Near the eastern most point of the U.S., efforts to preserve a cultural heritage sacred to the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Machias Bay were replenished earlier this summer through the conservation of a headland known as Long Point.
The peninsula and its adjoining uplands, which total 66 acres, were purchased by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, a statewide land conservation group. In recent years a developer sought to build a 26-lot subdivision there, which would have been a nightmare impacting shoreline bird habitat, a nearby pond, and much more.
Perhaps most crucially, preserving this stretch along Machias Bay is another step towards fully understanding and valuing a much larger story. The bay has the highest concentration of petroglyphs on the eastern seaboard of North America.
The petroglyphs, such as those shown below close to Long Point, are images and drawings pecked into the rocks by the Wabanaki people. The Wabanaki were the indigenous precursor to Maine’s modern native peoples — “people of the Dawnland,” or first light.
Petroglyphs are not merely rough rock art. They convey connections to the spirit world, and some depict valued animal forms, or even early contacts with Europeans. There is energy, form, and life forces, sometimes flowing from fissures in the rock ledges. Or from the eagles nesting nearby, and from this place of gathering and replenishment.
Together, combined with ongoing archaeological field work being conducted by the University of Maine — which is examining an array of human interactions near shell middens on adjoining Holmes Point, where Wabanaki people made their summer camps — the petroglyphs may offer a window into a spiritual worldview. Of the first light. Of a sacred meeting place.
A story still being compiled.
A few links for those interested:
MCHT July, 2013 newsletter – “Protecting the Cultural Heritage of Machias Bay”
Bangor Daily News article 7/7/2013 – “Maine Coast Heritage Trust preserves ancient rock carvings in Machiasport”
MCHT newsletter, October, 2006 – “3,000 year-old petroglyph site regained by Passamaquoddy Tribe” (Birch Point, or Picture Rocks, Machiasport
Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor