Creation Legend of the Passamaquoddy

Brown Ash Tree,  giving birth to the Passamaquoddy people
Brown Ash Tree,  giving birth to Passamaquoddy Woodsplint Basketry

The origins of Passamaquoddy/Wabanaki basketry are the origins of the people.  The rich mythology of the people is
woven through families as the oral history passed down generation after generation.  In pre-European contact, these
stories were conveyed primarily through music and the singing of the stories was a way to preserve them and keep them
intact for each succeeding generation.  According to J. Walter Fewkes, 1890 in
Contribution to Passamaquoddy Folk-lore,
“The Passamaquoddies agree in the statement that their stories were formerly sung, and resembled poems.”

Non-native scholars were able to record these stories in written form beginning in the 1800’s, as they were no longer
being widely preserved through song and often only fragments remained.  Many of the older stories were collected from
tribal elders and recorded in this way.

Gluscap, the legendary “giant” teacher of the people, or “culture hero” provided the Passamaquoddy an entrance into
this world through shooting arrows into Ash trees.

The following creation legend is an excerpt from Charles Leland’s
Algonquin Legends, published in 1884.  This story was
given by Passamaquoddy elder Molly Sepsis and recorded by Mrs. W. Wallace Brown, Calais, Maine:


The Passamaquoddy/Wabanaki culture is a legendary tree culture, born of trees, and sustained by trees.  Trees have
provided sustenance, helped to navigate the waters, carried and contained burdens and helped to create an economy in

Today, this tree of life according to legend, the brown ash tree, the basket tree, continues to provide sustenance in the
treasures of Passamaquoddy basketry.  The brown ash tree woodsplints provide the structure and substance of the
basketry and the treasure lies in the timeless beauty that emerges.  Traditional style basketry has a continuity, with no
apparent beginning, nor ending, as basket weavers today continue to design, create and produce stunning examples of
nature’s provisions.  The spirit of Gluscap and the basket tree lives on through the living tradition of Maine Indian
Baskets and the living culture of the Passamaquoddy people..............
Glooskap came first of all into this country, into Nova Scotia,
Maine, Canada, into the land of the Wabanaki, next to sunrise.
There were no Indians here then (only wild Indians very far to the west).
First born were the Mikumwess, the Oonabgemesuk,
the small Elves, little men, dwellers in rocks.
And in this way he made Man:  
He took his bow and arrows and shot at trees, the basket trees, the Ash.
Then Indians came out of the bark of the Ash trees.
And then the Mikumwess said......called tree man……..
Glooskap made all the animals.  He made them at first very large....
Maine Indian Baskets
Passamaquoddy Native American Brown Ash Splint Basketry

By Passamaquoddy Weaver, Deborah Gabriel Brooks