Sunday, September 3, 2017

Mount Desert Island

Mount Desert (pronounced dessert) Island is an island of stunning natural beauty nestled close to the mainland and connected to it by a bridge. The island is home to the Acadia National Park and 10,000 hardy permanent residents. During the summer season the roads, trails, and campgrounds are crowded with visitors from all over the world.
Millions of years ago glaciers carved and shaped this chunk of granite into the amazing landscape we see today. The long cleft up into the middle of the island was created by these glaciers and is called a fjard.

More recently, native people called the Abanaki lived here hunting, fishing, and gathering. They made canoes, baskets, and wigwams from tree bark, and fired clay into cooking pots. They worked stone into tools and arrow tips, and hunted deer, moose, and small game. They fished and gathered shellfish of all types. They gathered nuts, berries, and other foods from the forest. Then white people arrived here began their ruthless domination of these first people. 
Eventually fishing became the dominate industry. Then in the 1800s artists and naturalists began to document the beauty of the island and wealthy families started building summer "cottages" here. 
John D. Rockefeller Jr. created a series of carriage paths that are still in use today. Above you see one of the surviving gate houses. One can only imagine what their "cottages" looked like, but a great fire in the 1940s consumed most of them.

One day we met an Abanaki woman who was sharing her people's basket weaving tradition with the tourists. Her great grand mother was a basket weaver, but the knowledge wasn't passed down. This woman became an anthropologist, studied baskets, acquired access to collections of old baskets, and taught herself how to recreate them. Now she is sharing this knowledge with others and teaching her children how to weave baskets.
Here's a short video of her starting the small basket you see above.

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