To the Editor:
Do you know the how Maine became multicultural? It all began in the 1500’s when traders from Europe and the multinational colony that was established on Newfoundland in 1520 started building trade relations. We know from ship’s logs and diary entries that cultural exchange began immediately.
The French say my earliest recorded ancestor, Sachem Membertou of the Mi’kmaq, had adopted a number of their customs even before he agreed to help them establish a permanent colony in 1604 when he found them in dire straits on Saint Croix Island. He claimed to have met Jacques Cartier in 1534, sailed a European Shallop, spoke some French, and agreed to adopt their king’s name and religion to demonstrate his commitment as he helped them establish a permanent presence in the years that followed.
It’s difficult to say how many such relationships existed. I know the Mi’kmaq and Penobscot maintained a few because I’m the product of the earliest marriages that brought French and Indigenous couples together as they grew. But I also know those relations soured as later arrivals from Europe sought to boost their status in the colonies by emphasizing their ‘purity’.
Regardless, we’ve been multicultural since at least the 1600’s. The purists never could change that.