July 21, 2024

In 2021, by an act of humanism, solidarity, and reparation, the Passamaquoddy tribe has been reunited with 140 acres of their unceded Ancestral territory – part of the largest island in Kci Monosakom, (Big Lake) Maine. To the Passamaquoddy people, it’s more than land return; it is the return of a stolen family member. In this short film, we join Passamaquoddy community members who are finally able to reunite with their non-human Relative.

Originally known as Kuwesuwi Monihq (Pine Island), and renamed “White’s Island” by settlers, this place has deep historical and cultural significance to the Passamaquoddy community.

The island was included as part of the Tribe’s Modahkomikuk (Indian Township) reservation in the 1794 Treaty with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. Despite treaty agreements, Kuwesuwi Monihq, or Pine Island, was stolen from the people at some point during the mid-1800s and renamed White’s Island. In fact, it seems to have been stolen by renaming it…once it became White’s Island on the map, it no longer matched the language of the 1794 treaty, which identifies Pine Island as protected, reserved land. The island fell out of Tribal stewardship quietly as colonizers bought up parcels. Once the island was considered privately owned, the Passamaquoddy people were denied access.

Land dispossession is a barrier to Wabanaki people who are practicing their culture and connecting with their homelands. As Tribal Nations, we are endowed with the Sacred responsibility to protect the lands we come from. In return, these lands protect us. This understanding is at the heart of the #LandBack movement, which has taken off across Turtle Island. Passamaquoddy people can now visit Kuwesuwi Monihq safely, enjoy their kinship connection to the island, and know that they will not be asked to leave.

In efforts to heal the Earth and the damaged relationship between Indigenous & colonizing peoples, the #LandBack movement has already seen the return of millions of acres to tribes. For the Passamaquoddy, the return of their relative, Kuwesuwi Monihq, will help them fulfill those Sacred responsibilities and heal along with the land & water. All our Relations. P’site Elakumukik. #IsLandBack

A Sunlight Media Collective production

Filmed by Dawn Neptune Adams, Nolan Altvater, & Bryan Wentzell Facebook live video courtesy of Dwayne Tomah

Produced by Dawn Neptune Adams & Meredith DeFrancesco

Edited by Joanna Weaver

Written by Mali Obomsawin

Narrated by Dawn Neptune Adams

Production Assistants: Sierra Henries, Mali Obomsawin, Lokotah Sanborn, Annette Sockabasin

Graphic Design by Lokotah Sanborn Historical & Cultural Advisor: Donald Soctomah

Passamaquoddy Language Advisor Dwayne Tomah

Photographs courtesy of Donald Soctomah, Matthew Dana II, Dawn Neptune Adams, Natalie Dana Lolar, Brenda Dana Lozada, the Passamaquoddy Cultural & Historical Preservation Dept, and The Nature Conservancy in Maine. Painting of Joan Dana & Blanche Sockabasin, and painting of Passamaquoddy in canoe by Martin Dana, son of Joan Dana.

Music from Peskotomuhkati Petakihik (Passamaquoddy Thunder) Honoring the Family in Songs, by permission of Donald Soctomah. Qey-wa-neh-hu (Greeting Song) sung by Wayne Newell & Blanche Sockabasin. Koselomol Neqtelakutulticik (Love Of The Family) sung by Blanche Sockabasin. Esunomawotultine (Let’s Trade) sung by Dwayne Tomah

Map courtesy of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. Images of 1794-75 Treaty between the Passamaquoddy Tribe & the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are from Digital Maine Repository (contributed by Maine State Archives) and are in the public domain. Exterior of Abbe Museum recorded by Joanna Weaver for the Abbe Museum in 2014.

Special thanks to pilot Bryan Wentzell, and advisors Corey Hinton & Esther Anne.


Wayne A. Newell, Ed.M. Passamaquoddy Tribal Elder, Teacher, Consultant

Chris Newell, Passamaquoddy Tribal Member, Executive Director of Abbe Museum

Dwayne Tomah, Passamaquoddy Language Keeper

Donald Soctomah, Passamaquoddy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer

Natalie Dana Lolar, Passamaquoddy & Penobscot Tribal Member, Bear Clan, Granddaughter of Joan Dana.

Brenda Dana Lozada, Passamaquoddy Tribal Member, School Teacher, Bear Clan, Daughter of Joan Dana

Annette Sockabasin, Passamaquoddy Elder & Language Keeper

William J. Nicholas Sr, Chief of Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkomikuk