Grand Lakers

The Downeast Lakes region has a long and rich cultural history based on the natural resources of the forests and lakes.

packbasketBasket Weaving: 

The Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians are descendants of the Native American people of Maine and western New Brunswick and have a heritage that includes ash, birch bark and sweet grass basketry.The community’s cultural vibrancy is evident by their achievements at a national level.  Passamaquoddy basket weaver Jeremy Frey won “Best in Show” at the prestigious Santa Fe Indian Arts Market in 2011. Meanwhile, weaver Molly Neptune Parker received the 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

In addition to the highly artistic basketry made by Native American craftsmen, many Mainers continue the tradition of weaving practical items in the region. Wooden pack baskets and creels are still commonly used on the waterways of Downeast Maine. Using time-tested construction techniques pack baskets are made from hand pounded, native Maine Brown Ash. White ash is used to make snowshoes, creels, and  chair bottoms.

Canoe P1000492Building

The Downeast Lakes Region is home to Grand Lake Stream Canoes.  Modelled on the 20 foot pack canoes of the 18th and 19th centuries, Grand Lakers are fitted with utilitarian square sterns on which a small engine is mounted. This design marries the unparalleled maneuverability and seaworthiness of the original model with the extended reach of an internal combustion engine. Loaded with gear and three people, the 7 inch draft of Grand Laker allows it to masterfully navigate the rocky shallows of glacial lakes where submerged erratic boulders lie in wait just inches from the surface.

Grand Lakers are highly durable crafts, with many of the original canoes still plying the Downeast Lakes.  However, local master craftsmen, still construct them from with cedar, spruce and ash gathered in the Downeast Lakes Community Forest.  Meanwhile, even older canoe building techniques are still preserved by the Passamaquoddy, who continue to build birch bark canoes.


Furniture making, carving and decorative wood burning continue to be crafts practiced in the Downeast through the long winters.


Wreath Making:

Tipping fragrant balsam firs and shaping them into wreaths and center pieces remains a late fall tradition.  Wreath making supports hundreds of Maine jobs during the holiday season and produces more than a million balsam wreaths, garlands and table centerpieces, which are dispatched through the mail to customers around the world.

Music and Stories:

Music and literature continues to thrive in the region.  Writers such as Sydney LeaJohn Ford, Wayne Curtis, Paul Doiron, and V. Paul Reynolds, regularly feature the people and scenery of the Downeast Region in their work.

VigilantP1000052 protectors of their culture, Passamaquoddy children are taught to read and write in Passamaquoddy, and take classes that highlight traditional stories and dances as well as traditional arts and crafts. Children and adults of all ethnic backgrounds regularly enjoy traditional Passamaquoddy stories and dances through the Abbe Museum, Indian Township Dawn Land Ceremonial Days, and other cultural events.


Traditional American folk music and dancing  continues to be a common pastime and is supported by both local musicians as well as traditional instrument makersIMG_1139 - web

Folk Art

Leatherworking, spinning, jewelry making, quilting, fly tying, felting,bamboo fly rod construction, and painting are among the countless occupations Downeasters engage in during the colder months. The myriad of folkarts are showcased in the annual Grand Lake Stream Folk Art Festival.