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Home - Choosing Survival – Spring 2011

When Pawling began researching Native petitions for his thesis, he learned about the journal of Joseph Treat of Bangor, Maine, who complied with the governor’s order to survey the lands bisected by the Penobscot and St. John rivers. Treat’s more than month-long expedition in 1820 was made possible with the cooperation of guide John Neptune, the Penobscot lieutenant governor.

“Treat was a local man, but in contrast to many of his contemporaries, he was interested in the human landscape,” Pawling says. “Some specific examples include Pamola’s Rock, where offerings were made to Mt. Katahdin, Penobscot eel fishing camps, and the extent of isolated American settlement up the Penobscot River. Treat and Neptune knew and respected one another. Treat was entering the Penobscot world where Neptune taught him appropriate behavior for survival.”

As a non-Native ethnohistorian, Pawling has done the same. Beginning in 2004, Pawling met regularly with representatives from the Penobscot Nation’s Department of Cultural and Historic Preservation, at that time led by UMaine alumna Bonnie Newsom, who now serves as the Penobscot tribal historic preservation officer. They reached their collaborative goal by publishing Treat’s journal, complete with his hand-drawn maps and written descriptions of what is now northern Maine — an account of the North Woods 26 years prior to Henry David Thoreau’s journey into the region.

“The project was valuable on two levels,” says Newsom, who received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 1995 and a master’s degree in Quaternary studies in 1999. “First, it serves as a model for folks in academia who are interested in community-based partnerships in research. The community-based process involved in the Treat publication shows that community partnerships are possible and can be very successful.

“Secondly, it makes indigenous people visible in history,” she says. “Micah places a lot of emphasis on the role of Native people in Treat’s work. The journals could have been published without that emphasis, but Micah’s analysis and interpretation of them highlights the fact that indigenous people were dynamic participants in Maine’s history.”

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