For thousands of years Qonasqamkuk was the center, capital, traditional homeland and sacred burial ground for the Passamaquoddy people.
Qonasqamkuk is an ancient place of worship, and the site of General Council Meetings for the Passamaquoddy and many other Wabanaki First Nations People. It is also a traditional place where the Passamaquoddy found ancestral strength, wisdom, and spiritual guidance. It is the location of a large shell midden which is one of many that are found in Passamaquoddy territory. Middens are essentially disposal areas and consist mostly of shells, occasional bones and some artifacts. (James Wherry, 1981).
The shell middens of Qonasqamkuk and Passamaquoddy are evidence that the Passamaquoddy people have occupied this land for a very long time. Some say since time immemorial. It is fair to say that the Passamaquoddy connection to this homeland can go back in time as far as 500 to 1000 generations ago.
Out of compassion, the Passamaquoddy people helped the first French settlers on St. Croix to survive the winter of 1604. The French eventually moved to what is now known as Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia. In the 1780’s British loyalists moved in on Qonasqamkuk for the winter on a promise they would pay a rent of 25 pounds. The rent was never paid. For the next century or so, the Passamaquoddy would be poisoned and infected with diseases.
During the American Revolution (1775 – 1783), the Passamaquoddy fought against British rule alongside the Americans. By 1785, the sacred Passamaquoddy Cross and place of worship at Qonasqamkuk was cut down and destroyed. Introduced diseases took their toll on the Passamaquoddy people and surviving members were forced to live in “Indian encampments” on the outskirts of Qonasqamkuk. The British loyalists renamed Qonasqamkuk to St. Andrews. Many of the Passamaquoddy were forced to move to Indian Island – south of Deer Island. They were displaced again and eventually resettled in the United States at Sipayik (Pronounced zeeh-by-ig), and known as Pleasant Point between Eastport and Perry. All protests from the Passamaquoddy were ignored by the British/Canadian governments.
After the arrival of the European newcomers, in a just a relatively short period of time this ancient tribal connection to the homeland in and around Qonasqamkuk was rudely disrupted by the encroachment of the European newcomers.
St. Andrews, New Brunswick – also known as Qonasqamkuk, or Indian Point- is a preeminent traditional Passamaquoddy Village. Despite the “historic loss” of Qonasqamkuk, the Passamaquoddy people continue to assert their aboriginal land claim for the immediate return of our homeland. Because Qonasqamkuk is naturally situated at the confluence of the St. Croix river and Passamaquoddy Bay, it has long represented a tribal gateway for cultural subsistence, sustenance and survival for its aboriginal caretakers.
Since time immemorial, the Passamaquoddy people have had a reverence for our aboriginal homeland and waterways. Qonasqamkuk is not only a place where we have ceremonies, gathered sustenance, harvested sweet grass or raised generations of families, it is a sacred place were we have “buried” our ancestors. Like the ancient petroglyphs permanently etched on rocks all along the eastern seaboard, Qonasqamkuk is a place where cultural traditions are still proudly preserved.
Although St. Andrews prides itself in being a premiere tourist locale, both local and national Canadian authorities continue to ignore these facts. Instead, these officials have illegally seized, sold, transferred, leased, developed, and desecrated our aboriginal homeland. As a result, the Passamaquoddy seek the immediate return of the undeveloped portions of land at Qonasqamkuk, and the acknowledgment that our aboriginal right to our land has neither been ceded or surrendered.
In order for us to restore and retain a spiritual connection to our buried ancestors, the commercial profiteering, the blatant degradation, and the exploitation of sacred land must cease. And, in recognizing that a spiritual equilibrium can only be attained with the help of others, the Passamaquoddy people earnestly request your support. We stress that to do anything less perpetuates genocide.