My family and ancestors have lived, hunted and fished along Maine’s seacoast and in the valley of the Penobscot River since the Ice Age. Migrating between the coast and inland forests, they paddled bark canoes on rivers, across lakes and along salt-water bays, pausing to set up camp for a few weeks or months at a time. One of my forefathers was Chief Madockawando who camped seasonally at the headwaters of the Bagaduce (now called Walker Pond), just a few miles from Eggemoggin Reach. One of his daughters, my foremother Pidianiske, married young French military officer Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie, who was stationed at Fort Pentagoet toward the end of the 17th century.
This French colonial stronghold stood at a strategic location guarding the mouth of the Penobscot River. The marriage of Pidianiske and Jean-Vincent connected two families from opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Because his older brother died without children, Jean-Vincent inherited the family castle in Bearn and his father’s title of Baron de Saint-Castin. He and Pidianiske had many children together, including several daughters, one of whom had a son named Joseph Orono who led our Penobscot Indian nation with distinction as chief in the late 1700s. I also descend from John Neptune, a great hunter, shaman, and diplomat who led our tribe for many decades in the early 1800s. One of his many grandsons, Joseph Nicolar, served our people as a tribal representative to the Maine Legislature for several decades. A year before his death in 1894, Nicolar published an important book about the history of my people, titled “The Life and Traditions of the Red Man” (1893). The youngest of his three daughters, Florence, married a Penobscot named Leo Shay, and I am one of their seven children. Read more