The Way of the Wabanaki is an immersion into the Penobscot First Nation’s culture. Jason Pardilla, Jennifer Neptune, Chris Sockalexis, and Ryan Kelly, who are all members of the Penobscot First Nation, guide this trip with us.
We begin with a half-day paddle from Passadumkeag down the main branch of the Penobscot River to the Sugar Island cultural site. Then we spend two days on Sugar Island, where we learn about medicinal plants with Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot place names and the stories and meanings behind them, and the history and culture of the Penobscots.
We’ll also watch drumming and singing demonstrations and ancestral history of the Penobscot people by Chris Sockalexis. You can weave your own basket, learn how a birch bark canoe is built, paddle in a birch bark canoe, and explore the surrounding islands.
On our last day, we canoe to Indian Island for a tour by James Francis, director of Cultural, History, and Preservation, and visit the Penobscot Cultural Museum. To view the trip itinerary, click here.
Dancing With A Ghost by Rupert Ross
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Above the Gravel Bar; Native Canoe Routes in Maine by David Cook
The Maine Woods by Henry David Thoreau
Penobscot Man by Frank Speck
The Penobscot Man by Fanny Hardy Eckstorm
All food and paddling, camping gear.
Transport from Black Bear Inn, Orono.
One Mahoosuc Guide.
Two Penobscot Guides.
Numerous Penobscot cultural educators for various activities.
PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE
Accommodations at Black Bear Inn, Orono.
Meals if needed in Orono.
Learning the History & Culture of the Penobscot People
The ancestors of the Penobscot people, known as The People of the Red Paint, have inhabited what we now call Maine for nearly 13,000 years. This is a truly unique experience that enables participants to spend time with and learn from a number of the members of the Penobscot Nation. There will be a core of two or three Penobscot guides with us for the duration of the trip as well as numerous guest presenters to cover topics such as how to make pounded ash baskets, the edible and medicinal uses of plants, and the construction, use, and importance of àkwitǝn (Penobscot word for canoe, meaning “like a leaf on the water”). You will have the opportunity to paddle a birch bark canoe. There will also be an explanation and demonstration of traditional Penobscot drumming and singing, and we will do an in-depth exploration into Penobscot place names and their meaning in Maine’s canoe country. A highlight of every trip is a campfire session hosted by James Francis, the Penobscot Nation’s Cultural and Historic Preservation Director, entitled “Anything You’ve Ever Wanted to Ask An Indian”. The following is a more descriptive list of the guest presenters and cultural activities that you will be able to participate in.
Cultural Activities and Workshops
One of the highlights of the Way of the Wabanaki Cultural Canoe Trip is the diverse range of cultural activities and workshops that allow participants to engage with Penobscot culture on a deeper level. These hands-on experiences, led by knowledgeable local experts, provide invaluable insights into the traditions, skills, and knowledge passed down through generations.
Medicinal Plants with Jennifer Neptune
Participants will join Jennifer Neptune, a renowned Penobscot herbalist, as she shares her expertise on local medicinal plants. Discover how to identify and use these plants for various health benefits and learn about their significance in Penobscot culture and healing practices.
Through this workshop, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for the interconnectedness of the Penobscot people with the natural world and the wisdom inherent in their traditional healing methods.
Penobscot Place Names, Stories, and Meanings with James Francis
Delve into the rich history and folklore of the Penobscot people as you explore the stories and meanings behind various place names in the region. Uncover the origins and significance of these names, which reveal the deep connection the Penobscot have with their ancestral lands.
This workshop will enhance your understanding of the Penobscot worldview and foster a deeper connection to the landscape as you continue your journey.
Drumming and Singing Demonstrations and Ancestral History of the Penobscot People by Chris Sockalexis
Experience the power and beauty of Penobscot music as Chris Sockalexis, a skilled drummer and singer, leads demonstrations of traditional drumming and singing techniques. Learn about the role of music in Penobscot ceremonies, celebrations, and storytelling.
Through these captivating performances, participants will gain an appreciation for the rich artistic heritage of the Penobscot people and the vital role music plays in their culture.
Chris is a trained archeologist and serves as the Penobscot Nation’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. As such, he is very knowledgeable about the Penobscot’s ancestral history going back 13,000 years.
Basket Weaving: Immerse yourself in the age-old craft of Penobscot basket weaving as you learn the techniques and materials used to create these beautiful and functional works of art. Bring home a handwoven treasure as a reminder of your time learning from the Penobscot people. This will be taught by Jennifer Neptune.
Birch Bark Canoe Building and Paddling: Gain a deeper understanding of the significance of the birch bark canoe to the Penobscot way of life. Learn the intricate process of building these traditional vessels and have the opportunity to paddle one yourself. This hands-on experience will leave you with a profound appreciation for the skill and craftsmanship of the Penobscot people. This session will be led by Jason Pardilla, who helped in the construction of several traditional Penobscot birch bark canoes.
These cultural activities and workshops are the foundation of the Way of the Wabanaki Cultural Canoe Trip, providing participants with an unforgettable and enriching journey into the heart of Penobscot culture.
Mahoosuc Guide Service can design custom Maine canoe trips for families, youth groups, clubs, or organizations from one to 10 days in length. We can also design trips to retrace any part of Henry David Thoreau’s route, including Webster Brook and East Branch of the Penobscot River. Contact us today to discuss your group’s interests, abilities, goals, and available dates.
All our Maine canoe trips are fully outfitted and guided by Mahoosuc Guide Service’s owners Polly or Kevin. We provide all the food, camping, paddling, and cooking equipment, as well as a detailed clothing list to help you in packing for your trip. Most of our trips meet in Orono, Maine (just north of Bangor). We provide transportation to and from the river. Many of our canoe trips require no special physical conditioning. If you have any concerns about the physical requirements of a trip, please contact us.
On the Trip:
We are experienced teachers and will help you master the art of canoeing by teaching paddle strokes and poling techniques. You will learn how to set up a warm dry camp, and if you want, how to cook and bake over an open fire. All our food is natural or organic, and we source much of our food locally. Natural history, wildlife viewing, and fishing will be covered as your interests warrant.
You are in safe hands with Mahoosuc Guide Service. With more than 40 years guiding experience from Maine and Quebec to the Yukon Territory and Alaska, we have an excellent safety record. We are certified in Wilderness First Aid and Wilderness First Responders. We carry a satellite phone for emergency communication!
Meet at The Black Bear Inn in Orono at 7:30 a.m. (after breakfast).
Meet other trip participants, load up into Mahoosuc van.
Drive to put in at public boat landing at Passadumkeag (about a 40 minute drive).
Load gear into canoes, paddle lesson if necessary.
Paddle 7 miles to Sugar Island.
Get settled into our base camp in either a lean to shelter or tent.
Campfire chat after supper with special Penobscot guest with some drumming.
Day 2 & 3
We will get to participate in some of the following activities during these two
days depending on interest of participants, weather, etc.
Canoe poling/paddling around the island.
Native plant tour.
Root club carving.
Flint knapping demonstration.
Birch bark canoes – how to build and maintain – most likely will get a chance to paddle one.
Campfire chats sharing Penobscot history and culture.
Since I was a teenager it was always on my bucket list to paddle the Allagash. In 2018 I retired from a burdensome career and signed up to paddle the river with Mahoosuc guide service (mgs). It was better than wonderful. All I had to do was show up. They provided all the gear and it was good stuff. The river was beautiful, the sights, smells, scenery, distant mountain views were gorgeous. Polly and associate guides were wonderful and fun to be with. They were attentive, careful, observant and caring and brought campfire cooking to an epicurean level. In March 2019 I went on a dog sled winter camping trip with Kevin and Polly and several other guides. It also was great. Safety was paramount. The dogs were eager, energetic, focused and affectionate. The camp was something out of a Jack London novel. Each tent had a small wood stove and was roasty toasty warm. Food was great and plentiful. Kevin and Polly are so much fun to be with. They always made sure I was warm, well fed and happy;
Then in May 2019 I went on a two night canoe trip with my wife and another couple and they are not campers. We had a great time. The four of us, two lady guides (Polly and Jean) and we saw loons and moose and beaver and sunsets.
And then in August I went with MGS to paddle 170 miles on the Yukon river in Alaska. I am getting older, if I don’t do this stuff now, when will I?? It was better than wonderful. I reminisce about all these trips every day. Time is short, life is short, I need to pack it in. Once this pandemic is over, Polly and Kevin will not be able to get rid of me. Polly and Kevin are the models of Maine Master Guides against whom all others should be compared.