(adapted from an essay in Chebacco vol.XXI, 2020.)
The portraits that follow were commissioned for Chebacco, the annual journal of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society. They present members of the Micmac, Maliseet, Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy nations who are actively involved in the preservation of their tribal history and the history of Maine. Each historian chose an artifact or location to represent the main focus of their work. Many of them combine research with activism: for the Wabanaki people, preservation of their history is an act of political self-representation and resistance.
As an outsider, I wanted to avoid any attempt to interpret the experience of indigenous people. I set up a methodology I hoped would minimize my Eurocentric, academic bias. I began by asking James Francis, the Tribal Historian for the Penobscot Nation, for suggestions of who to contact. When I wrote to that first group of historians, I asked if they would sit for a portrait, and also asked who else I should contact. If someone within the Wabanaki community said a person was a historian, I contacted that person with the same requests, suspending my own judgment of 'qualifications' in favor of asking the community to define itself. I am deeply grateful to the people who made time to meet with me, and who trusted me to photograph them. I hope the portraits convey the respect and admiration I have for their work.