Native Americans and
the Ste. Croix Celebrations
By Juliana L’Heureux
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"Are Native Americans invited to The Ste.-Croix 2004 Coordinating Committee?"
asks Rhea Cote Robbins of Orono. Indeed, plans for the celebration of the
400th anniversary of the French settlement on Ste. Croix Island
near Calias-St. Stephens includes an invitation to Native Americans representing
the Passamoquoddy groups whose ancestors saved the 39 out of 79 people
who survived the 1604-05 winter. These survivors moved to Port Royal in
"Ste. Croix was one of the first French-Native American contacts in
North America,." says Stephanie Walsh, director of The Ste. Croix 2004
Coordinating Committee planning international celebrations to commemorate
Surely, all the French colonists would have perished during their first
winter if a group of Native Americans did not save them in early March
1605, by providing the survivors with fresh food. Still, Walsh says there
is reluctance by Native Americans asked to participate in the event. "Since
its inception, the committee set aside a seat for the Native Americans
to participate, but last winter the local Passamaquoddy Tribe governor
indicated the tribe would no longer participate", says Walsh. Although
the committee accepted the resignation, they to continue keeping the tribe
informed by sending minutes of meetings to the Tribe’s governor. Nevertheless,
Native Americans at the Pleasant Point reserve helped the committee to
provide educational kits to schools whereby students can study the significance
of the 1604 settlement and the importance of the French interaction with
the Native community.
Ste-Croix was the first French settlement in North America pre-dating
Jamestown, VA and Plymouth MA by the English, but it was also the first
Christian settlement as well, says Monsignor Marc Caron of the Portland
Friendly relations existed between the French settlers and peaceful
Native American tribes, evidenced by their mutual cooperation when fighting
the British during the French and Indian Wars. Even in 1637, a respectful
French Jesuit gave some positive instructions to the settlers in "A Guide
to Good Manners", in Jesuit Relations.
"Never keep Natives waiting to start a canoe or a journey and debark
nimbly when and where they tell you to," writes the French Jesuit Pere
Le Jeune. "Bring a tinder box or burning glass with you to provide the
Natives with fire to light their pipes. These little services will win
their hearts. Do not ask unnecessary questions or try to improve your vocabulary
in the canoe. Silence is good equipment. Try to keep a cheerful face and
prove you are joyfully enduring the fatigues of the journey," writes Pere
Le Jeune. Apparently, the French learned to wear caps
rather than traditional broad rimmed hats when Natives complained about
how the hats obstructed views in the canoes. French explorer Samuel de
Champlain (1567-1635) worked throughout his life to maintain peaceful relations
with Canada’s Native tribes.
"The committee understands the reservations
of the Native Americans and is very mindful of their concerns. The committee
members continue to emphasize the cordial relationships between the St.
Croix Island settlers and the natives living in the region and the good
will between the cultures over that harsh winter," says Walsh.
For more information about The Ste-Croix 2004 Coordinating Committee,
or call 506-466-7403.
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Published on April 15, 2001
Copyright 1994-2000, Portland Press Herald, Portland,
Maine and Juliana L'Heureux