People of the First Light  Opened may 2016

People of the First Light, the Abbe Museum's new core exhibit, introduces visitors to the Wabanaki universe, engaging them with the culture and history of a people that is unfamiliar to many. Bringing together oral traditions, personal stories, cultural knowledge, language, and historical accounts with objects, photographs, multimedia, and digital interactives, People of the First Light shares a wide variety of content and perspectives around more than 12,000 years of history, conflict, adaptation, and survival in the Wabanaki homeland.

The design of the exhibit space has a contemporary feel, shaped by the work of Wabanaki artists who were a part of the design process from the beginning. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a two-story sculptural ash tree that draws the various sections of the exhibit together. Artwork and illustrations by Maliseet artist Gina Brooks, among other Wabanaki artists, are the foundation of a visual experience that reflects both Wabanaki traditions and current experiences.

People of the First Light provides visitors with an understanding of Wabanaki history and culture, affirming that there are Native people in Maine and the wider Wabanaki homeland today and that their story is one of more than 12,000 years with no removal history. The exhibit also connects visitors, and the knowledge and experiences they bring with them, to Wabanaki perspectives and ideas through multiple ways of knowing.

Interested in learning even more about this exhibit? Sign up for the People of the First Light Blog! We launched this blog as a place to share all kinds of information as it relates to the exhibit. When a museum exhibit attempts to tell the full story of the history and culture of a people, there is always much more than can fit in the actual exhibit. So, thanks to the virtual universe, we are looking forward to deepening and broadening the stories introduced through the exhibit.

This might include stories of shared history, the landscape of the Wabanaki homeland, the diversity of Wabanaki art forms, or updates on the current issues introduced in the exhibit. It will be a place where guest bloggers will share their perspectives. And we welcome reader questions – what would you like to learn more about?

Faithful to the decolonizing framework that shaped People of the First Light, this blog will emphasize Wabanaki perspectives and will connect readers to Wabanaki sources for further learning.

People of the First Light Native Artists:

Gina Brooks, Maliseet

David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy

Sarah Sockbeson, Penobscot

George Neptune, Passamaquoddy

Wabanaki Curatorial Consultants:

John Banks, Penobscot

Norman Bernard, Mi’kmaq

Jamie Bissonette Lewey, Abenaki

Cassandra Dana, Passamaquoddy

Natalie Dana, Passamaquoddy

James Eric Francis, Sr., Penobscot

Suzanne Greenlaw, Maliseet

Sherri Mitchell, Penobscot

Brenda Moore-Mitchell, Passamaquoddy

Elizabeth Neptune, Passamaquoddy

Simon Nevin, Mi’kmaq

Bonnie Newsom, Penobscot

Molly Neptune Parker, Passamaquoddy

Gabe Paul, Passamaquoddy

Jennifer Pictou, Micmac

Darren Ranco, Penobscot

Percy Sacobie, Maliseet

Donna Sanipass, Micmac

Mary Sanipass, Micmac

Maulian Smith, Penobscot

Chris Sockalexis, Penobscot

Donald Soctomah, Passamaquoddy

Fred Tomah, Maliseet



The Greatest Mountain Closed December 2015

A vision by Penobscot artist and historian James Francis

This tribute to Mount Katahdin, through Penobscot histories and accounts of non-Native travelers and writers, uses images, music, stories, and the Penobscot language to bring this sacred mountain to life. Francis used a CNC machine to cut the layers to build the model of Katahdin, which translates from Penobscot to English as “Greatest Mountain.” Images move and flicker across it, a compilation of time lapse photographs taken by Francis at night back in November 2014. Along with these photographs, there is a song composed by Francis, various other video and still imagery, and spoken word pieces of Penobscot people sharing stories.


Layers of Time: Archaeology at the Abbe Museum  Closed December 2015

How did people live in the past? What can we know about their lives and history from the archaeological record? This exhibit followed archaeological research conducted by the Abbe Museum starting in 1928, and considered how excavations at various sites have tried to answer those questions. Through a combination of artifacts, images and text, visitors explored the questions that were asked and what was learned during eight decades of archaeological investigations. Layers of Time also featured a variety of hands-on, interactive activities for children and families, letting visitors step into the role of the archaeologist to ask and answer intriguing questions.




2016 Waponahki Student Art show Closed December 2016

A collaboration of Maine Indian Education and the Abbe Museum

The Waponahki Student Art Show celebrated its 15th year in 2016 by bringing together a wonderful variety of art created by Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, and Micmac students from early childhood education through high school. The styles, media, and images vary throughout the exhibition, but place, culture, and identity have a strong presence in these original works.

New in 2016, we were very excited to introduce artwork created by students from the Aroostook Band of Micmacs and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. Including Maliseet and Micmac students in the show has been a long-time goal, so it was wonderful to see it come to fruition. We could not have done it without the support of the staff from the youth groups and Boys & Girls Clubs from the two communities.

Special thanks to:
K.A. McDonald Custom Picture Framing, Bar Harbor

Didn’t get a chance to see this exhibit while it was at the Abbe? Thanks to a partnership with the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, this popular show left the Abbe Museum in early January 2017 and traveled south to Portland. The exhibit will remain on display through April 30, 2017. For more info, visit or call 207-828-1234.

Student artists featured in the Waponahki Student Art Show:

Natalie Altvater

Ryleigh Bassett

Taelor Caparotta

Mia Clement

Ava Cruz-Jillson

Claudia Cummings

Aleena Dana

Jayden Dana

Morgan Dana

Payton Davenport

Annalisa Driskel

Tyeisha Francis

Ali Goodblood

Caleb Homan

Gesig Joseph

Emma Levesque

Zachary Levesque

Jayden Love

W'sali Love

Nikee Mitchell

Reagan Moore

Mishun Morey

Brennen Nicholas

Cadence Nicholas

Brandon Nicola

Isabella Pardilla

Gitpu Paul

Joel Paul

Zi'gwan Paul

Cadence Jolie Ramsdell

Keyara Russell

Dominic Sabattis-Webber

Aliya Sapiel

Kale Sapiel

Sheylee Sapiel

Sabattus Shay

Kayla Shrout

Elina Smith

Heiden Sockabasin

Ryan Sockabason

Raven Sockalexis

Anthony Thurlow

Lia Thurlow

Jordyn Tibbetts

Carlton Tweedie


Coming Home Closed December 2015

From baskets to beadwork, woodcarvings to birchbark canoes, tools or artwork, objects are an important expression of Wabanaki culture. Since the arrival of the first European explorers more than 400 years ago, objects made and used by the Wabanaki have made their way into museums around the world. Coming Home featured an exciting and beautiful array of material culture, selected and interpreted by Wabanaki community curators. This exhibit shared cultural and traditional knowledge, revealing a greater depth of information about the Wabanaki objects, and provided a unique opportunity to see these pieces back in the Wabanaki homeland.

Coming Home community curators:

Carol Dana, Penobscot

Donna Sanipass, Micmac

John Dennis, Mi’kmaq

Richard Silliboy, Micmac

Suzanne Greenlaw Frey, Maliseet

Cassandra Dana, Passamaquoddy

Natalie Dana, Passamaquoddy

Stephanie Francis-Soctomah, Passamaquoddy

Jennifer Pictou, Micmac