|A Short History of Acadia National Park
ANCIENT NATIVE PEOPLES
made their home on Mount Desert Island long before European explorers
ever ventured across the Atlantic. One tribe, whose burial sites
contained red ochre, earned the name the Red Paint People. Few
surviving records of their presence remain: slate tools, pottery, red
ochre burials, and middens, or large refuse piles of shells, which
archaeologists have dated at between 3,000 and 5,000 years old.
More is known about the Abnaki people, who inhabited the island at the
time the first Europeans made contact in the 1500s. Originally it was
believed the Abnakis traveled to Pemetic - or "sloping land," as they
called the island - by birch-bark canoe from their winter homes near
the Penobscot River's headwaters. During the summer months, they would
hunt, fish, and gather berries near Somes Sound. More recently,
archaeologists have concluded that the Abnakis actually wintered on
Pemetic to take advantage of the milder coastal winters.
The history of these early island residents is told at Acadia's Abbe
Museum, located just off the Park Loop Road near Sieur de Monts Spring.
The museum's collection includes prehistoric pottery, bone, and stone
tools, as well as more recent artifacts such as baskets, porcupine
quillwork, and a canoe and wigwam made from birch bark.
Nobody has come up with hard proof, but it is entirely possible that Vikings visited Acadia around 1,000 A.D.
The Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazano may not have set foot on
Pemetic during his 1524 voyage along the North American coast, but it
is he who is credited with christening the area that is now Maine and
the Canadian Maritimes with the name L'Acadie or Acadia. Some
historians believe it to be an Abnaki word; others say it is a
corruption of Arcadia, an equally scenic and inspiring region of
Ancient Greece. Eighty years later, in 1604, the French explorer Samuel
Champlain was struck by the bareness of the island's mountaintops while
sailing along the coast. He gave Pemetic the name by which it is known
today: l'Isles des Monts-déserts or Mount Desert Island. Champlain, who
crossed the Atlantic 29 times and later founded Quebec, is believed to
have run aground at Otter Point, where he met members of the Abnaki
tribe. A party of French Jesuits, who settled at the mouth of Somes
Sound in 1613, were also warmly greeted by the Abnaki. The priests
intended to found a mission there but were soon after pushed out by a
band of English explorers determined to expand northward from their
settlements in Massachusetts. For the next century, the French and
British would struggle for control of Acadia. In 1759, the British
finally prevailed when they defeated the French in Quebec, but not
before a young French nobleman laid claim to a large section of the
Maine coast. Sieur de Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac stopped long enough
on Mount Desert to lend his name to the island's highest mountain
before moving on to found the city of Detroit,Michigan.