For thousands of years, the Penobscots have relied on the rivers of Maine for food, drinking water, transportation, and many other facets of their culture.

Like Lynne Cherry’s book A River Ran Wild, which provided inspiration for this unit, each lesson examines a phase in the history of the river. Although the unit focuses on the Penobscot River, the heart of Penobscot culture, it can be adapted for any river in Maine.


Lessons: Eras of a River

Creation of the Penobscot River: the Penobscot perspective 
Penobscot settlements along the landscape 
Village life in the settlements 
European culture and the landscape 
European settlements along the landscape 
The Industrial Revolution and its effects on the river 
Pollution and clean up of the river. 
The future of the river. 
Cover design and wrap up.  


The Penobscot Nation Cultural and Historic Preservation Department developed downloadable PowerPoint presentations for each lesson. They can stand alone or be used with other units and other curriculum. For instance, parts of the River unit can be integrated into third grade studies of local communities, fourth grade Maine studies or regions of Maine curriculum, or 7th or 9th grade world geography courses.

The River can also be the basis of a year-long unit in which all lessons about mapping a community, biome studies, and studies of local history and industry are related back to the Penobscot or other rivers.


July 21, 1857

Author and Transendentalist Henry David Thoreau comes to Indian Island and hires Joe Polis for a journey to Moosehead Lake, the West Branch of Penobscot, the Allagash, East Branch of Penobscot, and then back down the main branch of the Penobscot River.