The Passamaquoddy Winter Forecasters

Accurately depicting the current state of snow coverage in the St. Croix Valley is this painting from local artist Tom Brennan.

This piece was originally published in the 1938 Portsmouth Herald. 

It is republished with permission. 


People in Maine are waiting for the word of the Passamaquoddy Indians as to what sort of winter they are to have, and this prediction is promised for early next month. The ability to forecast weather conditions has been born in the blood of the Passamaquoddy Indians for generations. Maine people say there is no guesswork in the predictions of the Passamaquoddies, and the reason why they will not give out their prognostications until November is because they must have something on which to base them - it is not donae out of thin air. Folks who see a few fuzzy caterpillars hustling across the roads this fall are prone to believe that we will have a tough winter, while others observe squirrels and chipmunks nests with but a few nuts stored therein, believe just the opposite. But the Passamaquoddy Indians observe larger game than squirrels, namely the black bear, for they say that bruin in a sure indicator. If there is to be a dry winter, that is, not much snow, bears remain in the lowlands until late, but in the event of a real old-fashioned New England winter, the bear picks a nice hollow tree or a den under a big root and hibernates early. Indian hunters often see steam coming from a little round hole in the ground or huge log. That is no more nor less that the breath of the bear which is curled up inside, and the little hole acts both as ventilation and smoke stack so to speak.