Appalachian Trail Histories


The Penobscot Tribe

The Penobscot Tribe is one of several indigenous groups who occupied ancestral territories spanning from what is now known as the Penobscot River located in Maine up to the areas of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. As Europeans arrived to settle and colonize the lands in the 17th century, the Penobscot Tribe was one of several American Indian tribes who formed and created the Mashoowen Confederacy. However, the tribe's exposure to new diseases and external conflicts with the neighboring Mohawk Tribe left the Penobscots with only a remaining 300 members.  

As the American Revolutionary War neared, General George Washington, allied with the tribe, allowing the Penobscots to keep their land if they fought among the Continental Army. However, George Washington ignored the agreement after the war ended. The lands seized from the Penobscots would eventually become the new state, Maine officially breaking Washington's promise with the Penobscot Tribe in 1820. It was not until 1965 when Maine arranged a Department of Indian Affairs, one of the first in the United States, which would reestablish and admit the Penobscot government as sovereignty. Furthermore, in 1980 the Penobscot received a set amount of nearly $81 million, enabling them to repurchase their lands to resettle and carry on with their traditions and government.

The Penobscot's culture is still observed today through museums, artifacts, and traditions carried out by members and their organizations. However, one tradition that is experienced by both Penobscot members and hikers along the Appalachian Trail is Mt. Katahdin, located in the state of Maine. Among the Penobscots, they believe that Katahdin is the home for the Wabanaki cultural hero Kolooscap. The Penobscots and other American Indian tribes such as Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Micmac describe his physical attributes as large and traditionally powerful and played a role in the creation of stories, myths, and historical accounts for the tribes. Many believe that he was responsible for creating the natural world and therefore lives on the highest summit in Maine. Although tribe members do not climb to the top of Mt. Katahdin's summit out of respect for Kolooscap; they still hold ceremonies and pilgrimages at other locations within Baxter State Park.