Monday, December 15, 2014

When the Wabanaki ruled the waves...with European vessels

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram you'll find my piece on a little-known aspect of early American colonial history: the dominance of the Gulf of Maine and the nearshore waters of the Maritimes by the region's native inhabitants, the Wabanaki, who include the Micmac, Passamaquoddy, Penobscots, and other nations.

The fascinating element: that the very first explorers in the Gulf of Maine encountered Indians using captured European sailing vessels with great skill, and that later colonial fishermen and mariners would find themselves on the losing end of maritime raids by Indians using both native and European vessels.

The essay is occasioned by a new and somewhat flawed academic paper in the Journal of American History -- one that tries to place the Wabanaki story within the "hot" academic field of Atlantic World studies, arguing that the tribes had geopolitical ambitions to block the creation of the British mercantile world. As you'll see in the piece, that's rather a stretch, but the topic at hand is a fascinating one.

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