“Erected in Memory of Joseph Orono
Catholic Indian Chief
By The Knights of Columbus 1911″

winter’s been keeping us off our bicycles, so now we
walk by this monument every morning on our way to work.  a top its
pedestal, the granite peak stands about sixteen feet high. 

we find it a disturbing monument.  it celebrates joseph orono for embracing catholicism – a religion that did so much
to damage native american peoples.  from the beginning of european
trespass in america, catholicism has contributed to colonizing, abuse and
oppression of indigenous tribes.  a catholic church was placed on indian
island in the 1600s, native youth were sent to boarding schools where they were
severely abused and told their language, spirituality and way of life was
wrong.  treacherous acts of inhumanity
were committed against indigenous people in the name of catholicism. 
columbus was no knight, he was a mass murderer.

the joseph orono monument is a phallic symbol – a
symbol that became an instrument for racist, misogynistic and pedophilic
abuses.  here the phallus takes on the form of a grave marker – it
represents destruction of chief orono’s land and people.  in this moment
of now, we want our phallus’ to be synonymous with love and gentle masculinity
– not with guns and destruction.  we do not get off on violence.  we
become erect from kindness, beauty and love.  we become high from seeing
art come from places and having music washed over our skin – spreading us out
into the atmosphere.  we don’t want to go around spilling petroleum into
the water, soil, air and red sun.  we want to go around like leaves in the
wind spreading song.

the town of orono was named after chief joseph
orono.  other than the town sign— picturing a cartoonish image of a
chief orono in headdress – making it look as though indigenous people no longer
exist in this area—the gray, out of the way monument outside the senior housing
complex -shown above- is the only marker recognizing the penobscot tribe in
town.  it’s a shame.  orono is home to the state’s
flagship university, located on marsh island.  marsh island was leased to a white farmer by the penobscots.  rather than honoring his lease, he claimed he
owned the land and sold it.  stealing it
from the tribe.  the town and university owe its existence to indigenous people and their land.

the land carries the memories of destruction and memories of the
people who endured—and survived—genocide.  whites tried to make it so that
native peoples were wiped out—vanished.  now there are only four out of
over two-dozen tribes left in the wabanaki confederacy of maine and maritime
indians—yet thankfully, indigenous people have survived the american holocaust
against all odds—and in this moment, are rejuvenating their land, traditions
and selves.   wabanaki people were born to be the caretakers of maine
lands—and we need to honor them for it.  the town of orono should showcase
and celebrate works by living wabanaki artists.  we propose that there be
riverside statues commemorating native american heroes and their
achievements.  these monuments could be
seen in town and on campus.  we are on the land of indigenous people—we
must respect its history and the people who were born here to care for it.
the river carries its dead, it carries the memory
of its dead, it carries the memories of its land that has seen heartbreaking
evil, blood and destruction, the river cradles the dead and carries them to the
sea where they are given rebirth and renewal – where they are brought back to
the river to be remembered again.  the river carries the dead, the river
carries the islands’ memories of massacre and disgrace – out to the sea to be
reborn.  the river and sea renew us this way.  the sun rises from the
river out of the valley, and from the bay deeper down, red and gold
the trees are fragile, strong and brave
elders. we look out at the ice blue river changing with us, and our legs
turn to feather and wing.  blessed by the wailing blues heart song of this
place–our eyes convert to blooms