The first inhabitants
of what is now known as the Quoddy area were the Passamaquoddy People
who lived in small, mobile groups and gathered and hunted in a land
that had only recently been freed from the grip of a massive continental
ice sheet. Archeologists call this period the Paleo-Indian phrase.
Sites of these
original pioneers have been found at several locations in Maine
and New Brunswick. The fluted points characteristic of Passamaquoddy
hunter-gatherers have been found in the vicinity of Calais/ St.
Stephens and in the upper part of the St. Croix River drainage,
near West Grand Lake.
next several millennia, the environment of the Quoddy area, and
of the Northeast in general, changed and became more similar to
that of the present. During his period, known as the Archaic, Passamaquoddy
people developed patterns of subsistence and settlement some of
which persisted into the 17th century.
period witnessed the growth of Passamaquoddy populations, and the
development and florescence of several cultural traditions. The
period provides archeological evidence of an increase in the expression
of ritual, particularly in the burial of the dead, and the earliest
evidence of the use of marine resources in the Passamaquoddy Bay
Island contains cultural remains of Passamaquoddy occupations
dating back 3,000 years to the Ceramic Period.
of this region during that time is known as the Quoddy tradition.
Archeological remains of this culture abound along the estuaries
bays, and many islands of the Passamaquoddy Bay area.
sites typically are located near the waters edge and contain a midden
area near the water with a habitation area further back from the
beach. The dwellings appear to be single-family wigwams built over
shallow depressions. Many shell middens date from this period. They
bear evidence of an economy strongly oriented toward the sea, at
coast of North America was well known in the seaports of France,
Spain the Basque country, Portugal, and west Country England long
before the founding of the colony of Acadia in New France.
By the end
of the 15th century, Europeans were beginning to visit the rich
fishing waters of the Grand Banks; fisherman probably landed along
the shores of Gulf of Maine, establishing contact between Europeans
and Native Americans. John Cabot, sailing for England, may have
reached the coast of present-day Maine in 1498. Gasper and Miguel
Corte Real explored the coast of what is today Newfoundland and
may have reached Maine in about 1500.
At the beginning
of the 16th century, the St. Croix valley was the center of the
homeland of the Passamaquoddy people. The Passamaquoddies, were
also called the Etchemins by the earlier French explorers, the tribal
people speak a Algonquian language with a Wabanaki dialect very
similar to that spoken by the Maliseet, whose homeland includes
the St. John River Valley.
At the time
of first contact with Europeans, the Passamaquoddies were living
in summer village in and around Passamaquoddy Bay. They subsisted
by hunting and gathering, focusing particularly on the marine and
estuarine resources of the St. Croix River, Passamaquoddy Bay, and
the Bay of Fundy, as well as the resources of the interior forests
in the upper St. Croix watershed.
names for places in the St. Croix River estuary have been recorded.
These include Schoodic for the St. Croix River, Mak wam kusk for
Red Beach, and Muttoneguis, Muttoneguamus, Metanegwis, Metnegwis
for St. Croix Island.
the local Native peoples and European fishermen and explorers certainly
began during the 16th century, if not earlier. The Native communities
of the St. Croix River valley had at least indirect contact with
Basque, Portuguese and English ships and their crews; however, none
had ever-established year-round settlements. These ships were mostly
fishing boats drawn to the rich fishing grounds off the coast of
northeastern North America.
several documented explorations of the region. Verrezano, sailing
for France in 1554, visited Passamaquoddy in what is now Maine,
who already was acquainted with the fur trade. The following year,
Estavan Gomaz, sailing for Spain, explored the Penobscot River.
Later, French and English ships explored the Penobscot, and the
two nations began trading and competing on the coast of present-day
Maine and points east.
was quickly supplemented with trading furs, and by mid-century
fur trading itself became an important economic activity among
Europeans. Most of the Native communities of the region were
involved in the fur trade by the end of the century.
of the fur trade on Native societies were far-reaching and continued
to be important for many years after the century's end. New materials
altered traditional technology, personal adornment, and ritual.
Subsistence focused increasingly on furbearers, especially beaver,
often at the expense of important food animals, with the result
that local fur-bearer populations were over hunted and depleted.
Cycles of labor
altered to allow for more time spent processing furs for market.
Political systems were thrown out of balance by increasing competition
between groups for trapping grounds and access to traders.
contact with Europeans brought diseases to which Native Americans
had no immunities. These virgin soil epidemics devastated Native
populations during the early years of the 17th century.
By the end
of the 16th century, France and England had made several explorations
in advance of colonization, and had established a few seasonal settlements
for trading and fishing along the north Atlantic coast. A group
of French convicts and beggars was landed at Sable Island in 1598,
and remained until 1603. The French built a trading post at Tadoussac
on the lower St. Lawrence River in 1599.
The name Muttoneguis
(variously written) given to the island by the Passamaquoddy people,
suggests possible ways they may have used it. Among several possible
translations, it signifies a place to store things. One Passamaquoddy
informant in 1796 explained that they left food stores there where
they would be safe from animals. Aside from this sort of temporary
use by the Passamaquoddies, there is no record of activity here.
Certainly, the Passamaquoddies must have visited the island on occasion
since it is located within the heart of their traditional homeland.
The Quoddy Area (17th century)
continued to occupy the area throughout the 17th century. Champlain
and Lescarbot referred to them as the Etchemins, and called the
St.Croix River the River of the Etchemins.
The name Passamaquoddy
first appears in 1692. By 1711, the Passamaquoddy population had
fallen below 1,000 as a result of European diseases. Their position
in the regional geopolitics had also changed as the Mikmaq people,
with the support of the French, began to dominate the regions Native
groups, Passamaquoddy allied with the MikMiq. The French also brought
Jesuit missionaries, to convert Passsamaquoddies to the Catholic
on the explorations and visits of the previous century, the governments
of England and France began efforts to establish permanent settlements
and secure territories and trading monopolies on the coast of northeastern
as stated by Champlain, was to find a route to China by the north,
in order to facilitate commerce with the peoples of East Europe.
Government monopolies on fur trading would be granted to individuals
or groups of investors in return for their efforts to establish
permanent settlements in the region.