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 Nova Scotia.

"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 the settlement.

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 Chancery. 

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, contact 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