A Bangor event featuring a replica of one of the ships used by Christopher Columbus to cross the Atlantic Ocean has been canceled after organizers said they received pushback from people who expressed discomfort with the ship and its association with the controversial explorer.

The Nao Santa Maria, a replica of Columbus’ Santa Maria ship, was scheduled to be in Bangor from July 15-17 for the 4-Port Loop, a project put together by several communities in conjunction with the Penobscot Maritime Heritage Association to commemorate Maine’s bicentennial anniversary.

Dick Campbell, president of the association, said the visit was canceled because of pushback the organization was getting from people who were uncomfortable with the Santa Maria. Campbell said several people had called the association to express “discomfort” due to the ship’s association with Columbus.

He declined to elaborate on the concerns, saying he didn’t want to repeat why people said they were uncomfortable. “It wasn’t nice,” Campbell said. “The language that was used was not appropriate to be repeated.”

The Nao Santa Maria is a replica of one of the three ships Columbus sailed on to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Spain to the Americas in 1492. The ship, which is owned by a Spanish nonprofit, is currently docked in Bucksport.

Its visit comes as Maine has moved away from honoring Columbus and as he has become an increasingly controversial figure. In 2019, Gov. Janet Mills signed a law replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in recognition of the fact Columbus never actually set foot in America and he committed atrocities against the native people in the Caribbean islands on which he did land. At least 13 other states have also adopted Indigenous Peoples Day instead of or in addition to Columbus Day.

Over the last few days several people have commented on the maritime heritage association’s Facebook page criticizing the bicentennial event for its featuring of the replica ship. “This event is so disrespectful to history, to Penobscot people who have lived on the river for over 10,000 years, and to all of us who care about justice,” wrote one commenter.

“Words fail at the gross disrespect you are showing the Penobscot Nation by sailing a Columbus replica vessel up the Penobscot River,” wrote another.

A message left at the Penobscot Nation chief’s office was not returned Saturday night. In a statement to News Center Maine, the Penobscot Nation said it was disappointed and disheartened to see a replica of a ship sailed by Columbus used to celebrate the heritage and statehood of Maine.

“While offensive in numerous ways as well as historically inaccurate it is also deeply harmful to the Wabanaki Nations as well as the descendants of all Indigenous Nations who live in the lands and waters that our ancestors have been stewards of since time immemorial,” the statement read in part. “Maine has existed for 200 years. Our people have been here for at least 12,000 years.”

In a Facebook post Friday, the Maine Bicentennial Commission said it was made aware of concerns raised by members of the public regarding the visit of the Nao Santa Maria to the Bangor area. The 4-Port Loop event is not funded or organized by the commission, though it was endorsed by the commission in 2019, along with other bicentennial events and programs, before the commission had any details on the ships that would be participating, the post said.

“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’s chairman, Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, in the statement on Facebook. “We are encouraging the event organizers to cancel the participation of the ship as part of their bicentennial celebration.”

The 4-Port Loop is scheduled to run through July 24 with bicentennial events in several communities in the lower Penobscot River basin, including Bucksport, Orrington and Searsport. Only Bangor was scheduled to host tours of the Nao Santa Maria, according to an online schedule of events. Campbell said bicentennial events in other communities will still take place.

Comments are not available on this story.