Skowhegan’s two famous Indian art pieces, “The Watching Place” and the Langlais sculpture with spear and weir, feature fishermen. Likely they were watching for salmon.

I, too, am waiting and watching for salmon. I saw alewives in Wesserunsett Stream by the Notch Road in Skowhegan two years ago. Fisheries biologists have imprinted salmon fry with the waters of the Sandy River and released them below Augusta. If some survive their amazing journey, they will be back in Skowhegan in two or three years.

While we are waiting for the salmon, corn keepers are growing and giving away Abenaki flint corn developed and grown by the pre-European master gardeners of our region. They are also growing to give away Norridgewock Abenaki dry beans, which was another staple in the food ways of the proud pre-European Kennebec River people. the Wabanaki of Maine. I am told, in their creation stories, that the people were born from the Brown Ash tree. What can we do to save and honor the Brown Ash tree and the amazing gifts she has given her people and all of us?

If we wish to save the heritage of the Skowhegan Indians, we can perhaps best do this by saving and sharing flint corn, Norridgewock beans and the Brown Ash tree. We can make the effort to understand the meaning of the Abenaki place names and words that are all around us.

In Skowhegan’s vision for an exciting whitewater river run, let us build a fish ladder for the return of the salmon. Let us become the salmon. Let us become Corn Keepers and Bean Keepers and River Watchers.

Let us heal the ancient and modern wounds between all the races and pray for and honor the dignity of, as the Lakota say, “All My Relations.”

Albie Barden


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