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Renaming the Royal River First Falls as Pumgustuck

Wabanaki residents of Yarmouth and their allies in town (including members of YCARE and the Royal River Conservation Trust) recently sent a request to the Town Council asking them to initiate a United States Geological Survey (USGS) naming process for the first falls on the Royal River to Pumgustuck. The first falls can be viewed from Grist Mill Park where Main Street meets Route 88 (see map below). The hope is that the Town Council will use the opportunity for education on Yarmouth's rich Wabanaki history, to amplify the place justice work of others to date, and to embrace Yarmouth's many Wabanaki residents living and thriving today as leaders. Learn more in the letter below and contact us to become involved!

June 29, 2023 letter to:

David Craig, Chair Members, Town Council Town of Yarmouth, Maine

Re: Pumgustuck, Request USGS Place Naming Petition by Town Dear Council Chair Craig and Members of the Town Council:

The Wabanaki place name Pumgustuck translates as “falls goes out place.” It describes the place where the river falls to the estuary and then toward the bay. The falls goes out place is where paddlers would begin or end a portage, where fish and bears would be plentiful.

In 2015, the place name Pumgustuck was recognized and celebrated by the Penobscot Nation’s Penobscot Cultural & Historic Preservation Department in its published Map and Gazeteer as one of the few remembered place names in this region.

While Pumgustuck has been the clear name through all of recorded history, today the falls have no formal name under local, county, state, or federal protocol. From a non-native governmental perspective the falls are only known informally as First Falls, Grist Mill Falls, Lower Falls, or Pumgustuck.

Wabanaki Yarmouth residents and their town allies have come together to seek exposure and acknowledgment on this land and cultural issue in opposition to historical genocide, colonization, and cultural erasure, while recognizing indigenous Wabanaki names for certain places. We ask our neighbors to stand with us in this seemingly small change which will help visitors align their intentions with the land, respect the land and its first inhabitants, and acknowledge the pain of oppression that we now work to repair. We hope to instill hope and positivity in the efforts of working together, and look forward to living together respectfully and aware. We write urging the Yarmouth Town Council to initiate a naming process, to name Pumgustuck, and for the Town of Yarmouth to accordingly petition the Domestic Names Committee of the United States Board on Geographic Names, part of the United States Geological Survey of the United States Department of the Interior.


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