Memory Interview: A Passamaquoddy Man from Indian Township [archive]
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Memory Interview: A Passamaquoddy Man from Indian Township
Role Model and Teacher:
One of the favorite people in my life that comes to mind is Louise Socabasin. She was one of the, I think, prominent citizens here on Indian Township. She played a major role in my development as a young man. She used to take us canoeing. When I was a young boy, the major route to Princeton was by water, and we had to learn canoeing. She was at the time living by herself and had no man in the house, and she took us and taught us how to canoe, and we'd paddle around. And she would teach us how to trap and hunt and fish and that kind of thing. She was really a great human being. Not only that, when we came back from hunting and fishing and trapping we would work for her during the day to plot a garden. She was quite a woman. We learned how to plant and how to look after a garden and also how to prepare, how to dry meat, like muskrat and deer meat and sometimes moose meat, too.
Every year one or two moose would wander on the reservation. We would get them and everybody would be so secretive not to tell anybody outside the community that we did have a moose. And everybody had a share in the moose. The community would not let information out, but sometimes somebody would slip and the word would get out. They would raid houses and not even have a search warrant or anything. Walk in and demand to see what you had for food and that kind of thing. Usually the game warden would come in and arrest a person and to my memory there might have been a trial. I don't know. But we would not see that person for probably a year or two. It all depends what they charged him with.
Travel by Water:
Going to Princeton by water was the only way that people could get food, clothing and also fuel that they needed. That's the only place that we could shop at the time. People used to buy a lot of pork, flour, potatoes, something that they could store in their cellar. I think most of the people did have dugout cellars, just a small cellar to keep barrels of potatoes and barrels of pork and those kinds of commodities that you can keep for a long period of time.
Helping in Hard Times:
Not every family had this kind of living -- only a few. Like I said, Louise was one, and she was a prominent figure in the community. I recall as a child my mother was crying, you know, because there was no food in the house and there was no wood. It was about a week before Christmas. My father was in prison for ten years and as a little child I remember the situation where my mother didn't have any food or wood in the house. We were all gathered in one bedroom to keep ourselves warm. We were all wrapped in blankets, and there was a knock on the door. There were men and women out there and they were coming in. They started to clean the house, and they brought food and wood. We had a little woodshed, and they filled that with wood already sawed and split. I was at the time probably five years old and my brothers were probably a year or two older than I was. We were unable to provide wood, although we tried.
Role of Church:
I think the Church had a major role in our life, and I think the role was as a protector at one time. And after a while they got into a role of decision making in the community, because they would dictate to the tribal governor what should be and should not be. And this was my memory of the Church in the community. Although it had never provided any kind of service to the community, they did provide some protection for us.
Image of Church:
We always referred to the white house up on the hill, because all the buildings were white and they were well kept and they were heated with wood -- and we community members, we lived poor. We had a tarpaper shack. That's all there were.They were just two-by-fours and pieces of board that on top of it was tarpaper, and there was really not any good house in the community.
At one time I guess the people had trusted in the Church. For many, many years they trusted the Church, and the Church would protect them. Anything you would do against the priest would come back on you violently at the time. And now it's not that way at all.
Because slowly we realized that the Church could have done a lot more for this community, because the people had looked up to it as their savior -- they were going to save the community. And probably in some ways they did. I'm not really complaining, because the Church here had provided some education for our people and the only one that was ever interested in us was the Church. I'm not downing that. I respect that.
I feel that lots of times the Indian agent would take directions from the priest -- who would receive benefits and who wouldn't. If you didn't come to Church and do what they said was proper, then you would not receive food vouchers and such.
Power of Indian Agent:
We had a state Indian agent coming in and giving you a piece of paper saying that you could have three dollars worth of grub. And three dollars was a lot of money then, I agree, but to feed a family of nine it wasn't much.
We had to buy kerosene with that, because we had to have lamps in the house to provide light. And there were other necessities that you had to have, and lots of nights we were not able to have a lamp on or heat in the house.
It was supposed to last you a week and if you were in the good graces of the Indian agent you might get it. Lots of times I remember we did not get it, because my mother was working and trying to scrub floors all over the town here trying to make some money. And they were paying her 25 cents per floor. She was trying to make money to feed us. She would not be able to go to church on Sunday, and she would not be awarded with a voucher Monday morning. This is what I learned through that process. I thought it was a way of life.
-Reproduced from the book Wabanakis of Mainne and the Maritimes with kind permission from "The Wabanaki Program of the American Friends Service Commission."
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