Wescustogo Treks

Royal River Conservation Trust is pleased to host a series of three Wabanaki-led treks, intended for indigenous and non-indigenous people alike, designed to explore and acknowledge the rich history of Native American culture along the Royal River (Wescustogo) and in Maine as a whole.

Each trek is led by RRCT Native American Intern Natalie Waloven (pictured), along with Maine Master Naturalist Polly Haight Frawley.

Wescustogo is a term of Wabanaki tribes for what we now call the Royal River. The Wabanaki and their predecessors lived in this area for thousands of years, before colonization. Wescustogo, perhaps meaning “muddy-” and “channeled-” or “gullied river” might refer only to the mouth of the river (the estuary), or might refer to the entire river. Rivers continue today to have profound cultural significance for the Wabanaki.

Qey, ntoliwis Mahqan naka Wolastoqew nil Neqotkukew. Hello, my name is Natalie, or Mahqan, and I am a Maliseet Native American of Tobique First Nation. While the Maliseets did not historically live in this region of Maine, they were part of the Wabanaki Confederacy, which included the people of this area. I am a lifelong Yarmouth resident, now in my senior year at Yarmouth High School. I am passionate about recognizing the indigenous heritage of this land. It is my belief that if we cannot change a gruesome past, we must at least recognize and educate ourselves on it. In this same way, we must acknowledge the present issues, which often are under-represented.

“I prefer to be known as indigenous, Native American, Maliseet, or Wolastoqew, in range of specificity. When I was born, my grandmother gave me the spirit name of Mahqan, meaning sweet like maple syrup.”

Polly Haight Frawley’s focus on Wabanaki ethnobotany includes identification of plants and trees, and an awareness of how Wabanaki peoples use the plants and trees for tea, poultice, and other purposes.

Maine Audubon provides mentorship and coaching for this series of events.

Trek #1 of 3: April at Pineland Public Reserve Land in Gray. A great event. Thank you to those who showed up to learn and lead!

Trek #2 of 3: May at Spear Farm Estuary Preserve in Yarmouth. Another great event. Thank you to those who attended.

Note additional RRCT events on the river in May, many related to planned dam removal, including our Wescustogo paddling trip.

Trek #3 of 3: June 22, 2024 (Saturday) at 10:00 at RRCT’s planned new River Elf Trail on the Wescustogo (Royal River) in New Gloucester, near the Auburn city line. In April 2024 RRCT acquired a “forever farm” agricultural conservation easement which includes the right to build a loop trail to a section of the river. The trail and its planned trailhead parking area has not yet been built, so our trek will be off-trail through farm fields and mature oak forests, parking on road shoulders. The total trek will be 1.5 miles (off-trail).

Because the trail has not yet been built, we are not yet widely promoting the location of the planned trail. We will send driving directions and property maps to those who register for this event. Until the trail is built, there is no public access to this newly conserved property.

This document describes the mythology of river elves in Wabanaki culture. Later in 2024 and in future years, RRCT will be expanding educational and interpretive content based on decision to name this new trail “River Elf.”