All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Saturday, August 12, 2006

In the Blueberry Barrens

J.M. Hirsch has written a nice piece for the AP about Micmac and Passamaquoddy blueberry rakers in Eastern Maine. All the berries produced by the Passamaquoddy-owned Northeastern Blueberry Co. are harvested with handheld rakes, not machines.
Every August, as many as 1,000 workers - including about 200 Passamaquoddies and a smattering of locals - gather in the blueberry barrens. The fields crackle with a banter of English and American Indian languages, the latter sounding a little Asian, a little French.
Five camps scattered around the fields are home during the short harvest. With their plywood cabins and dirt paths, they have the look of poverty, but the rich feel of family. Long days are capped with evenings of poker and bingo in a dirt-floor community center. Guitars are played on stoops, meals and beers are shared, campfires are lit.

"As native people, we used to have this perspective of 'we' and 'us', but that's changed to 'me'," says Patricia Neptune, a 42-year-old Passamaquoddy from Pleasant Point. "When we're out here working together, taking care of one another, I love it. It becomes 'we' again." [Link]

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