All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Last of the Penobscot

Brendan Wolfe—formerly an editor for the now-defunct Maine Times—has dug up an article he wrote some years back about contentious efforts to preserve the Penobscot language, and posted it on his blog.
Historically, the Penobscot, much more than their more isolated neighbors the Passamaquoddy, have been forced into close proximity with white Mainers. While their grip on the language has weakened as a result—a fact that is deeply shameful to many Indians—their distrust of outsiders has grown. For years, it was a hallmark of federal Indian policy to eradicate native languages. Meanwhile, native-speaking Penobscot who attended school in nearby Old Town have reported facing intolerance and pressure to assimilate.

These circumstances are partly responsible for controversies that might otherwise puzzle outsiders: Why can’t they agree on whether there are any native speakers left? Or, why would the publications of their legends be anything but a good thing? [Link]
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