For thousands of years, Wolastoqiyik lived with the river, the sea, the animals, the land and the trees in a respectful way. This interrelationship worked for everything and everyone living. In this way of life, all that was needed for survival was there in the valley and Wolastoq for which they named themselves.

Food was gathered, grown and hunted in the forest. It was fished in the brooks, river and sea. The tools, traps and weapons needed for these activities were made by skilled hands, taught for generations by other skilled hands. The transportation to these activity places was made possible by birch-bark canoes, also made by those skilled hands. They used, not just the birch, but also cedar, maple, and spruce to make this vehicle. The canoe maker exemplified how diverse materials were used to their best advantage.

Hands which transformed the materials from nature into usable objects reflected the philosophy that everything had a purpose. Purposeful objects however did not have to be plain and ordinary. Nature itself was beautiful. Created objects could also be that way. Numerous patterns and colors were chosen from the world around. Some of them became family, group or tribal designs.

The enduring quality of created objects was also of prime importance. It ensured that resources were not exploited, or time and materials wasted. Taking only what was needed honored the land.

The relationship to animals was similar, but because the animal had to die, ceremonies of prayer and offerings were made to its spirit. Right relationship; from the hunter to the consumer, and from the creator to the wearer; had to exist. No waste occurred and unusable parts were returned to the Earth in gratitude. All had to flow with the creative force of the universe.

Even today, that is true. Handling the natural spirit was, and still is, an honor. The way of life changed, so did the needs of the people. No longer are the trees and animals so important to Wolastoq survival. Today’s creations are more aesthetic. The crafts-people and artists of today are, however rediscovering and reintegrating those enduring values held by the ancestors. The baskets are functional and beautiful. The beadwork is as colorful and harmonious as Creator’s web of life, and like the wampum of the past, each bead holds a prayer. Ancestral designs still inspire today’s birchbark craftsman to carry the same message to the future…. “We are Wolastoq”.
In The Spirit of Mother Earth
Schmidt, Jeremy
1994 McQuiston & McQuiston
San Francisco

Expressive Culture
Akwe: Kon Journal
1994 Cornell University
Vol. XI, Nos 3 & 4, Ithaca; New York

Unbroken Circles
Northeast Indian Quarterly 1990
VII, No 4, Winter

Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume
Paternak, Josephine
1994 WW Norton & Co. Inc.
New York; New York

The Sacred
Beck, Peggy V; Francisco, Nia; Walters, Anna Lee
1977 Navajo Community College Press
Tsaile, Arizona

The Wabenakis of Maine & the Maritimes
1989 American Friends Committee

Gwen Bear
c. 2007
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

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