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Program 11: The Penobscot Expedition and The Revolution

The Castine Loyalists :  Hugh Akagi Interview Excerpts

Hugh Akagi Interview ExcerptsHugh Akagi

Q: How did the Castine Loyalists end up in St. Andrews?

Akagi: When the Loyalists were driven out of the states and being shipped back to Britain one of the captains decided he wasn’t going to make it through the rough seas so he decided to ask the Passamaquoddy who were living here at the time in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, if they could lease some land where they could build some huts and put in the winter. So the Passamaquoddy agreed to this for the price of 25 pounds. And the story is that the 25 pounds was never received and the Loyalists never left. And that’s why St. Andrews is a Loyalist town to this day.

With the arrival of the Loyalists they needed land. And one of the ways to acquire land of course—well the only way to require land—was to dispossess the people who were here and the people who were here were the Passamaquoddys. So a lot of things started to happen. Basically a lot of it was encroachment. But grants started appearing all over the place where Loyalists were given chunks of land including chunks of land that Passamaquoddy were living on. It’s pretty well documented in the Indian Affair archives that the Loyalists sort of had a field day in the area.

And I have a bit of a theory of my own because at the time there was quite a debate as to where the border was going to be between the United States and Canada because as you know part of the battle between Britain and the U.S. was to settle the border. The border commission sort of bounced back and forth between what is now known as the St. Croix River. At the time, it was at Schoodic, a river to the east, which is in what is now St. George, New Brunswick and Macadavic. And to settle this, one of the things that was done was bringing the Loyalists into Canada and putting them along the edge of the St. Croix River, thus the British secured the boundary for Canada in a more westerly direction. In other words, they gained a large chunk of land, Passamaquoddy territory by the way, by bringing Loyalists and settling in that area.

The other thing they did was they solved a lot of the Indian problem because they were displacing more people at the time and the records show quite clearly that when you have that influx of people then all of a sudden the people who were supported by the streams, by the salmon, by the source all of a sudden these resources are supporting basically another people. 

So when the Loyalists took over the territory they also took over the resources. And this is something that really impacted the Passamaquoddy because they are now displaced from a main food source, rivers. The area here is right on the ocean. So traditionally the Passamaquoddy were known for living off fish and seafood and now are being driven perhaps in land or definitely beyond the resources that they lived off for centuries. That’s a pretty heavy impact when you consider these people not only came, but they never left. So the Passamaquoddy have never really been able to regain that access to their territory.

And then they ended up, the biggest part of the tribe ended up with a reserve in Maine. So it was all happening within a few years and the documentation is pretty clear again. That there were specific incidents that caused these shifts in the timeline, if you will, when the Loyalists became very numerous, powerful, strong in this territory. They did things such as destroy a cross on this very land, which is very sacred to the Passamaquoddy. And that seemed to be a major turning point in our occupation of our territory here. And at that point the Passamaquoddy just seemed to have disappeared in large numbers, again to Indian Island. But it was all happening within a matter of years.

Q: What was the impact on the Passamaquoddy?

Akagi: The impact of what happened back then is still here today. A lot of it is because over the years the Loyalists have pretty well written their history over ours and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of room here for us at times. I like to think that somehow we can change this. I’d like to think that we can look back and say, well first of all these people have been here for thousands of years. Our history here is recorded pretty well through the archeologists as being thousands of years old. I’d like to think that the 400-year-old history since contact if you will, is actually a small part of what’s going on in our territory.

And the Loyalists you know they’ve been around for a couple hundred years. I know also they have a very rich history of their own and they’re very proud of it. I would like to think that they would be understanding of why the Passamaquoddy would be very proud of their history too. I’d also like them to understand that they were displaced in their territory. They were driven out and why would they come here and drive us out? That’s not a nice thing to do. So is there some way they can find room for us to live and exist because we’re here. We’ve never gone away. So if they could find some way to understand that we suffered the same fate. Our impact perhaps is more devastating then theirs. We’re being told we can’t exist in our own territory. We’re being told we have no right to our resources. We’re being told a lot of things and meanwhile they have become stronger. They have access to all these things. They’ve done quite well from our resources and our territory. And I believe they probably did get help when they first came. And I’d like to think that maybe someone would like to help us.

Q: Why did the Loyalists settle here?

Akagi: If you look out the windows when it’s nice and bright and sunny, when the sun comes up over the islands it’s a beautiful spot. It’s not just a beautiful spot, but the resources here are awesome. We have some of the richest fishing territory you can find.



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