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Arts and Culture

After Tribal Pushback, Bangor Ship Event Cancelled, But Tours Continue

Columbus Ships Replicas
Stacey Plaisance
Spectators watch as a replica of one of Christopher Columbus' ships, the Pinta, is moored, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Biloxi, Miss. The Nina and Pinta replica ships are touring the Mississippi, Alabama and Florida until May. Columbus sailed across the Atlantic on the Niña on his three voyages to the New World beginning in 1492.

A planned event in Bangor later this week featuring a replica of a ship used by Christopher Columbus has been cancelled after several of Maine's Native American tribal leaders complained. But the ship, called the Nao Santa Maria, is continuing to provide tours after docking in Bucksport.

The boat is a replica of the Santa Maria, the largest of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus when he came across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. It was supposed to be docked in Bucksport through Wednesday before heading up the Penobscot River to Bangor, all part of a "4-Port Loop" event throughout the month commemorating Maine's bicentennial.

But late last week, several tribal leaders in the state began protesting the inclusion of the Nao Santa Maria -- and its planned trip up the Penobscot River. Penobscot Nation Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana says Christopher Columbus never travelled along the river, and Columbus symbolizes the conquest and genocide of indigenous people.

"So there's a whole lot we're trying to heal from, and to have a ship that's a symbol of the trauma and the atrocity of history, that's certainly harmful to us," Dana says. "And also to take it a step further, and have that ship coming into the Penobscot River, our ancestral territory, it just felt like a real violation."

By Saturday, organizers with the Penobscot Maritime Heritage Association announced that the Nao Santa Maria's visit to Bangor would be cancelled. But on Sunday, Association President Dick Campbell told the Bangor Daily News that tours of the ship in Bucksport would still occur.

Campbell did not return a request for comment on Monday. In a social media post, the town of Bucksport says by permitting the event, the town wanted to provide an opportunity for residents to enjoy the community and had "no intent to disrespect The Penobscots or any other Native American tribes."

Meanwhile, Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard says Passamaquoddy tribal members will be presenting an educational display and film along the waterfront near the Nao Santa Maria on Monday evening, with a purpose to "have a constructive dialogue and provide historical information."

The ship will leave Bucksport on Wednesday morning.