The Equinox Petroglyph Project:

       
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About Picture Rocks; A History of Documentation
In 1868 the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. sent archaeologists to sketch the site and document the ancient rock pictures that offered an insight into the lives and traditions of the Passamaquoddy Tribe. The Tribe is a part of the larger Wabanaki and Algonquin language group that populated the northeast of the United States from New Brunswick, Canada to the north, Ontario, Canada to the west and Massachusetts to the south. These Native American people worked and thrived in these lands long before Europeans ever came to North America. Tragically, with the arrival of the Europeans on the shores of the northeast between 1600 and 1610, there also came diseases to which the Passamaquoddy had no resistance, such as small pox and hepatitis. As a result, by the mid-1800’s, ninety-five percent of the Passamaquoddy Tribe had been wiped out and only approximately 400 members survived. At one time the Wabanaki Nation was 40,000 strong. With the dramatic decline in population, the Smithsonian felt the urgency to document as much of the culture as possible. When the Smithsonian historians arrived in Machias, they started to record the rich tribal history of the Passamaquoddy. In the last 20 years, much more work has been done by a host of linguists, historians, archaeologists and photographers from both inside and outside the tribe to document and preserve the rich Passamaquoddy language, history, medicinal plants, and sacred knowledge held by the tribe elders and medicine men and women.

As the only written record of the Algonquin peoples, the petroglyphs have remained despite thousands of years of tidal waters and winter ice moving over the images. Although fainter, they are still visible and offer us an insight into the Passamaquoddy lives hundreds of years ago that is otherwise only carried forward by the Tribe through their oral traditions called, “Story”.

A New Spirit  Emerges
In 2006 the land with the petroglyph rocks was transferred to the Passamaquoddy with the help of  Maine Coast Heritage Trust www.mcht.org.

After the land was returned, it is as though the Spirits there were released to live again. In April of 2007, a huge six-foot-plus boulder that has stood next to the Picture Rocks for thousands of years, weighing thousands of pounds, split open. The bursting of the rock caused nearby homes to shake as though an earthquake had struck. Pictures moved on the walls and it made a huge noise. The rock split into several large parts; one of which appears in the form of a massive arrowhead that points directly to the Picture Rock itself. And, interestingly, the splitting of the rock also revealed the full form of a woman in white stone that had been laying in the bedrock underneath all along.

An Epiloque by Kathy Pollard
In studying the Maine Indian petroglyphs found along the Down East coast and along the Kennebec River for the past fifteen years, I have come to see many of them as metaphors that arose from a specific, unique culture but that have universally recognizable elements and themes. There are animals, birds, serpents,
people paddling birch bark canoes, medicine men and women, shamans, families, spirit helpers, and even what appears to be a woman depicted giving birth in the traditional squatting position. Many of the featured animals appear to be pregnant with new life, which represents the gift of continued existence for the native peoples who relied upon these species for survival. Always there seems to be recognition of the inextricable link between the people, animals, environment, and the spirit world, and together they comprise a celebration of the amazing juxtaposition of humans and landscape, of culture evolving through connection to place, a relationship that has been unbroken over the course of thousands of years. Despite a half millennium of oppression and policy aimed at obliterating the languages, religions, and life ways of America's First Nations, ultimately the petroglyphs emerge as testimony to that continuity, to the indomitable spirit of peoples who have had to fight to preserve their birthright and place in their own homeland. The story of America's indigenous peoples however, is a universal story, played out on every continent on earth, in every millennium since time immemorial. Therefore, I see the petroglyphs as a celebration not only of the miracle of the continued existence of Native Americans all across America, but also as a celebration of our shared humanity wherever on earth our people come from, whatever religions or cultural attributes that make each group unique and valuable. 


Should you be Inspired…

Should you so choose, donations inspired by the works seen here will go towards the construction of an educational center that will preserve the images of “The Picture Rocks” and the Passamaquoddy traditions for future generations. The organization sponsoring the Equinox Project Exhibition is named “Maluhsi-hikon” which in the Passamaquoddy language means ‘Place of the Picture Rocks’. It is a non-profit organization led by the Tribe’s Cultural Director, Donald Soctomah, who is also the Tribal Legislative Representative for the State of Maine. Other Board Members of the organization include; Mark Hedden, Stephanie Francis, Bernie Vinzani, Peter Gommers, Carlene Holmes, Mike Kimball, Ann Gommers, and Ron Mosley. The Co-Curators of the Equinox Project Exhibition are Ann Gommers and Stephanie Francis, a Passamaquoddy artist and daughter of a Chief of the Tribe.

Committee's Non-profit charter number is 2008-0285ND
DES Number 2073441400081
WR-DCN number is 2073441400080