First Light is a collaboration in Maine between hundreds of leaders, 65 organizations and Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq Communities to re-learn history, recenter Indigenous voice and to return land, resources and power. We commit to working collectively with the understanding that we are stronger together: many organizations might be able to achieve what one organization could not.
We aspire to reciprocity: our goal is to expand Wabanaki access, belonging, presence and relationship to land for our collective wellbeing, and to create a stronger conservation movement that includes and reflects Indigenous expertise and perspective. All will benefit from this, and it all begins with a more equitable re-distribution of land and resources.
Because in Maine 90% of that land is privately owned and 23% is stewarded by conservation organizations, the work of First Light needed to be rooted within the private, white-led conservation movement. Today Wabanaki people legally steward only 1.2% of their ancestral lands in Maine. First Light was initially organized by Peter Forbes and Ciona Ulbrich, two non-Native leaders within the conservation movement in Maine who sought to better understand the history of Wabanaki land loss in order to begin making amends. As result of 3 years of relationship-building, resource-sharing and moving forward at the speed of trust, First Light has supported the development of an independent Wabanaki Commission on Land and Stewardship (Nil yut ktahkomiq nik) made up of chief-appointed Wabanaki representatives from each of the five Wabanaki communities in Maine, and a delegation of non-Native conservation groups who are both committed to working together to expand Wabanaki access and stewardship of land. Together, we have begun granting access to tens of thousands of acres of land and to share resources toward our goals.
First Light gave an information session in August of 2020 about our work and motivations. You can download the recording here.
We feel the importance of a shared vocabulary for us all as we collaborate around First Light projects and events. Below, we offer some definitions for our community.
First Light Community: All First Light ambassadors, Delegation members, members or staff of the Wabanaki Commission, and Wabanaki participants in First Light.
Former First Light learning journey organizations: Any organizations or entities whose staff or board members committed by letter to a cohort of First Light’s learning journey, and have staff or board members who have completed Cohort I or II of First Light’s learning journey.
First Light ambassadors: Landholding, funding, or advocacy organizations in Maine who practice the values of ambassadors and have submitted a statement of intention. Read more about this process in Chapter 2.
Wabanaki participants in First Light: Any Wabanaki person who is a Commission member or has been involved in First Light programming (including speakers, background consultants, or gathering attendees).
Wabanaki Commission on Land and Stewardship Psiw ut skitkamiq kignumin (the whole earth is our home): 10 Tribal representatives appointed by each of the 5 Tribal communities in Maine who work together to improve the health and well-being of Wabanaki people through a sustained effort to expand their access, management, and ownership of lands to practice their land-based cultures across Wabanaki homelands.
Conservation Community Delegation: The Conservation Community Delegation for Wabanaki engagement consists of representatives from 7 landholding organizations in Maine, who are serving 3 year terms. The Delegation pools resources and coordinates the conservation community’s best skills and abilities to best collaborate and respond to the needs and requests from the Wabanaki Commission on Land and Stewardship; Nil yut ktahkomiq nik (the whole earth is our home).
The Story of our Logo by Ann Pollard-Ranco
Ann Pollard-Ranco is a member of the Penobscot Nation and has been an artist and environmental activist since she was a young teenager. Now in her mid 20s, she works as a professional artist, photographer / videographer, writer, cultural consultant, and in indigenous food systems recovery. The design for First Light’s logo was born out of the concept of collaboration, and moving towards the future. A Downeast sunrise was the inspiration for the design. Originally I incorporated a Wabanaki double curve into the sunrise to remind viewers that the “People of the Dawnland” are still here, and this is still our cherished homeland. Upon reflection and advice from tribal elders who were concerned about a Native American motif being used by a non-indigenous organization, and how that could be seen as cultural appropriation, I decided to remove the double curve motif and instead incorporate two eagles flying towards the sunrise. The eagles symbolize our ancestors continued presence and hope for the future.