LePage action abrupt, hurtful to tribes

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The governor’s recission of the 2011 executive order that had put the state and Maine’s tribes on equal footing is disturbing.

INDIAN ISLAND — I am a Native person. I was born into the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and take an affirmed pride in my culture and my people.

I have lived in Maine for 29 years and eternally love this state. Until recently, I hadn’t shared many people’s outrage at Gov. LePage and the way he has taken to running it.

I have time and again defended the governor to people who have spoken out against him in my presence, even though I consider myself to be a very liberal-minded person after living in the Portland area for several years.

I defended him because he had done several things to help better the relations between the tribes and the state, including issuing the August 2011 executive order that states “the unique relationship between the State of Maine and the individual Tribes is a relationship between equals.”

The governor’s actions these past few days seem abrupt, like those of an angry child so quick to take away something that was given. The reasoning appears to be because he can’t handle that our nations are trying to push for conditions to be met, and our voices to be heard.

This rescission of the 2011 executive order comes at a very critical time. Maine tribes have just met with the Skowhegan school board to try to convince the people of the town to change the mascot of Skowhegan Area High School. And there’s also the ongoing fight with the Washington National Football League team.

I am proud to be who I am, but alone, without my tribe, I feel vulnerable. I grew up on the Penobscot reservation and was afraid to leave it because of the way I thought I would be treated. Off the reservation from a very young age, I have experienced a considerable amount of racism directed toward myself and my people. Luckily I am light-skinned and am able to assimilate very easily into white society.

I shouldn’t have to. As I travel, if I go to an area where there are no tribes and where people haven’t met a Native person before, if they find out that I am, almost instantly the first question they ask is “How much are you?” This may be because of my lighter skin tone, but I know many darker Natives who have received the same question.

The question isn’t “What tribe are you from?” Instead, they want to know my percentage of Native American blood. I have lived in several states, and as I travel throughout the U.S., this seems to be one of the universal reactions toward me when others realize my race.

At this point, I become a novelty for them. I am suddenly being asked questions I don’t want to answer, things that a normal person would never ask a person of color. But the sad truth is that we are not considered people.

If I travel to a place nearer to reservations I am even more reluctant to be found out, because in most cases there is a hostility toward Native people. In these areas we aren’t a novelty; we are a problem, something to be dealt with – “some thing,” not someone.

In these cases we are not people, we are a nuisance. Like with the Washington football team and many other mascots where Natives are depicted, we lose our humanity. I am so very tired of not feeling like a person, feeling like I am apart from everyone else in this nation.

Native people are uniquely treated, because for most people we either only exist in poorly informed textbooks, or as a small group that needs to be handled. It seems as though there aren’t enough of us to make an impact and have our voices heard.

In a time when people are shouting that black lives matter, we are still shoved aside and told to shut up and deal with things like the rescission of the governor’s order. When will we matter? When will we be considered someone and not some thing?

What the state of Maine needs is to avoid severing this relationship that we have finally been able build. It has taken hundreds of years to be able for us to finally be treated as we should be and only three to be taken away. I don’t think that I can express enough how hurt I feel about this entire situation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carter E. Cates of Indian Island is a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation.

Indigenous People in “Maine” are under attack by the State

The indigenous peoples who have lived in what is now called “Maine” for over 10,000 years, are under attack by the State of Maine.  The fishing rights of the Passamaquoddy and the Penobscots, and agreements recognizing the tribes as sovereign nations, are being attacked or denied by lawmakers in the Maine State Legislature, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho.  This is what genocide looks like today.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the land and waters that the tribes use for sustenance, and the foundation of their identities, is still being eyed for various types of development, and polluting discharge.  Briefly, the Passamaquoddy and the State of Maine are at loggerheads because the state refuses to acknowledge the Passamaquoddy’s inherent right to manage their ancient fisheries.  The Penobscot Nation is surrounded by threats, including: a new solid waste facility proposed by MRC to sit on a freshwater aquifer and wetland that is the source of freshwater for the Indian Island reservation, as well as the traditional hunting and fishing grounds for the tribe; the East-West Corridor that threatens to cross the Penobscot River just north of Indian Island; the Old Town Fuel and Fiber mill located South of Indian Island and sits directly on the Penobscot River, which recently requested a change in the air emissions, essentially legalizing the toxic air emissions that they are dumping into the environment; the denial of the Penobscot River as their territory; and the worn out railroad tracks that run right along the East side of the Penobscot River, carrying explosive Baaken Crude oil from North Dakota.  A train derailed last year in Mattawamkeag, miraculously spilling just a few gallons of oil.

In a multi-tiered approach, the State of Maine is refusing to acknowledge the tribes sovereignty, forcing these indigenous people to be wards of the State, which they clearly are not.  Last week, Attorney General Mills and DEP Commissioner Aho sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency for acknowledging the sovereignty of our First Nation’s people, accusing the EPA of not being consistent in its application of the Clean Water Act, and seeking clarity about jurisdiction over Maine’s waters.  There are several articles about this available:

http://bangordailynews.com/2014/07/08/politics/maine-sues-epa-over-jurisdiction-of-water-quality-standards-in-indian-territories/

http://news.mpbn.net/post/maine-sues-epa-over-water-quality-assessments-tribal-lands

http://www.law360.com/articles/555064/maine-sues-epa-over-control-of-state-s-tribal-waters

Also last week, the Maine Indian and Tribal State Commission (MITSC) released a report that found that the Maine legislature erred in passing laws on tribal fishing rights that were outside of the State’s jurisdiction.  Here is the report, and here is the article about the release.

When will the genocide of indigenous people end?  We are witnessing the genocide of people, right here, right now.  Please act, however you can!

If you are interested in becoming involved with other people who want to help, please contact the author by emailing: chris(at)defendingwater(dot)net

Perry extends moratorium on water project

Link to Original BDN Article.

By Tim Cox, BDN Staff | April 22, 2014, at 12:47 p.m. | Last modified April 22, 2014, at 4:44 p.m.

PERRY, Maine — The Perry Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday evening to extend a moratorium that temporarily blocks water exploration activities being conducted by the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point.

The proposed extension of the moratorium, put in place for 180 days last fall, did not generate any opposition or controversy.

Five people attended Monday’s public hearing that the board convened on the proposed extension, but the selectmen received no public comments, according to board chairman Karen Raye.

Since voters approved the moratorium at a special town meeting in November, a committee has been at work drafting an ordinance to regulate water exploration activities.

The committee of about 12 people has made good progress, according to Raye. “I’m hoping there is a possibility we could wrap it up in May,” she said Tuesday. If a proposed ordinance is approved by the selectmen in May, Perry citizens may be able to vote on it during the June 10 primary election, she said.

The tribe has a representative on the committee, and Raye said it also was informed of the public hearing.

The moratorium extension does not delay the tribe’s water project, she said. “I don’t think they’re really concerned about us taking a few more weeks.”

Tribe officials did not return calls seeking comment.

The action approved by the board on Monday extends the moratorium on “large scale groundwater extraction activities” for 180 days or until the town adopts an ordinance.

The original moratorium was approved by a 43-0 vote at a special town meeting Nov. 4 and took effect immediately.

The tribe, dissatisfied with the quality of water supplied by the Passamaquoddy Water District, a public utility that serves the reservation and the city of Eastport, has developed several exploratory wells in the town. In late September it conducted tests, pumping out water for 10 days in order to determine the capacity of the wells and the effect on the aquifer. Several Perry residents complained to town officials that those pump-out tests reduced the water level in their wells and tainted the quality of their water. Town officials issued a stop work order at the conclusion of the pump-out tests.

State officials received the tribe’s application for approval of wells in late February, according to Roger Crouse, director of Maine’s drinking water program at the Department of Health and Human Services. State officials sent the tribe a letter on April 16 requesting additional information, he said. Once the additional information is obtained, the permit could be approved within 30 days, according to Crouse.

The tribe is seeking approval of “at least two” wells for public water, including one back-up well, Crouse said Tuesday.

The tribe’s application is “kind of unique,” noted Crouse, because it is seeking to develop a new source of water for an existing water district.

In addition, the tribe is partnering with the federal government to pay for the project. “There’s just a lot of need for communicating and coming to a consensus for what they’re trying to do there,” said Crouse.

The tribe also would have to negotiate an agreement to sell water to the Passamaquoddy Water District.

The entire project, including building a treatment plant and installing a water line, would cost $4-5 million and take several years to complete, according to tribe officials. It would be financed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Passamaquoddy moving ahead to build Bottling Plant

DW4L was alarmed to find out that the Passamaquoddy Tribal Leaders have returned to the idea to tap one of the largest aquifers in Maine, and build a bottling plant.  Under the guise of creating jobs, the Tribe now faces even more exploitation, if they give up the rights to their water.  In addition, the proposed plant is located dangerously close to the proposed East-West highway, ensuring exploitation by the global market.

Link to TV news report: http://www.wcsh6.com/news/article/191127/2/Water-water-everywhere-job-creation-in-Washington-County

INDIAN TOWNSHIP, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A team of geologists has made a discovery that could create 150 jobs in Washington County: a 1,000 acre aquifer with 22 untapped, bubbling springs.

The aquifer is on the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s land in Indian Township.

Tribal leaders are hoping to tap into that aquifer to manufacture Passamaquoddy Blue bottled water.

Geologists with A.E. Hodsdon Engineering said the aquifer has so much water, the tribe could tap 1 million gallons a day.

“We can probably take out 10 times that amount volume,” said Al Hodsdon.

“But you couldn’t bottle that much water, that’s a lot of water,” he said.

Hodsdon has called it the “Saudi Arabia” of fresh ground water, and said test results qualify the water as “above excellent.”

Members of the tribe said they have always known about the natural resource, but never knew how much water sat below the ground.

After consulting with Hodsdon and a developer, Mike Dugay, the tribe is moving foward with plans to develop the plant and manufacture the water.

Economic development consultant Harold Claussey, Director of the Sunrise County Economic Council, has forecasted that the plant would create between 60 and 80 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs.

“This is something that we’re really hoping becomes a reality,” said Indian Township Economic Development Director Ernie Neptune.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe reports an unemployment rate of 65 percent.

“With a 60 plus unemployment rate in this area, it’s going to be a blessing,” said Neptune.

It’s the poorest part of the poorest county, where surrounding Washington County towns report unemployment rates as high as percent.

But there is a sense of cautious optimism surrounding this project.

“I think a lot of people want to see it before they believe it,” said Passamaquoddy Karen Sabattis.

In the last decade, the tribe has attempted several projects to create jobs and boost the local economy: a natural gas line terminal, a racino, and a lumber company.

All three projects failed.

But project developers, geologists, and tribal government leaders think it’s going to be different this time around.

“So you’ve got great quality, great quantities, and great opportunity for Washington County, and certainly for the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Indian Township,” said Dugay.

The tribe needs to secure $22 million in funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs before they can build the bottling plant.

If that funding comes through, the tribe hopes to have the plant up and running by 2013.

Passamaquoddy Tribe to create $25M water bottling facility, 96 full-time jobs

By Sharon Kiley Mack, Special to the BDN
Posted Nov. 24, 2011

INDIAN TOWNSHIP, Maine — The Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township has nearly completed lining up investors for a $25 million water bottling plant, a project that tribal Gov. Joseph Socabasin said will provide 96 full-time, good-paying jobs with benefits.

Socabasin discussed the project this week in the wake of the tribe’s loss at the polls in early November, which blocked plans for a tribe-owned racino in Washington County. Socabasin said the loss was a disappointment, but the tribe continues to pursue several other projects, including the bottling plant.

He said it will be the only Native American-owned water bottling company in North America and with its close proximity to the port at Eastport, may have the ability to market tribal water around the world. Tomah Water LLC, with an office in Bangor, has been created to seek investors for the project.

The water will come from a spring water aquifer on tribal land in Washington County and will be bottled and initially marketed — maybe as soon as next fall — to Native American casinos and hotel chains under those businesses’ own private labels, Socabasin said. Eventually, however, he hopes to break into the retail water market selling under the brand name Passamaquoddy Blue.

“This is very exciting for the tribe,” Socabasin said.

He said initial testing has indicated extremely high-quality water, and at least one million gallons a day can be extracted without affecting the aquifer’s recharge capacity. “There is absolutely no concern of draining the aquifer,” he said.

The aquifer is located about four miles into a forest from U.S. Route 1 just north of the center of town, near Telephone Road. Socabasin said it will be cheaper for the tribe to run a pipeline from the aquifer to the highway than build a road to the site. “This will be much less intrusive for the environment as well,” he said. A 40,000-square-foot facility will be built on Route 1.

Hydrologists and geologists, both privately hired by the tribe and from the Maine Drinking Water Program, have been on site and test pumpings have been conducted. Socabasin said a hydrologist who tested the water told him the quality was “the best water seen in the Northeast.”

Socabasin said the reservation has two freshwater aquifers. One is currently being used as the tribe’s drinking water source but the other would be used solely for bottled water production. He said there would be four bottling lines and when the facility is at its peak — in an estimated 18 months to two years — it will provide 96 full time jobs.

The primary objective of the bottling project, according to a statement online atwww.passamaquoddyblue.com, is to create a significant source of jobs on the reservation with earnings that “can stimulate local improvements for the overall well-being of tribal members well into the future.”

The tribe has nearly completed putting together the investment package, Socabasin said, and construction could begin as early as next spring.

Permits will be required from the Maine Department of Agriculture, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection — because extraction will exceed 50,000 gallons a year — and the Maine Drinking Water Program.

Roger Crouse, director of the Drinking Water Program, said recently that one of his hydrologists is already working with the tribe on the project.

Socabasin said the tribe originally hoped to begin construction of the plant this summer but that was delayed because of funding issues. He explained that the project needs to be funded through private investors and loans from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“This is because traditional banks cannot foreclose on reservation properties,” he said.

“BIA was expected (in 2011) to get $250 million for its guaranteed loan program, but that was cut by 80 percent,” Socabasin said. “We were only able to obtain $4.4 million. We are now working with several other programs and expect the full financing package to be in place soon.” He would not be more specific about how much funding is in hand or a time frame for start up.

Socabasin said the tribe will initially market the water to other Native American businesses, such as casinos and hotel chains, which have a policy of dealing first with other Native American businesses.

The chief said that will give his tribe an immediate market and access to a steady stream of bottled water drinkers. Also the tribe’s business plan states that “private label bottling currently generates in excess of $1 billion in yearly sales with growth rates exceeding traditional brands.”

Eventually the water also will be sold retail.

“But in the beginning we will not be a position to compete with companies such as Poland Spring, now owned by Nestle,” the governor said. “We expect that it will take a couple of years before we will be able to offer our own brand.”

Socabasin said the capacity of the aquifer “is huge and offers an amazing economic opportunity for the tribe.”

He said that when he was elected governor a year ago, one of his first acts was to establish an Office of Economic Development. “We had never had such an effort before,” he said. “My whole goal is not just to create jobs, but to pay a livable wage.”

link to full article: http://bangordailynews.com/2011/11/24/business/passamaquoddy-tribe-to-create-25m-water-bottling-facility-96-full-time-jobs/