UMF New Commons Project spotlights the importance of the canoe in Maine

  • September 20, 2019

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UMF New Commons Project spotlights the importance of the canoe in Maine 

Keynote by Dr. Lisa Brooks—Native Americans of the Wabanaki Confederacy and their waterways, Sept. 27

FARMINGTON, ME  (September 12, 2019)—What do the development of the canoe, influential essays on race and religion, powerful poetry on poverty and family and the Simpsons have in common? They are all topics to be explored this fall by the University of Maine at Farmington’s New Commons Project. 

The first topic this fall will be the importance of the development of the canoe, and how its creation, historical significance and use for everyday outdoor adventures have changed human history and the way we view the world.

The first canoes were crafted as far back as 8200 BC. Because of its lightweight design and ease of use, the canoe has played a particularly important part in transportation, exploration and trade in North America. In our region, the Abenaki, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy used canoes for travel and fishing for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers. 

The UMF New Commons events featuring the canoe are free and open to the public and will run between September 11-29:

Nina MacLaughlin, “The slow time of the hand: a writer’s life between water and wood”
MacLaughlin finds herself yearning for more tangible work, and applies in response to a Craigslist ad seeking a carpenter's assistant.
Thursday, Sept. 12, 6-7:30 p.m., Emery Community Arts Center

Nina MacLaughlin, Spoon-carving workshop (Day 2)
Participants will learn to carve a wooden spoon from blank to finished object.
Friday, Sept. 13, 11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m., Merrill Hall picnic tables 

Flagstaff Lake Canoe Trip
In this special canoe outing, co-sponsored with Experiential Education for University of Maine at Farmington students, participants will explore the beautiful waters of Historic Flagstaff Lake (a classic location for New England canoe trips). This is an all-day event and preregistration is required.
Sunday, Sept. 15, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Flagstaff Lake

Robert Kimber and Bill Roorbach: Reflections on the Canoe
Local Maine authors and canoe enthusiasts Robert Kimber and Bill Roorbach will share creative writing inspired by their canoeing experiences and adventures.
Thursday, Sept. 26, 7-8:30 p.m., Temple Town Hall, 258 Temple Road

Keynote Event: Lisa Brooks, “The River to Which I Belong: Relationships of Reciprocity and Resistance in the Waterways of Wabanaki”
Join Dr. Brooks, professor of English and American studies and chair of American studies at Amherst College, for a presentation on the historical relationship between the Native Americans of the Wabanaki Confederacy and their waterways.
Friday, Sept. 27, 11:45 a.m., Emery Community Arts Center

Alexandra Conover Bennett and Jerry Stelmok, Canoe History Overview and Paddle Demonstration
Bennett, professional canoe and snowshoeing trip leader and instructor, will first provide an on-the-water introduction to the north-woods stroke on Wilson Pond. Canoes will be available for attendees to try out the northwoods stroke themselves. Stelmok, canoe builder, artist and co-author with Rollin Thurlow of “The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide to its History, Construction, Restoration and Maintenance,” will provide an overview of canoe books and art.
Saturday, Sept. 28 2-6 p.m., Wilson Lake, Wilton.

Rollin Thurlow and Garrett Conover, CANOE Slideshow Double Feature
Join local canoe enthusiasts for multiple slideshows of canoeing experiences featuring beautiful panoramic photography. Rollin Thurlow (2 p.m) will explore the history and construction of the wood and canvas canoe here in Maine in particular, while Garret Conover's presentation, entitled "Wildwater North," at 4.p.m., focuses  on “the wildest remaining canoe trips in Maine”
Sunday, Sept. 29, 2-5:30 p.m. Emery Community Arts Center

The New Commons Project is a public humanities initiative of the University of Maine at Farmington, Maine’s public liberal arts college, in partnership with the Maine Humanities Council. It is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The project’s 12 topics so far have been submitted by people from around the state and represent some of the principles and cultural values that fascinate Maine citizens.

To learn more about the New Commons Project, or to submit a nomination for the next round of selections to be announced in 2019, visit the website at:

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Media Contact: Kristen Case, associate professor of English, 207-778-7239,


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Kristen Case

University of Maine Farmington
Farmington   ME  04938