Mi'kmaq territory which extends the furthest east of all the Wabanaki nations. Rising out of the step are symbolic caribou antlers for the woodland caribou once abundant in all Wabanaki territories, now only remaining in far northern New Brunswick. At each side of the curve each triangle with the medicine leaves symbolize the many Mi'kmaq language speakers and the strength of their language.
Wolastoqewiyik | Maliseet - This double curve represents the basketmaking tradition of the Maliseet and Wabanaki people. In the center are the leaves of black ash, the basket tree, and a tree prominent in Wabanaki creation stories. Extending out from the ash are lines representing the sweetgrass which is an important cultural and spiritual plant to all Wabanaki. Two canoe shapes represent ocean and river. The triangle shapes along the sides represent the language and matches the Passamaquoddy, as they share a language.
Pαnawάhpskewəyak | Penobscot - This double curve symbolizes Katahdin and the Penobscot River, with three medicine leaves representing the power and healing of these sacred places. Large waves at each side of center symbolize the East and West Branches of the Penobscot River which encircle the mountain. The smaller waves symbolize the main branch flowing from Katahdin to Penobscot Bay. The smaller triangles to the sides represent the Penobscot language, which has fewer fluent speakers than the other Wabanaki nations.
Peskotomuhkati | Passamaquoddy - This double curve symbolizes connection to ocean and forest symbolized by the whale tail and the woodland medicine plant within the tail. The triangular shapes to each side of the whale symbolize the Passamaquoddy communities of Sipayik (Pleasant Point) and Motahkomikuk (Indian Township). The triangle shapes along the sides represent the language and matches the Maliseet, as they share a language.
Cast Bronze Double Curve Door Handles:
Gabriel Frey, a celebrated 12th generation Passamaquoddy black ash basketmaker and member of the Wabanaki Advisory Board, has masterfully carved wooden molds for door handles that are cast in bronze. These door handles will evoke the feeling of holding and paddling with a canoe paddle, offering a direct connection to the cultural heritage of the Wabanaki Tribal Nations. They will serve as a symbol of welcome, inviting visitors to experience the warmth and generosity of the Wabanaki people.
Rendering by Alisberg Parker
Wabanaki Double Curve by artist James Francis, Penobscot
The Penobscot River watershed is inextricable from the heritage of the Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument. Highlighting this rich history and beauty, Penobscot artist James Eric Francis, Sr. creates a stunning floor graphic etched in concrete that span the headwaters of the East Branch to Penobscot Bay.
The installation features interpretive elements such as essential landmarks, place names, and portage routes, offering visitors an educational and informative experience. This skillful rendering is a tribute to the cultural heritage of the Penobscot Nation and will leave a lasting impression with visitors to Tekαkαpimək.
3D Rendering WeShouldDoItAll
A five member Weaving Team and Design Collaboration is led by Gabriel Frey, 13th generation basketmaker and member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik. Chosen as a United States Artist Fellow in 2019 and Traditional Arts Fellow by theMaine Arts Commission in 2021, Gabriel explains the history of the basketry tradition and his personal connection to this craft:
“Throughout colonization and assimilation policies of the 1800 and 1900’s, Wabanaki people relied on brown ash basketry as a tool for adaptation to a changing socio-economic environment. Reduced to a reservation land base and little economic opportunities, Wabanaki basket makers adapted ash basket styles for different economic markets. . . . When I examine an old basket, the basket maker’s choices in weave and design become evident. Seeing these choices is like holding a conversation with that basket maker through time. My grandfather was my first significant teacher. Holding my grandfather’s basket, I hear my grandfather’s voice giving subtle suggestions on technique and style. I hear my grandfather’s stories. . . . Creating functional Passamaquoddy baskets is a platform to connect people to place. This reflects interconnectedness and reciprocity between people, their natural world, family, and all beings.”
The theme of the Information Desk project is, “We are still here.” An important fixture to greet and engage with visitors, the desk and ceiling design will showcase the talent and beauty of basket techniques through the innovative use of woven copper, and through carvings in the Douglas fir deskfront. As the centerpiece of the entry space at Tekαkαpimək, the Information Desk has extraordinary orientation value. We seek to reinforce visually what people will learn through various interpretive techniques: talking with NPS staff and volunteers, interacting with hands-on exhibits, reading informational labels and signs, or listening to audio descriptions. Our goal is to help visitors prepare for their experiences in the Monument while seeing and understanding, perhaps for the first time, the continuous Wabanaki presence, knowledge and relationship with the natural world that are integral to this landscape.
Weaving Team (L-R):
Shane Perley-Dutcher, Wolastoq (Maliseet), Neqotkuk Wolasqiyik (Tobique First Nation) in New Brunswick
Geo Neptune, Passamaquoddy
Sarah Sockbeson, Penobscot
Gabriel Frey, Passamaquoddy
Richard Silliboy, Mi'kmaq Nation (not pictured above)
The Clay Tile Project visually celebrates the culture and heritage of the Wabanaki tribes in Maine. The project features a series of pressed clay tiles with designs created by citizens of the Wabanaki tribes. Two categories of tiles are developed: one with double curve designs that represent each Tribal Nation and another with artisan designs that reflect essential aspects of Wabanaki culture. Creating these pressed tiles is labor-intensive, involving multiple steps such as molding, drying, firing, and glazing. These tiles serve as a testament to the vibrant and enduring culture of the Wabanaki tribes, honoring and preserving indigenous cultures and traditions.
Clay Team (L-R):
Gabriel Frey, Passamaquoddy
Suzanne Greenlaw, Houtlon Band of Maliseet Indians
Nolan Altvater, Passamaquoddy
Malley Weber, Hallowell Clay Works
Sarah Sockbeson, Penobscot