Choosing Survival: Wabanaki Documents at the Maine State Archives




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Maine State Archives

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Passamaquoddy oral tradition tells how the community of Motahkomikuk (Peter Dana Point, Indian Township, near Princeton, Maine) suffered from a smallpox epidemic brought by Euro-Americans. The tribe quarantined the sick to an area on Gordon Island in Big Lake to reduce the potential spread of disease. This 1851 letter by Dr. Charles E. Given, of Calais, provides an eye witness account of the tragic event. Gordon Island consisted of thirty Indians living in seven camps. A Native man with pox scars, an indication that he survived the deadly disease, helped quarantine the sick. Although Dr. Given vaccinated many Passamaquoddies and the state offered relief, about six people died. In 2002, Domtar Industries Inc. gave the deed of this twenty-five acre island to the Passamaquoddy, enabling the tribe to protect their sacred site and to respect their ancestors’ burying ground. [Description Text by Micah A. Pawling, Ph.D]

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Letter from Dr. Charles E. Given to Maine Secretary of State



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