Escalation in Penbscot River Battle: ACT NOW

flotilla 5-23-15Defending Water for Life in Maine and Stop the East-West Corridor are fully committed to supporting the Penobscot Nation in their fight to maintain their River.  Below is an urgent update and call to action from Penobscot historian, activist, and founder of Dawnland Environment Defense, Maria Girouard:

From: Maria Girouard <sacredhomelands(at)gmail(dot)com>

Date: Mon, Sep 7, 2015 at 8:15 AM 

Dear Friends and Allies of the Penobscot River,
Last week, Maine Governor Lepage escalated the river dispute between Penobscot Nation and state government by calling on our elected officials in Washington to “intervene” (…interfere…) in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts to protect Penobscot fishing rights and ensure a clean, healthy river for all. (letter attached)
I’m sharing an essay (also attached) so you can decide whether Lepage is acting on your behalf.  For those who feel compelled to help Penobscots and the beautiful River we all love, addresses for our Washington delegates are provided below.  I encourage you all to raise your voices. They heard from Lepage, now they should hear from the People.   And if you’d like to send words of appreciation or a thank you note along to the Environmental Protection Agency for protecting the health of the Penobscot River, that address is provided below as well. 🙂   Please feel free to share this communication far and wide to help sound the alarm about the looming threat of industrialization and accompanying territorial theft at the hands of state government.  There is a quote attributed to Elie Wiesel: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  I implore you to please do something…. for the Water, for the Grandchildren.
Kci Woliwoni (“Great thanks”)
Senator Susan M. Collins
413 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Angus S. King
133 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D 20510
Congressman Bruce L. Poliquin
426 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Congresswoman Rochelle M. Pingree
2162 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 201515
To send words of appreciation or a thank you note along to the Environmental Protection Agency for protecting the health of the Penobscot River:
Mr. H. Curtis Spalding
Regional Administrator
USEPA REGION 1 – New England
5 Post Office Square
Mail Code: ORA
Boston, MA 02109-3912
A million thanks to you for caring!  ><)),>  ~ ~ ><)),>  ~~ ><)),>
Due to file size constraints the File Attachments mentioned are archived at:
0831 Governor Letter to Senators and Congressmen  ‘Clean Water Act’
Escalation of an Age-Old Conflict Update from the trenches

Maine Voices: State should drop lawsuit that would grab river from Penobscot Nation

The Penobscots are an ancient river-based people. Taking away their waterway is cultural theft.

FRYEBURG — In 2012, then-Attorney General William Schneider, on behalf of the state of Maine, initiated a dubious claim against the Penobscot Nation, challenging their rights to the river water on their reservation. The Penobscot were left no choice but to defend their territory through legal channels.

Schneider’s successor, Janet Mills, is continuing the litigation process with the backing of powerful corporate interests, along with the support of some municipalities where these corporations are based. The lawsuit’s intent is clear: to rescind the Penobscots’ inherent rights to the river that bears their name.

The Penobscot people are an ancient riverine culture that has lived in synergy with the river for thousands of years before the disruption of European encroachment. Like other indigenous peoples of the Americas who have been subjected to genocide and conquest, the heritage and culture of the native peoples of Maine need protection and respect, not continued assault.

The Penobscot should be able to live in peace and safety after enduring the multigenerational traumas inflicted upon them. Why are we engaged in such a battle involving our own Maine peoples? Why is the state poised to seize part of the Penobscot reservation, which has always included the river, using our tax dollars?

Attorney General Mills has an opportunity in this case to champion the rights of Maine’s indigenous people. History informs us that the Penobscot territory has been reduced to its current boundaries and negotiated by the state for 195 years.

Their territory was purportedly legally protected: first in 1775, through a resolve passed by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress (Maine was part of Massachusetts until 1820); again through the 1796 Treaty with Massachusetts, and, finally, again through the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980.

Then-Attorney General James T. Tierney cited the Indian Claims Settlement Act in 1988, when he issued an opinion that the Penobscot reservation included the water of the Penobscot River and that the tribe was entitled to take fish within the reservation boundaries as long as the fish were used for individual sustenance. It would be in the state’s best interest for Mills to issue an opinion that aligned with Tierney’s, if solely for the purpose of achieving truth and reconciliation.

The state cannot succeed alone in this lawsuit; it must have accomplices. I understand that Bruce Bourque, a senior lecturer in the anthropology department at Bates College, is serving as the state’s expert witness against the Penobscot Nation in the theft of their ancestral river. His deposition aids and emboldens the state in its attempts of another breach of treaty, to further lay claim that the Penobscot have no rights to the river.

Bourque has stirred controversy among his fellow anthropologists and local historians with his “thousand-year theory.” Essentially rewriting Native American history, Bourque hypothesizes that the “red paint people” are a lost tribe that existed thousands of years ago and mysteriously vanished, and that the Penobscot and other tribes of the Wabanaki Confederation (which also includes the Abenaki, Maliseet, Mikmaq and Passamaquoddy peoples) are relatively recent arrivals to the region.

Bourque’s theory puts his own self-interests in sharp focus as it allows the Maine State Museum – where he is curator – to hold on to any artifacts, bones or other relics that are over a thousand years old, on the grounds that they belong to some mysterious, vanished race rather than to Maine’s native tribes.

This is one example of continued oppression that the Wabanaki face. Actions such as this occur as part of a long continuum in the erasure of their inherent rights and cultural narrative, a history and culture that remain under threat of continued ethnocide and colonization. Bourque’s interests appear to be aligned with his position in the state government and not in the preservation and dignity of native peoples.

While Bourque’s actions raise serious questions regarding academic integrity, of greater concern is the willingness of the Maine Attorney General’s Office to use such revisionist history to advance their corporate-backed assault on the heritage, identity, dignity and human rights of our state’s indigenous peoples. Such institutionalized racism has no place in Maine’s reputable state institutions.

I ask others to question the Maine attorney general’s case against the Penobscot and critically examine Bruce Bourque’s conflict of interests. We can all learn from this example of harmful and unnecessary cultural conflict. As citizens, we have a duty and a right to speak out against this lawsuit and the state government’s insistence on instigating this conflict with our tax dollars.

— Special to the Press Herald


Nickie Sekera is a resident of Fryeburg.

EPA Decision: Maine Water Quality Standards Inadequate for Tribal Waters

Link to Original Article and Radio Program

  FEB 5, 2015 | Maine Public Broadcasting Network

Download audio file: 

      1. 02052015spsmix.mp3

AUGUSTA, Maine – In a decision that is being welcomed as “historic” by Maine Indian tribes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked the state of Maine to revise some water quality standards for tribal waters.

The decision comes during ongoing litigation brought by the state against the EPA. Maine’s chief of environmental protection says it could have far-reaching consequences for discharge license holders.

In a communique to Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patty Aho this week, EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding delivered the news:  that federal regulators disapprove of some state water quality standards established by Maine more than a decade ago.

Aho says she was stunned by the announcement that the standards could not be used on tribal waters because they’re not protective enough of human health, and of the tribes’ sustenance fishing practices.

“It is, in some cases, work that we thought had been approved and had been in place for many, many years,” Aho says. “So it is just simply, as I stated, breathtaking in the scope and the sweep.”

Breathtaking in its scope, Aho says, because of its wide implications for sewer districts, paper companies and other discharge licensees.  She says the EPA has not defined what it means by waters in Indian territory.  Nor, she says, has the agency indicated how it wants the state to revise the standards and on what scientific  basis.

“It’s asking us to redo something, but not telling us to what standards,” she says. “They’re not telling us which waters in the state, or what parts of those waters, we are to redo these standards.”

“We’re talking only about the waters within tribal reservations and trust lands,” says Ken Moraff. “We’re not talking about the waters upstream or downstream, although there could possibly be an effect on upstream dischargers.”

Moraff is the director of the Office of Ecosystem Protection for EPA. He says existing permit holders will not be affected by the decision. But when new water quality standards are adopted in the future, any new or re-issued permits would have to meet the new standards, which have yet to be established.

Moraff says the decision is significant from the EPA’s point of view, too. That’s because this is the first time the EPA has determined that state standards are inadequate for uses in tribal waters, including sustenance fishing.

Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Indian Nation couldn’t be happier.

“For the first time ever, what the EPA has said is that tribal subsistence and sustenance-based rights are a determinant factor under the Clean Water Act,” Francis says. “So you have to acknowledge those differences while setting your standards within Indian territory. You have to respect those practices. You have to respect the human health issues and the cultural identity of the tribes within those areas where the standards are being set.”

As part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by the state against the EPA over jurisdiction to set water quality standards, the EPA has concluded that the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, which extinguished certain tribal rights, allows the state authority to set water quality standards in tribal waters.

But Matt Manahan, an attorney representing discharge license holders along the Penobscot River, says what the EPA is also doing is setting up a two-tiered system for the tribe.

“What this is saying is, notwithstanding the fact that the Settlement Act treats them just like any other citizens of the state, we’re going to carve them out and say because they would like to have standards that are more stringent than the standards that apply to everyone else in the state, even though the science doesn’t support that, we’re going to basically carve that out and give them special treatment for purposes of water quality standards,” Manahan says.

The EPA has given the state 90 days to establish new standards for tribal waters. Commissioner Aho says she’s working with the Attorney General’s Office to determine a response.