BUCKSPORT — After tall ships lead organizer Dick Campbell announced Friday, July 9, the full-sized replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship the Santa Maria would be canceling tours on the Penobscot River, operations continued in Bucksport throughout the weekend and drew demonstrators Saturday.

The Maine Bicentennial Commission (Maine200) said July 9 in a press release that concerns were raised by members of the public regarding the visit of the Nao Santa Maria to the Bangor area. 

The Maine200 commission distanced itself from the Penobscot Marine Heritage Association, which hosted and planned the event, saying the program was endorsed by the commission back in 2019, before any details were made available on participating ships.

Protesters at the Nao Santa Maria July 10 at the Bucksport pier. Photo Courtesy of Betsy Headley

Kristen Muszynsky, director of communications for Maine Department of the Secretary of State said the Nao Santa Maria was a last-minute change and added the Maine200 commission did not have oversight on enlisting the ship for the tour.

Maine200 Chairman Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Cumberland, said the commission was not involved in the planning for the event, and added, “…we regret that this ship was chosen for an event that is associated  with Maine’s bicentennial, as the mistreatment of Native Americans is a devastating part of Maine’s history.”  Further, the press release encouraged event

One of several posters advocating for tribal sovereignty at the pier in Bucksport July 10. Photo Courtesy of Betsy Headley

organizers to cancel participation of the ship as part of their bicentennial celebration.

According to Bangor Daily News, Campbell, a former Republican state legislator from Orrington and lead organizer of the tall ships festival put on by the Penobscot Maritime Heritage Association, said Sunday that festival organizers and officials with the replica ship decided to resume giving paid tours that morning because of public interest in the ship.

While the town of Bucksport publicized the decision to resume tours of the ship, Bangor Daily News reported the town was not involved in making the decision.  Sue Pate, publicist for Penobscot Maritime Heritage Association, indicated in an email exchange the Nao Santa Maria will be in Bucksport until Wednesday, July 14.

The Nao Santa Maria, docked at the Bucksport pier July 9. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

On Saturday, over 40 demonstrators holding signs stood along with members of the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe at the public pier in Bucksport, denouncing the ship. 

A statement posted by Maulian Dana, tribal ambassador for the Penobscot Indian Nation, read, “Celebrating the statehood of Maine cannot be done without telling the truth about the history and honoring the Indigenous People. The sailing of this ship is not an honor especially in our homeland on a river that is our relative and bears our name.” 

The ship was scheduled to depart for Bangor July 14 and to visit several other ports along the Penobscot River as part of a Maine bicentennial event. A Bangor Daily News article reported Campbell saying the ship’s previously scheduled appearances would remain canceled.

“In our interest to celebrate Maine’s maritime heritage and bring masted ships to the Penobscot basin and upriver to Bangor, we failed to appreciate the symbolic significance of bringing the replica of the Santa Maria to port,” Campbell said. “We are now much more aware of the impact having that vessel here has on those whose histories pre-date Maine statehood. We apologize to those who have been offended by our error.”

Campbell did not respond to requests for comment before this story was published.