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Memory Interview: Tribe As Community As Family [archive]

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Tribe As Community As Family

The Passamaquoddy people of Washington County see the great Northern Forest as much more than timber sales and pulp wood. It has been their home for thousands of years before Europeans introduced the concept of private property and industry. So we felt particularly fortunate when the chief forester for the tribe, Donald Soctomah and his wife, Liz Martin, agreed to grant us access to a view of the world that would broaden our definitions of family and forest.

"We have 900 people on this reservation, that is our community--we know who their parents are, who they're related to, who their children are--and the majority of time, when you go from house to house, you're going to find out how you're related or connected to the people living in that household."
--Liz Martin

As tribal members they could not digest the thought of only telling the stories of their nuclear family. The tribe is their family, so the documentary includes brothers, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, neighbors, nephews and Donald's nieces husbands' father- to name a few.

"The logging end was something that came along back in the 30's when people had to make a living and sell to the paper companies, but before that and still now, people go out in the woods to get back in touch with nature, to do the spiritual feeling-- to hand down traditions like trapping from father to son. Probably just like it's always been in Maine-- but here it goes back ten thousand years and people don't think about that, it's a long tradition."
--Donald Soctomah

The 150,000 acres of tribal land across the state is managed, not only for timber, but also to support collection of ash for basketry and herbs for medicine, to preserve habitat for animals, to build paths to mountaintops for vision quests and to bury the dead. The woods is their home, so the documentary includes members of the tribe who still maintain that close relationship to the woods: the muskrat trapper, the moose hunter, the basket makers, the elders at the hunting camp- all family and friends who view the woods as a place to heal and be healed.

Additional Reading

 Indian Tribes
 Passamaquoddy Tribe
 Passamaquoddy Stories
 Maine Native Americans

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