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Native Experiences: Braiding Sweetgrass

posted: , by Raminta Moore
tags: Adults | Seniors | Art & Culture

Acknowledgment is a simple way of showing respect and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture, and toward inviting and honoring the truth.

Portland Public Library would like to acknowledge that the land on which we gather is the occupied and unceded territory of the Wabanaki, the People of the place where the sun first looks our way, who have stewarded this land throughout the generations.

We extend our respect and gratitude to the many Indigenous people and their ancestors whose rich histories and vibrant communities include the Abnaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Nations and all the Native communities who have lived in Chuwabunkeag for over three thousand generations in what is now called New England and the Canadian Maritimes.

We thank them for their strength and resilience in protecting this land and aspire to uphold our responsibilities according to their example.


Title: Margaret Shay, Portland, 1923
Creator: Portland Press Herald
From the Portland Press Herald glass negative collection at Maine Historical Society

In Maine, the four remaining tribes, Maliseet, Micmac, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy are collectively known as the Wabanaki, “People of the Dawnland.” One of the main arts the Wabanaki are known for are their baskets. The knowledge of basketmaking was passed down through the generations and making baskets contributed to tribal economic security. However, due to the changing socioeconomic times (World Wars and the Depression), there was a decline in the practice in the mid twentieth century.






In 1993 the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA) was formed to help promote this tribal art. Theresa Secord (Penobscot), founding director of MIBA and basketmaker speaks about the history of Wabanaki baskets in this short video.

Traditionally these baskets have been made with ash and sweetgrass.

Cheryl Lafford (Micmac), shows Jacob Goodspeed and Brooke Moreno how to make baskets in the traditional Micmac style in 1993. This photo is from the Portland Press Herald Negative Collection at Portland Public Library.

For a thirty minute video on basketmaking with Jennifer Sapiel Neptune (Penobscot) at the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine, click here.

Today the ash is under threat by the Emerald Ash Borer and their larvae have killed millions of ash trees.

For more information on current Wabanaki arts, please click here.

George E. Morong, 116 High Street, stands with a display of hand-made baskets in a local gift shop. Morong arranged the exhibit to aid the Passamaquoddy Indians at Pleasant Point. Portland Sunday Telegram, May 14, 1950. From the Portland Press Herald Negative Collection at Portland Public Library.


One Long River of Song: November Staff Picks

posted: , by Elizabeth
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Seniors | Readers Writers

It’s November in Maine and we’re all tilting further from the sun, but no fear: the library is here for you! We have plenty of wonderful new books, audiobooks, eBooks and movies to brighten your days 

Looking for a great new novel without a zillion holds on it? Try Too Much Lip by Melissa Lukashenko or Greenwood by Michael Christie. Are you a fan of basketball and poetry? Ross Gay’s Be Holding is for you. 

Maybe making facemasks has you exploring a kinship between sewing and healing? Nina and Sonya Montenegro’s Mending Life: A Handbook for Repairing Clothes and Hearts might help along the way.

Feeling lost in the Great Indoors? Try The Ultimate Book of Scavenger Hunts: 42 Outdoor Adventures to Conquer with Your Family.

Craving a cookbook that does not require an enormous turkey? In Bibi’s Kitchen shares stories and recipes that sound perfect for fall, like wild greens with corn porridge and sweet vermicelli noodles with cardamom and butter.  

And if you’re thinking of how you want to keep making connections with each other now or in the future, one book to check out is Mia Birdsong’s How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community.

Read on for more ideas from our staff…

Cindy’s Pick 

“Dad says I’m a late bloomer.” “Maybe. Or maybe you’re blooming now, and you’re just not the kind of flower he was expecting.” ― Alex Gino, Rick  

Rick is a middle grade novel by Alex Gino.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, as I have his others.  Rick has just begun sixth grade and he is beginning to realize that he doesn’t have romantic feelings for anyone, unlike his best friend, who spends a lot of time making crude comments about girls they go to school with.   

He begins to make friends with Melissa, who sits in front of him, and was also the target of some terrible bullying by Rick’s best friend in the first novel in this series, George.  Thanks to Melissa, Rick joins the Rainbow Spectrum Club at school, “where kids of many genders and identities congregate” and begins to find his place in the world as well as making new friendships. 

It was the kind of sweet, sometimes funny and always touching coming of age story that we have come to expect from Alex Gino.   


Carrie’s Pick 

This month I would like to highlight Good Enough, by Jen Petro-Roy. Riley is an adolescent girl who believed she was never enough. Not thin enough, or popular enough, or good enough. We join Riley as she begins in-patient treatment for anorexia, a pattern of disordered eating that has left her severely malnourished, beset by brain fog, and yet still desperate to not gain weight even though she really would like to “fix” her problems. Jen Petro-Roy is an eating disorder survivor who eloquently expresses the waves of emotion and turmoil Riley experiences while beginning to manage her anorexia and learn to build a new sense of self.  

During this time of the year when so many of our celebrations are centered around food and eating together, I am reminded that for many people, and young women in particular, the act of eating can be fraught with many emotions, stigmas, and societal issues. The pressure to be thin, beautiful, popular, and everything to everyone all the time can overwhelm young people and for some can lead to dangerous control behaviors. Riley sees first-hand the damage that lying, fear, and self-doubt can inflict on a person’s life and how there is a way through. Through professional counseling and treatment, peer support, help communicating with her family, and expert dietary guidance Riley begins the journey of changing her inner monologue and learning that she is, in fact, good enough.  

During this uniquely challenging holiday season, we can all choose to be even more kind to ourselves and othersincluding not judging food choices and eating habits and thinking anew about offering more nonfood-based ways to connect with family and friends. Indeed, this year that may be the safest and best bet for all. 


Gabrielle’s Pick 

Sink into the dreamy watercolors and the spellbinding language of The Lost Spells by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. I read “The Jackdaw” out loud (“Always with the comeback, coal-black crackerjack, joker of the haystack”) to an older person whose ability to understand simple instructions is waning, but she fell under the spell of the magical words. I, too, got lost while reading this book, lost in the very best possible way, where getting lost means finding something new and wondrous. 


Alexander’s Pick 

The Iliad: A Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds 

In preparation for reading/watching some contemporary re-imaginings of classic stories, I decided to reread some things from a while back. I picked up Gareth Hinds’ graphic novel because I wanted to experience The Iliad in a new and more exciting way than just rereading the poem.  

The artwork and text work well to provide colorful characterizations and an engaging narrative structure. Hera’s angry facial expression coupled with the line “I saw you bow your head to that sea-trollop just now. What have you promised her?” perfectly encapsulate Zeus’s infidelity and tendency to meddle in human affairs. Hinds takes time to separately introduce and characterize the many humans and gods that make up this chaotic battle, no matter how minor.  

Overall, this graphic novel was a new and enjoyable way to experience the epic battle of Troy! Up next in my reading list will be Madeline Miller’s retelling of the same story: The Song of Achilles. 


 Elizabeth’s Pick 

“The rain gives me a taste for boiled sweet potatoes.” One of my favorite films that explores the inner lives of a family is The Vertical Ray of the Sun from director Trần Anh Hùng. Dramatic, sweet, funny, melancholy, meditative, it must also be one of the most lushly filmed movies of all time, set at the height of summer in Vietnam and drenched in rich greens: light through green leaves, deep green walls, shimmering green water. There’s the tale of three sisters and their family, and there’s dancing and sleeping and cooking and swimming and love and secrets. Watch it now or save it for the even darker depths of winter, when you need a dose of heat and light.   

Gail’s Pick 

When the pandemic put me at home for many months, I found myself craving baked goods, and poetry. The baked goods were not a surprise. The poetry was. But all around me, others seemed to be feeling the same. People were sending and sharing poems. At the same time, I wanted to educate myself on racism in general as well as Black History in Maine. Luckily, I found the exact right book for myself in this moment. Midden, a collection of poems by Julia Bouwsma (with a forward by poet Afaa M. Weaver), is the story an interracial community living on Malaga Island whose residents were forcibly evicted by the State of Maine in 1912. With care and reverence, Bouwsma takes a deep look at the horror of the event and the ongoing grief and trauma of its aftermath.   

Becca’s Picks 

Browsing for a good book online presents unique challenges. I can’t wait until it is safe for everyone to come into the library to browse our displays, pick up books, and read their first pages.  

Since I can’t show books off in person, here are a few of my favorite new fiction items that – as of this writing – are on the shelf and ready for your nightstand: 

Night of the Mannequins, by Stephen Graham Jones: From a master of horror, this quick read tells a tale of a teenage prank involving a mannequin that goes horribly wrong. The library also owns several of Jones’ other creeptastic tales. 

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, by Sonali Dev: Looking to start a new modern romance series? When a neurosurgeon meets an up-and-coming chef, the sparks don’t exactly fly; however, things begins to change when they unite to save a life. While this book is from 2019, the sequel (with brand-new characters) just came out this Fall. 

Payback, by Mary Gordon: The star of the reality television show Payback turns the tables to focus on a terrible event that occurred while she was in boarding school. This literary thriller may appeal to fans of Donna Tartt; it also requires a content warning for sexual assault.  

Master of Poisons, by Andrea Hairston: This year might be terrible, but it has seen a lot of wonderful epic fantasy writing. As poison moves across a desert and infects the water supply, the Master of Poisons fights to stop the spread before it’s too late. If you enjoyed The Fifth Season or Black Leopard, Red Wolf, this book is for you. 

My forever staff pick is Your Next Great Read, where staff put together recommendations unique to you. We can always help you find your next favorites, even when we can’t see your smiling faces! 

Kristi’s Picks 

I am reading One by One, by Ruth Ware right now.  It is an excellent suspense novel.  Easy to read and follow.  Also, The Lucifer Effect, by Philip Zimbardo, himself. Zimbardo conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment in the 70’s, and this is book delves deeper into our understanding of behavior. It’s amazing, and highly recommended if you enjoy asking “why?” 


Eileen’s Pick 

One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder by Brian Doyle  

You know how it is when you find somethinga salty fog that makes your hair all soft and crazy, music that makes your insides quivery, a color that exactly fits the contours of your moodsomething that whispers, “there will always be sweet surprising joy for you to find.” Well, I have recently added the essays of Brian Doyle to my cache of sweet surprising joy.  

Brian Doyle was born the same year that I was: 1956. He died in 2017, leaving behind a trove of writing that I have only started to glean.  

A posthumous compilation of essays, One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder, published just under a year ago, is my most recent foray into the wide-open heart of Mr Doyle. We start with the Section I title: That the Small is Huge, That the Tiny is Vast, That Pain is Part and Parcel of the Gift of Joy, and That This Is Love. The opening essay, “Joyas Voladoras”, takes us on a journey through the heart… the heart of a hummingbird, a blue whale, a worm and, lastly, there is the human heart, described to perfection:  

“…all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall.”  

It is a call to celebrate that inconvenient fragility and rickety-ness, I think, because this is what makes us who we are when we are most true to ourselves.  

And on and on it goes, 243 pages of heart, soul, love, sadness, exultation, breaking and mending, coming and going, marveling at what the world is made of. In David James Duncan’s introduction, he quotes Brian Doyle: ”I want to write to you like I am speaking to you. I would sing my books if I could.” Duncan accurately observes, “I say he could, and he did.”  

Doyle’s storytelling is irreverent, spiritual, funny, finely observed. He is a master of the run-on sentence, a craft that thrills me when wrought with skill and spirit. I am grateful that he was so generous with his words in a life foreshortened, and that they have come into my life. With his novels, poetry and more essays to plumb, I hope that turbulent times may be easier to traverse.  

What would we do without wordsmiths who can move us to hope? 



As ever, thank you for reading. If you’re looking for more ideas, that is our very favorite thing! We’re happy to help. Try our Your Next (Great!) Read service for kids and teens and for adults to get personalized lists of print or eBook recommendations from our staff. Our Reference staff is also available Monday-Friday, 10-4, at 871-1700 ext. 725.

Native Experiences: Veterans Day

posted: , by Raminta Moore
tags: Adults | Seniors | Art & Culture

Acknowledgment is a simple way of showing respect and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture, and toward inviting and honoring the truth.

Portland Public Library would like to acknowledge that the land on which we gather is the occupied and unceded territory of the Wabanaki, the People of the place where the sun first looks our way, who have stewarded this land throughout the generations.

We extend our respect and gratitude to the many Indigenous people and their ancestors whose rich histories and vibrant communities include the Abnaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Nations and all the Native communities who have lived in Chuwabunkeag for over three thousand generations in what is now called New England and the Canadian Maritimes.

We thank them for their strength and resilience in protecting this land and aspire to uphold our responsibilities according to their example.

State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa Meskwaki code talkers, February 1941. Top, left to right: Judie Wayne Wabaunasee, Melvin Twin, Dewey Roberts Sr., Mike Wayne Wabaunasee; Bottom: Edward Benson, Frank Jonas Sanache Sr., Willard Sanache, Dewey Youngbear. The men were assigned to the 168th Infantry, 34th Red Bull Division and were sent to North Africa, where they participated in the attacks on Italy under heavy shelling. Three of the men were captured and confined to Italian and German prison camps.


For over 200 years, Native Americans have served in the United States Armed Forces with distinction in every armed conflict, foreign and domestic. In World War I, members of the Choctaw Tribe were able to transmit messages over telephone lines in Choctaw in order to keep US troop movements secret. Again in World War II, the US Military used a tribal language in order to relay information in secret. The Navajo Code Talkers were created in order to secure communication lines between US troops. In 2001, President George W. Bush presented the remaining members of the Navajo Code Talkers the Congressional Gold Medal.

Here are some of the words they used:

Letter Navajo word English word
R GAH Rabbit

See if you can translate the following coded message:


This is the English translation:

C-O-D-E   R-E-C-E-I-V-E-D

Here’s how the message is decoded:

MOASI (C-Cat), NE-AHS-JAH (O-Owl), LHA-CHA-EH (D-Dog), DZEH (E-Elk), GAH (R-Rabbit), DZEH (E-Elk), MOASI (C-Cat), DZEH (E-Elk), TKIN (I-Ice), A-KEH-DI-GLINI (V-Victor), DZEH (E Elk), LHA-CHA-EH (D-Dog)

National Archives photo no. 127-MN-69889-B
Navajo code talkers Corporal Henry Bahe Jr. and Private First Class George H. Kirk. Bougainville, South Pacific, December 1943.

Creating Special Code Words

The Navajos, Comanches, Hopis, and others also had to develop special words for World War II military terms, such as types of planes, ships, or weapons. They were given picture charts that showed them the items. After looking at the pictures, they came up with words that seemed to fit the pictures.

Native word Literal meaning Code Meaning
tushka chipota (Choctaw) warrior soldier soldier
atsá (Navajo) eagle transport plane
paaki (Hopi) houses on water ships
wakaree´e (Comanche) turtle tank

Well, when they first got us in there for Code Talkers, we had to work that out among our own selves so, we didn’t have a word for tank. And the one said it’s like a [Comanche words] he said, it’s just like a turtle, you know. It has a hard shell and it moves and so we called it a wakaree´e, a turtle. —Charles Chibitty, Comanche Code Talker, National Museum of the American Indian interview, 2004

The relationship between the Tribal Nations and the US Military even crossed over into the naming of helicopters.

According to Katie Lange of, an unnamed Army museum official, the naming convention goes back to before the Air Force split from the Army in 1947 when Army Gen. Hamilton Howze was assigned to Army aviation. His mission was to develop doctrine and the way forward when it came to employing Army aircraft and how they would support warfighters on the ground.

According to the museum official, Howze wasn’t a fan of the names of the first two helicopters – Hoverfly and Dragonfly. So, he laid out instructions for naming the helicopters after their abilities.

Howze said since the choppers were fast and agile, they would attack enemy flanks and fade away, similar to the way the tribes on the Great Plains fought during the aforementioned American Indian Wars. He decided the next helicopter produced — the well-known H-13 of “M.A.S.H.” fame — would be called the Sioux in honor of the Native Americans who fought Army Soldiers in the Sioux Wars and defeated the 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

On this day that we honor our US Veterans, please take a moment to honor the Native American servicemen and women who have served proudly for our nation.

For a list of Native American Medal of Honor recipients, please click here.

For oral histories of our Native American Veterans, please click here.

For tips on finding military records of US Indigenous Peoples, please click here.

For a brief history of Native Peoples in service, please click here.

Photo by Alan Karchmer for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
The National Native American Veterans Memorial was developed in consultation with tribal communities throughout the United States and designed by artist Harvey Pratt, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, and Butzer Architects and Urbanism. The National Native American Veterans Memorial is located on the campus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.



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