News Release: For Immediate Release from the Penobscot Nation, Elliotsville Foundation and First Light.

A significant return of land stewardship to the Penobscot Nation celebrates their history and cultural resilience and serves to inspire similar land stewardship returns during and beyond this important moment of historical reckoning.

Restoration of Land Stewardship media file.

Today, in the Ancestral territory of the Penobscot Nation, Chief Kirk Francis and the Penobscot people received 735 acres of #LandBack in what is currently known as Williamsburg Township.The land is located between two parcels of land already in Penobscot stewardship, to the West of the Pleasant River and the town of Brownsville. This is a broad landscape of River ecosystem and critical Atlantic Salmon habitat that connects the Penobscot River to Katahdin.

Chief Francis of the Penobscot Nation said: “The Penobscot Nation is extremely grateful to Elliotsville Foundation for this generous restoration of land stewardship to our Tribe. We take our land stewardship responsibilities very seriously and appreciate the opportunity to once again have this parcel within our present-day landholdings. Through this gesture, Elliotsville Foundation has shown its commitment to strengthen and honor their relationship with the Wabanaki Tribes and recognize our long-standing cultural connection with the land and water.”

John Banks is the Natural Resources Director for the Penobscot Nation: “This land, the headwaters of the Pleasant River, an important tributary to the Penobscot River, is Sacred ground to many people. It’s home to native brook trout, spawning salmon, white-tailed deer, and moose.  It provides sustenance through the seasons for many tribal families. For the Penobscot People, this return expands our existing land base and also actually extends between, and connects, two of our existing Penobscot Indian Territory tracts making both more accessible.  Adding this gift will create a contiguous block of over 5,000 acres. Consolidation of our Indigenous territory is an ongoing priority for the Tribe, and this return of land moves us forward in a positive direction.  I am incredibly grateful for this gift of land to my Tribe.”

Lucas St. Clair represents Elliotsville Foundation who are returning stewardship of this land: “I love Maine and the land. As I learned about Maine’s history of land ownership and the violence that was inflected on the Wabanaki People I thought that it was important to use my platform to tell a different narrative. I learned the Wabanaki believe that they belong to the land and the western perspective is that land belongs to individuals and this is at the root of the misunderstanding of the way we treat land in Maine and around the country. What we hope to do by giving this land back is to show our confidence in the Native communities in Maine and the Penobscots as a sovereign nation that they will take on the responsibility to steward this land. I want to hold up the fact that we as colonizers have exploited the unceded lands of the Wabanaki People for our own prosperity and in our greed have left Indigenous people without the basic rights that we assume to be ours without question. While this is not the start or the end of a long journey of reparation, it is what I can do now and what I hope to do more of while encouraging others to join us.”

The Quimby Family, Elliotsville Foundation and 50 land trusts and other land-holding groups have joined together in First Light, an effort to learn the history of Wabanaki land dispossession and to work together to expand Wabanaki presence in and relationship with their Ancestral territory. 90% of Maine’s land-base is privately owned and 23% is stewarded by conservation organizations, creating an opportunity for collaboration to achieve these goals.

Peter Forbes is a representative of First Light: “This is just the beginning of long work at making amends in real ways. In addition to this important return of land, member organizations of First Light have granted harvesting permits over tens of thousands of acres affirming the seriousness of our intent. We have much more to do. We are developing new legal tools with our Wabanaki colleagues that allow us to share land, co-manage land and return land. After 350 years of colonization, the Wabanaki in Maine now have access to less than 1% of the land that once supported their place-based cultures. Maine’s rivers and mountains may carry some Wabanaki names, but the people and the stories that those names belong to have been relegated to small reservations out of sight to most Mainers. In the last 50 years, land trusts in Maine have come to work on /have relationships with almost 23% of the land in the state which includes countless places of great importance to Wabanaki people and once stewarded by them. First Light exists as a bridge between conservationists and Wabanaki people to reconcile this history by expanding Wabanaki presence and relationship with their territory that we now share together. This is good for all of Maine.”

735 Acres of Land Returned to the Penobscot Nation