Legends of the Wabanaki people tell of a mythical demigod named Gluskabe. Immortalized through the cultural traditions of the Wabanaki—from the Mi’kmaq, Abenaki, and Passamaquoddy to the Maliseet and the Penobscot—Gluskabe appears as an integral component of each tribe’s variation of the Creation Myth, as well as numerous other tales and stories. Most prominently, Gluskabe is known for his role in creating the Penobscot River and divining proportion and harmony in the natural world, using his power to reduce the size of the once-giant land animals to establish the first village, legend holds that Gluskabe retired to the southernmost portion of the land, into the sunset, awaiting the time when he would once again be called upon to restore balance to the natural world and defend his people in their hour of greatest need. So begins the story of Gluskabe and the Water Monster (sometimes referred to as the Water Famine myth). According to legend, the First People lived long the mighty Penobscot River and drew life from its cold, pristine waters, irrigating their crops, harvesting fish, and sustaining their health by the grace of its bounty. One day, the river’s mighty current slowed to a sluggish trickle, and the river’s cold, pristine waters were replaced by yellow, stinking puddles that would gather in the absence of the once mighty current. No rain or snow could replenish the river, and the First People became sick, desperate for clean water. Worried for the future of their tribe, the First People held a council and sent a man north from the village to follow the riverbed, to see if he could discover why the Great River had stopped flowing. The man set out and walked and walked until he came upon a strange and terrifying creature, who sitting in the riverbed, had halted the river’s mighty current. The man summoned his courage and asked the Water Monster to please move, so as to allow the river to flow as it once had.
Joseph G. Gousse,
Waiting for Gluskabe: An Examination of Maine's Colonialist Legacy Suffered by Native American Tribes Under the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol66/iss2/8