Penobscots don’t want ancestors’ scalping to be whitewashed

PORTLAND, Maine – Most Americans know about atrocities endured by Native People following the arrival of European settlers: wars, illness, stolen land. But they aren’t constantly taught the extent of the indiscriminate killings.

Customers of the Penobscot Nation in Maine have produced an educational film addressing how European settlers scalped — killed — Indigenous men and women all through the British colonial period, spurred for many years by money bounties and with the government’s blessing.

“It was genocide,” mentioned Dawn Neptune Adams, just one of the a few Penobscot Country customers showcased in the film, identified as “Bounty.”

She stated the issue of the hard work is not to make any People experience defensive or blamed. The filmmakers say they simply just want to ensure this historical past isn’t whitewashed by endorsing a fuller knowledge of the nation’s previous.

At the coronary heart of the undertaking is a chilling declaration by Spencer Phips, lieutenant governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.


Issued in November 1755, it gave “His Majesty’s Subjects” license to destroy Penobscots for “this entire thirty day period.” The reward was about $12,000 in today’s bucks for the scalp of a man, and half that for a woman’s scalp. The sum was marginally much less for a youngster. Settlers who killed Indigenous folks had been occasionally rewarded with land, in addition to income, growing settlers’ arrive at even though displacing tribes from their ancestral lands.

The declaration is acquainted to lots of Penobscots mainly because a duplicate of the doc was exhibited at the tribal offices at Indian Island, Maine.

“If every single American understood the full historical past of this nation, even the dim and awkward elements, it would help us to get together better and to fully grasp every single other much better,” mentioned Maulian Dana, who co-directed the film with Neptune Adams.

The two Europeans and Indigenous Individuals engaged in scalping, but English colonists greatly expanded the follow when the governing administration sanctioned the energy with bounties, the filmmakers stated.


The 1st known colonial scalping get is from 1675. That is just a number of brief a long time just after the 1st Thanksgiving in 1621, when Pilgrims gathered with Wampanoag persons for a harvest celebration, mentioned Chris Newell, who is Passamaquoddy and wrote “If You Lived Throughout the Plimoth Thanksgiving.”

All explained to, there ended up far more than 70 bounty proclamations encouraging white colonists to get rid of tribal users in what’s now New England, and a different 50 governing administration-sanctioned proclamations somewhere else across the place, the filmmakers’ analysis observed. Point out and colonial governments paid out out at the very least 375 bounties for Indigenous persons throughout New England among 1675 to 1760, they said.

Emerson Baker, a Salem Point out College professor who specializes in New England historical past, known as the tribal education and learning effort “a impressive system correction.”

“Most persons realize that Indigenous People in america ended up right here initially and that the colonists did their greatest to eliminate them from the land. They just have no notion of the extremes that it took,” Baker claimed. “Pretty a lot any Indigenous American man, woman or kid was deemed truthful game at moments, and often by the governing administration.”


Collaborating with the Massachusetts-centered Upstander Challenge, the filmmakers launched “Bounty” in November during Countrywide Indigenous American Heritage Month.

Neptune Adams and Dana, along with Tim Shay and their households, were being filmed at the Aged Condition Property in Boston. It’s the exact area where Lt. Gov. Phips’ scalping buy was signed.

In “Bounty,” the 3 members explain owning nightmares of Penobscots currently being chased by way of the woods, and talk about the dehumanization and massacre of their men and women.

“When you study about a people’s humanity, that impacts how you deal with my little ones, how you vote on community policy, how you could look at my men and women,” Dana mentioned.

Accompanying the short video clip is a 200-web site examine tutorial aimed at instructors. Various college districts, which include Portland Public Colleges in Maine’s greatest metropolis, are obtaining licenses for the video clip and plan to use the study guides to aid instruction.


In Portland, the scalp bounties will be bundled as 1 component in a curriculum that will convey the faculty district into compliance with a 2001 legislation demanding learners to be taught Wabanaki Reports concentrating on Native People in america in Maine, stated Fiona Hopper, social scientific studies trainer leader and Wabanaki research coordinator.

“Students and academics will see in ‘Bounty’ the ongoing endurance and resistance of Penobscot Nation citizens,” Hopper explained.


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