We set out on our adventure along the Kennebec River at the Summer Solstice looking for locations where we could install the pinhole cameras for the Solargraph project. There were so many places along the river in Norridgewock which had vantage points that were very good compositions, especially right in town where the railroad bridge crosses the river. I saw perfect scenes, then found getting cameras duct taped to trees which focused on them proved difficult. The banks of the river are very steep. Sites that look navigable proved too dangerous to attempt, especially considering we set out after heavy spring rains and the runoff from the mountains made the river high and roiling. I didn’t want to end up jammed into the sluiceway of the dam downstream.
So we left downtown Norridgewock with no cameras in place and headed along the river toward Madison. The dense woods along the road opened up to a stand of white pines. We stopped to investigate and discovered a very special place.
There were several granite signposts. One of them read: “The Land you walk upon has been a special place to Wabanaki people for thousands of years. A place where children were born and played, a place where elders lived their lives. Walk in respect on this land so over the next thousand years your descendants will enjoy the beauty that surrounds you”
Another signpost described the historic event which took place there:
For 4000 years the inhabitants at the confluence of the Kennebec River and Sandy River viewed this magnificent landscape. Evidence from archeological research indicates a variety of fishing, hunting, and gathering at two dozen sites within a half mile of this shoreland. Also known in history as Abnaki, Abanaki, or Abenaki, the Wabanaki people lived here generations before the Kennebec River became an international boundary between New England and French Acadia. The French effort to convert the Wabanaki of Na[n]rantsouak, Norridgewock to Catholicism brought Jesuit priest Father Sebastien Rale here in 1689. Firsthand historic documentation of the priest’s life with the natives at the Old Point Mission still exist in letters by Rale, and his dictionary of the Abnaki now stored at Harvard University. A palisade village and a mission church were built very near where this sign stands today. Sporadic warfare between the tribes and English colonists throughout New England moved up the Kennebec River to this site after many attempts to break the bonds between the native inhabitants and the priest. English militia destroyed the village and the church in 1724 killing Father Rale and many of the tribe. Survivors moved to villages along the St Lawrence River in Quebec
May your visit encourage further reading about this site to discover knowledge about the Wabanaki people and their great skills at peaceful living with wild nature.
The Maine Memory Network has an 18th c. lithograph which depicts the demise of Father Rale
The Wabanaki people gather every August at this site for Mizi Negewet kamigwezoi (Families Gathered Together) to remember Nemikkwaldamnana Nanrantsouak (We Remember Norridgewock). Runners and canoeists make there way there for the event. Gedakina works to strengthen and maintain the connectedness among the generations of Native People in the region.
I hope you can get to see this place some day. Maybe you can help me pick up the broken beer bottles others leave behind