Replica of Columbus Ship Sparks Controversy in Maine

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Some public tours and appearances of a tall ship in Maine have been canceled after its arrival caused an uproar with some state leaders and Native American tribes.

The Nao Santa Maria, a replica of one of the ships in Christopher Columbus' first expedition across the Atlantic, had been docked in Bucksport for the past several days.

It was supposed to be part of a four-port loop tour, organized by the Penobscot Maritime Heritage Association, a nonprofit that billed the events as part of delayed bicentennial celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the founding of Maine, though the tour is not part of official state Maine 200 celebrations.

However, for the Penobscots, the ship represented violence brought upon indigenous peoples following the arrival of European explorers and settlers in North and South America.

"Obviously, that hits a nerve with Indigenous people because of all the triggering thoughts about genocide and what Christopher Columbus stood for," Penobscot Nation Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana said during an interview with NBC affiliate News Center Maine. "If it was up to us, we'd send this ship away immediately."

"While the ship's visit is not hosted by Maine200 and the bicentennial commission is not involved in the planning for this event, 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," said Maine200 Chairman Senator Bill Diamond, in a written statement. "We are encouraging the event organizers to cancel the participation of the ship as part of their bicentennial celebration."

On Monday, tours of the ship were being offered, though subsequent tours and appearances of the Nao Santa Maria in Bangor had been canceled.

The news of the cancellation was a disappointment to some of the hundreds of visitors who made the trip to tour the ship this week.

"I think we all have a right to see the ship," said Marilyn Stevens of Oakland, Maine. "My history depends on the explorers that came over here many years ago, that's why I'm here."

Others, like Sally Tomkins of Brooksville, said they "knew about the controversy" and understood why it came about, but the reason for the visit was instead focused on the fact that her "grandchildren love boats."

Where exactly the Nao Santa Maria sails from Bucksport was not immediately clear, but it was expected to depart by mid-week.

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