by Carla Hunt
In early February 2019, Ann Donaghy and I were in the planning stages of coordinating three screenings of Dawnland for three Yarmouth, ME churches, followed by two sessions of the REACH program "Exploring Wabanaki Maine History" at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.
In the midst of that planning, Cumberland resident Harris Gleckman wrote into the REACH website expressing dismay at a memorial stone in the Pioneer Cemetery on Gilman Road and Route 88, which displayed the following words:
THE PIONEERS BURIAL GROUND
Here rest those who in the third and
permanent settlement of the town
defended it against the savage enemies,
some at the sacrifice of their lives.
Barbara Kates reached out to ask if, as Yarmouth residents, we would look into the matter. Neither Ann nor I had been to this cemetery or noticed the memorial.
We reached out to Kate Worthing, the Director of the Yarmouth Historical Society, who also knew nothing of the stone but did not have jurisdiction over the cemetery. We learned that the Town of Yarmouth was responsible for that site.
Ann picked up the phone and spoke with Nat Tupper, our town manager, who immediately understood the harm caused by the plaque. Several days later, we received an email from Nat that simply said, "The plaque has been removed."
Following up with the Yarmouth Historical Society, we learned that the plaque will go on exhibit there, furthering the actual truth-telling about the colonization of Maine.
Maria Girouard, Executive Director of REACH, commented: “I like how the plaque got removed swiftly without need for a lot of fanfare or nastiness. I believe people want to do the right thing, particularly once they are aware of the ugly history we have inherited, and that there are other perspectives. I'm glad the plaque will become an artifact to teach about truth, healing, and change at this juncture when we are trying to be in better relation with one another.”
The fact that all of this took place in the lead-up to the screenings of Dawnland was providential — a lesson for all of us in the power one voice can have in joining with others to bring change. In this case, it was remarkably quick (within one week’s time), with everyone understanding not only the need for removal but also the need for education.
For press coverage of the event, see:
Over the last year, the Yarmouth Historical Society has been closed due to water damage and then Covid. We look forward to updates about the plaque as they begin to re-open.
* * *
Carla Hunt has been active as a volunteer with Maine Wabanaki REACH since 2014. She works on the Development Committee to promote REACH programs and to further non-Native education in Maine.