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Nicholas N. Smith Papers

Identifier: SpC MS 1788

Scope and Contents

Collection, 1879-2019, of Nicholas N. Smith (a noted researcher of the Native American tribes in Eastern North America). Contains photographs, publications, research documents, correspondence, and newspapers (including extensive run of Mi'kmaq News) as well as DVDs, reel-to-reel tapes, and cassettes. Also includes the research pertaining to the creation of his bibliography of the Wabanaki tribes, the WABIB.


  • 1879-2019


Conditions Governing Access

Kept at Fogler Library's offsite storage facility. One week's notice required for retrieval.

Some folders restricted following consultation with Passamaquoddy Tribe representatives; contact repository for details.

Use Restrictions

Rights assessment remains the responsibility of the researcher. Copyrighted material must have the donor's permission to publish.

Biographical Note

Nicholas Neville Smith was born in Malden, Massachusetts on December 25, 1926, second son of the Rev. Dr. H. Robert and Anne (Silvester) Smith. He grew up in Newton, MA and after high school he enlisted in the US Army Air Force in 1944. He was trained for North Africa in B-32s and B-24s. He was in the first group of the American Army Air Force sent to Fürstenfeldbruck.

In 1950 Nicolas received a BA in history from the University of Maine in Orono. Later he had a fellowship at Brown University concerning the early life of Indigenous people. His specialty was the Wabanaki people of northern New England and eastern Canada. Smith taught English and history in Maine, Ohio, and New York.

Smith earned an MS in Library Science from Columbia University in 1959 while serving as school librarian in Carmel, New York. He then served as director of the Peekskill Library. In 1961 he took a position as Audiovisual Librarian in the North Country Library System in Watertown, New York. In 1965, he worked for the Plattsburgh Public Library and in 1969 became the director of the Ogdensburg Public Library until he retired in 1983. After retirement he continued his Indian Studies of the Wabanaki tribes.

When working with Tappan Adney’s linguistic papers in the 1950s (Adney was an American-Canadian artist, writer, and photographer), he met Peter L. Paul. Smith and Paul worked on Adney’s papers and Maliseet linguistics for many years. In 1963 the two made a canoe trip from Meductic on the St. John River, NB, Canada, to Indian Island, Old Town, Maine, rediscovering the Old Meductic Trail. They were the first persons in memory to do so. He and the late Peter Paul of the Maliseet Woodstock Reserve developed a plan to save history, traditions, and culture.

From 1954 to 2022, Dr. Smith published ethnohistorical research, scholarly articles, and book chapters about northeastern Indians exploring Wabanaki history, a wide diversity of Maine Indian culture and their tribes including Penobscots, Maliseets, Passamaquoddies, and Mi’kmaqs. Publications include annual Algonquian Conference Papers, Massachusetts Archaeological Society Bulletins, The Maine Archaeological Society (TMAS) Bulletins, Tobique First Nation’s newsletters, and others. He was a founding member of the Ethnomusicology Society and TMAS.

In the 1970s and 1980s Smith worked with the Cree in northern Quebec and the Anglican Church serving their communities. He researched life in their villages and bush camps and later authored a book titled Three Hundred Years in Thirty: Memoir of Transition with the Cree Indians of Lake Mistassini. He also wrote Penobscot Traditions with Little Devil Fish.

In 2007 Nick received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the University of Maine in Orono in recognition of more than 50 years of research and work with the Wabanaki. He compiled an extensive computerized bibliography called Wabib. Wabib helped many students and scholars search for information about Wabanaki tribes. The Fogler Library at the University of Maine has taken it over. Dr. Smith participated in a Whiting Foundation’s Community Engagement Grant about Sabattis Tomah, a friend of his from Indian Township, ME. This project relied on his notes and stories from his frequent visits with Sabattis Tomah in the 1950s. The significance of this project was to build community knowledge and bring Smith’s research material home to the people.

Nicholas N. Smith passed away on August 8, 2022.


30.25 linear feet (31 boxes)

Language of Materials



Papers and publications relating to Native Americans in the Northeast.


Material came in several donations, without any particular order; however, box contents and folder titles were maintained since these were arranged by the donor. Artifical series were applied by the Archivist to create an intellectual description.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Nicholas N. Smith in May 2016 with additons in July 2017 and September 2019. More accruals expected.


Boxes 1 is not available at this time.

Processing Information

Most physical processing was done by student assistants, including Maddy Brethauer, Stephanie Winslow, Grey Bowden, and Sarah Gordon.

Guide to the Nicholas N. Smith Papers
Box And Folder List Available
Sarah Gordon and staff of the Raymond H. library special collections department.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for uncoded script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Repository

5729 Raymond H. Fogler Library
University of Maine
Orono ME 04469-5729 United States