Rally for the Penobscot River and Wabanaki Sovereignty

We have rescheduled the rally for August 1st! Please join us and invite as many friends/family as you possibly can! We need a big crowd of folks there showing support and solidarity for Wabanaki people during this time of ongoing struggle and threats to our sovereignty!

Join members of the Penobscot Nation in solidarity for our River rights which have been under attack by the State of Maine. This month, the Federal Court of Appeals again sided with the State’s assertion that the Penobscot River running through Penobscot land is not part of Penobscot territory.

The Penobscot People have lived along the Penobscot River since time immemorial. The River is our relative, one who has granted us with the gift of life and the ability to thrive. We have always been protectors of the River, she is where we derive our namesake as a people. We are just as much a part of the river as the river is a part of us. Historically the Penobscot River has been our main source for transportation and sustenance, things that have been rendered near impossible with the construction of dams along the waterways and the continued pollution of the river which makes the fish and the animals that feed upon the fish toxic to eat.

The state of Maine has been in an ongoing process attempting to steal the river from the Penobscot people.

We will have speakers from Penobscot Nation and other Wabanaki Tribes discussing movement forward and how to best show up to support Maine’s Indigenous peoples in our fight to uphold our sovereignty and our fundamental role as protectors of the Penobscot River.

Our sovereign rights, and ability to protect the River do not solely impact Penobscot People; our sovereignty is crucial for securing a livable future which includes all peoples in Maine. We must all come together to show solidarity.

Current organizational co-sponsors include Sunlight Media Collective, Dawnland Environmental Defense, Land Peace Foundation, Bomazeen Land Trust, Racial Equity and Justice, and Community Water Justice.

Penobscot River Rights Case Summary video — produced by Sunlight Media Collective

Where we are:

In 2012 The state of Maine claimed that the Penobscot River was not a part of Penobscot Territory which means the state would have sole jurisdiction when it comes to water quality standards, environmental protections, and elver and fishing regulations. We took the state to court and in 2015 the State of Maine ruled that the Penobscot River is not a part of Penobscot Territory. We immediately filed an appeal and in 2017 the State again ruled against our sovereign kinship ties and roles as protectors of the river, stating that Maine had somehow come into ownership of the main stem of the river without being able to cite how or when that happened.

An En Banc review of the Penobscot Nation river rights case was conducted to determine if Federal Indian Law was adequately applied when siding with the State of Maine’s claim that no portion of the Penobscot River is within Penobscot territory. Within Federal Indian Law, what is referred to as the “Canons of Construction” are designed to protect federally-recognized Tribes, by siding with the Tribal position if there are ambiguities in the case.

During testimony of the En Banc review the Attorney General’s office itself brought up the fact that there exist ambiguities as to when and how the river was ceded, and to the boundaries of our reservation. However, despite their acknowledgment of this, on July 6th, 2021, in a 3-2 decision, it was decided by the First Circuit Court of Appeals that the state of Maine somehow did adequately apply Federal Indian law in their theft of the Penobscot River.

This is yet another step back the tribe has seen since the state first made unfounded claims that they had full control of the river despite the river never being ceded in treaty, through land transfer, or by any other means. The State of Maine continues to threaten and undermine tribal sovereignty at every turn, and in every way they can, while Janet Mills office somehow tries to claim that she is supportive of Maine’s tribes.

As sovereignty bills and revisions to the Land Claims Act are moving forward to next legislative session, we need all hands on deck supporting Indigenous sovereignty here in Maine, because tribal sovereignty does not just effect Wabanaki People, it affects all of our combined futures here on Earth.

For more context about the River Rights case watch this Sunlight Media Collective film:
“The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory”