Bangor Daily News - Tuesday, April 6, 2004
By Diana Graettinger, Of the NEWS Staff e-mail Diana

Flotilla of ships among St. Croix events

ST. STEPHEN, New Brunswick - A flotilla of naval ships, re-enactment of "first contact," and plenty of music and storytelling will be part of an intensive nine days of activities celebrating the French landing on St. Croix Island 400 years ago, organizers said Monday.The committee coordinating events on both sides of the Maine-New Brunswick border said the events will be concentrated between June 25 and July 4.

The activities will commemorate the brief settlement of St. Croix Island by about 70 French explorers led by Sieur de Mons and Samuel de Champlain in 1604.

"It is a story of courage. It is a story about people who came from very far away," Hermenegilde Chiasson, the lieutenant governor of New Brunswick, said during a news conference unveiling the schedule Monday.

The settlement predated English colonies at Jamestown, Va., (1607) and Plymouth, Mass. (1620).

Beginning on the evening of Friday, June 25, in Calais, events will run nearly all day and into the evenings through the next nine days, culminating on the U.S. side with Eastport's Fourth of July celebrations.

Ships from Canadian forces and the U.S. Navy are expected to be on hand the weekend of June 26-27.

A re-enactment of the first contact between Europeans and tribal groups will be presented at St. Andrews Indian Point on June 26.

Musicians will range from La Famille Arsenault, a 13-member Acadian family of performers, to Jacobus et Maleco, a hip-hop group from Nova Scotia.

It has been nearly five years since the St. Croix 2004 Coordinating Committee was established. The committee is made up of representatives from New Brunswick and Maine.

Former St. Stephen Mayor E. Allan Gillmor, co-chairman of the coordinating committee, said that although events would be going on in communities throughout Atlantic Canada and Maine, area residents could lay claim to the fact that "it all started here - Nos premiers debuts."

Former Maine state Sen. Judy Paradis of Frenchville, who is the honorary U.S. patron of the coordinating committee, said she was pleased that some roads between Aroostook and Washington counties had been upgraded because many Aroostook County residents who have ties to France plan to attend the festivities.

Although the settlers landed with a mandate from the French king to explore the New World, a devastating winter forced them to abandon the island the next year after more than half of them died. It was the Passamaquoddy Indians who provided medicine and fresh food for the expedition to Port Royal, Nova Scotia, where French established a second settlement.

Former state tribal representative Donald Soctomah said Monday he hopes the help the Passamaquoddy provided 400 years ago would translate into international recognition for the tribe.

"This is a very important time for my people because it was a meeting of two worlds, the exchange of cultures. It was a meeting that really set the stage for the future of French and Native Americans across North America," he said.

Now, nearly 300 Passamaquoddy who live in Canada want to be recognized by the Canadian government as the Schoodic Band of Passamaquoddy First Nations.

Several years ago they laid claim to land in St. Andrews and much of New Brunswick. For the most part, the Canadian government has ignored their claim.

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