Passamaquoddy Tribe and Harbour Porpoise Thesis

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Passamaquoddy Tribe & Harbor Porpoise


Passamaquoddy Tribe and Harbor Porpoise

History of the Passamaquoddy Tribe

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Historical records say that the Passamaquoddy people were the first inhabitants of the Quoddy area in Maine and New Brunswick, Canada (St. Croix Heritage, 2009). They consisted of small and mobile groups who were primarily hunters and gatherers who settled at the St. Croix valley in the beginning of the 16th century. They were also called Etchemins by the French explorers who first encountered them at that time. The Passamaquoddies spoke the Algonquian language and a Wabanaki dialect, which was similar to that of the Maliseet of the St. John River Valley. At this first formal contact with Europeans, the Passamaquoddies subsisted particularly on the marine and estuarine resources of the St. Croix River, Passamaquoddy Bay, the Bay of Fundy and the upper St. Croix watershed. Some records suggest that the native communities had an earlier but indirect and temporary contact with Basque, Portuguese and English ships, mostly fishing boats. The French explorer Verrezano visited Passamaquoddy in 1554 and Estavan Gomaz of Spain the following year explored Penobascot River. Thereafter, French and English ships touched down in the Penobscot and began trading on the coast of present-day Maine and points east. Fur trading quickly became the natives' second major commerce and an important economic activity among the Europeans (St. Croix Heritage).

TOPIC: Thesis on Passamaquoddy Tribe and Harbour Porpoise Assignment

The introduction and popularization of the fur trade among the natives brought in new and revolutionary materials (St. Croix Heritage, 2009). These changed traditional technology, personal use and ritual. The main activity was the search for furbearers, especially the beaver, which were over-hunted and depleted. Heightened competition between groups for trapping grounds and contact with traders put political systems out of balance. And contact with Europeans also brought in diseases to which the natives had no immunity. Epidemics greatly reduced native populations in the early years of the 17th century. By 1711, there were fewer than 1,000 Passamaquoddies as a result. The Mikmaq people also dominated their region. French Jesuit missionaries came in to convert the Passamaquoddies to the Catholic religion (St. Croix Heritage).

The five Algonquian-speaking tribes consisted of the Mikmaq, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Maliseet peoples (Wabanaki Confederacy, 2008). They formed the Wabanaki Confederacy. The area they occupied is now called the New England states of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, and the Canadian Maritimes, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The Confederacy was dissolved in 1862 and only five remained and still exist as allies. These are the Abenaki Indians in Northern Vermont, Micmaq Indians of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the Passamaquoddies, the Maliseet and the Penoscott Indians (Wabanaki Confederacy).

The Passamaquoddies contributed significantly to the American Revolution against the British, particularly through the rare fighting ability of Francis Joseph Neptune in August 1777 (Quoddy Loop, 2009). This marksman shot and killed the captain of a British vessel with his flintlock rifle. This achievement confused and fazed the British who turned back and never returned. Loyalists to Great Britain fled, occupied and settled the Passamaquoddies in Indian Island and again displaced them in Pembroke. They eventually settled in Pleasant Point, located between Eastport and Perry, Maine. While most Passamaquoddies moved there, some remained in New Brunswick. These remaining in New Brunswick have persistently tried to protect their lands, although the Canadian government has yet to recognize their presence in the area. The take-over of their land by loyalist settlers destroyed and replaced these simple people's self-sufficiency with dependency. The Maine Land Claims Settlement Act was said to have improved the economic conditions of Passamaquoddies in that State. But employment, social and economic problems have remained (Quoddy Loop).

Passamaquoddy tribes have their own tribal governments (Quoddy Loop, 2009). Each reservation has a government, which consists of a tribal council, a governor, and a lieutenant governor. Two reservations share a joint tribal council. A tribal government possesses autonomy and a status similar to that of a municipality. They share the culture of other tribes in the Confederacy. Their traditional skills of hunting and fishing are still practiced in tribal lands at present. Their other crafts include basketry, jewelry, wood carving and canoe-making. Their workmanship enjoy high reputation. Their products are displayed and sold at the Pleasant Point Reservation and in other places (Quoddy Loop).

Environmental History

The Quoddy region in the outer Bay of Fundy is greatly admired and sought for its marine species diversity and productivity in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean (Lotze & Milewski, 2002). Its ocean currents and circulation patterns, high tides, upwelling and a short energy-efficient food chair make up a rich marine life. Its vast food web supports a wide variety of predatory invertebrates, fishes, marine birds and mammals in the region to as far as the Arctic, South America and South Africa. In addition, these resources provide the needs of different species for breeding, spawning, nursing, foraging, hiding and resting. This diversity and its far-reaching and extraordinary food supply, in turn, make for the diversity and productivity of the species found in the region. These species dwell in the West Isles archipelago, the Grand Manan archipelago, Maces Bay and The Wolves Island simultaneously (Lotze & Milewsky).

New European settlers at the shores of the Bay of Fundy in the early 1600s until the late 18th century changed the region culturally, economically and environmentally in only a matter of years (Lotze & Milewsky, 2002). They exploited marine and terrestrial resources and industries. Their activities adversely affected the environment and the species in it directly and indirectly. Hunting and fishing pressure increased progressively with the passing of the years. Traditional target species in sea fishery began to decline. In addition to exploitation, habitual alteration, destruction and degradation grew. Every change in every specie population affects the overall food web and ecosystem. Major changes, which have occurred in the region from 1700 to 2000, include the loss or decrease of large predatory species, increase and dominance of commercially less important and smaller species, and a general increase of opportunistic species over specialist ones. These changes have affected interactions, relationships and linkages between habitat-building species and their users. Unlike other regions, the Quoddy region, however, displays potentials of sustainability. Protection initiatives in the 20th century recovered many bird and mammal species. There were times of lower fishing pressure during World War II when fish stocks became more abundant. River habitat was restored. The use of gill nets with acoustic "pingers" decreased catches of harbor porpoise. Effective sewage treatment and protection zones led to the recovery of benthic habitat and increased fish biomass in marine protected areas elsewhere. The belief is that the situation at Quoddy and other marine regions may improve and continue to support marine life in the future as in the past according to certain conditions. These are the provision of marine species with adequate habitat, food and undisturbed space and time; reduced use of destructive fishing gear; protection of critical spawning, breeding, nursing, foraging and staging habitats; reduced nutrient pollution and chemical by-products; and integration of human and marine species' needs (Lotze & Milewsky).

Harbor Porpoises

Poor life expectancy among harbor porpoises has been attributed to the increased commercial fishing industry in the region (Moulton & DeMaria, 1998). They are easily drawn to gill nets, which destroy them. A study conducted on porpoises at the Bay of Fundy and Maine revealed that 4.3% of these animals are killed every year by gill nets. In response to the finding, the nets have been "pinged" to allow porpoises to use their echo-location capabilities to avoid getting caught. Other studies showed that these "pingers" are effective and do not affect commercial fishery catches (Moulton & DeMaria).

Other causes of the decline in harbor porpoise population are the slight warming of waters in the New Brunswick coast, toxins and hunting porpoises as food resource (Moulton & DeMaria, 1998). Some researchers believed that porpoises cannot thermo-regulate in warmer waters. Other researchers attributed the cause to food resources. Toxins also affect the reproductive capabilities of porpoises. Changes in marine habitats at the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine have raised the levels of toxic organo-chlorides and threatened their population. And in the 80s, Indians of the Pleasant Point Reserve tribe hunted porpoises for food. The Canadian Fisheries Act has extended protection to harbor porpoises since 1982 to respond to the situation. As a consequence, the species was listed as a threatened species in U.S. waters since 1990. Other rescue efforts included clean-ups of major harbors and the fishing industry's commitment to prevent net entanglements (Moulton & DeMaria).

Harbor porpoises are an established concern for the Canadian government and particularly threatened by three proposals to build giant marine terminals on the Maine shoreline (Figart, 2008). The proposals would turn the traditional tourism, fishing and aquaculture economy into an industrial zone with its accompanying environmental threats. Six tons of greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals were expected to be emitted by structures on a daily basis. Huge tankers are… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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