Passamaquoddy People

“The Passamaquoddy wax cylinder sound recordings were made in Calais, Maine in 1890. They were first returned to the Passamaquoddy community in the 1980s. David Francis, our ancestral language specialist was able to listen and transcribe 4 of these cylinders.  In 2014 we began a new project with Local Contexts and the American Folklife Society to listen again to these recordings because the sound quality had been improved. This new project became the impetus for this digital archive. We wanted to put the recordings in a Passamaquoddy controlled archive where our community can listen to them and add the Passamaquoddy transcriptions and English translations in our own time. These recordings are dear to us. They connect us across time to our ancestors. We are the cultural authorities for this material. In 1890 our ancestors spoke Passamaquoddy and French; today we speak Passamaquoddy and English. Each song is a puzzle to fully interpret as no full songs were ever recorded. There are only partial songs on the cylinders. We have very few descriptions of these recordngs from the person who visited with us for three days and made them, Jesse Walter Fewkes. In our listening we connect to people in the present and in the past.

While we work on these recordings with our language speakers, our elders and our children, we are also using this archive as a way to share other parts of our history and culture. We hope that this helps contextualize these recordings within our lands, our territories and within our social, cultural and economic life. We thank the Peabody Museum at Harvard for maintaining the cylinders and to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for making them accessible to us, in both the 1980s and now.”

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