In Charles Shay’s book, Project Omaha Beach, he recounts his Maine Indian Heritage as well as war experiences.
The following article and photos appeared in the BDN, By Robert F. Bukaty, May 23, 2014:
You can’t help but notice the large red and white wooden teepee just after you cross the bridge over the Penobscot River onto Indian Island. It’s been a landmark since 1947. But by 1988, when Charles Norman Shay acquired the property which includes the house he now lives in, the buildings were badly dilapidated.
Back then, Shay and his wife, Lilli, were living in Vienna, Austria. He had recently retired from his job with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The couple had decided they would move to the Penobscot reservation where Charles had spent most of his youth. For several summers they traveled to Maine to make repairs to their house. When their new home was finally made livable, they focused their attention on the 24-foot-wide, 30-foot-tall teepee.
Shay’s aunt Lucy Nicolar Poolaw, and her husband, Bruce Poolaw, a Kiowa Indian from Oklahoma, built the teepee. The Poolaws met while traveling the country as performers, portraying “Indians” singing and dancing at Wild West shows. When the stock market crashed in 1929, they moved to Indian Island.
The Poolaws built the structure to be a novelty shop and called it Princess Watahwaso’s Teepee — Lucy’s stage name. A workshop was later annexed to the teepee and local Penobscot women were hired to weave baskets on site, making it a must-see stop for tourists. (Penobscots never used teepees — that was Bruce Poolaw’s influence from the Great Plains.) Read more