DRAFT Meeting Notes

Compiled by Ella McDonald

Welcome and Opening 11-12  6/5

After opening with prayer and an acknowledgement of place led by Richard Silliboy and Donald Soctomah and joined by comments and prayers from all in attendance, we came together in the conference room to introduce this gathering.

Peter thanked Chief Sabattis and Chief Peter Paul for being here.  Maria Girouard reiterated that it is important to work on projects regarding land because so much of history has to do with land. Darren Ranco commented that gatherings like these reveal the challenges we face cross culturally, but yet we are all here because we are committed to making histories right. He stressed the importance of listening and hearing native communities, and he shared that he hopes to plant seeds of change today. He also reminded us that the language used by conservationists is often not familiar to native people.

Ciona welcomed us to the conference and reiterated that we’re all here because we care about land and place. She hopes that all will create connections by listening and learning.

Some organizations have started with specific projects, but there’s more of a journey to come.  She also mentioned two truths that she and Peter remind themselves of repeatedly while working on this Journey, which may resonate with all:  We will make mistakes, but that’s not a reason to stop trying. It’s about the journey, not the destination.  Ciona also asked for patience on all sides, as growing such connections takes time.

Peter challenged the room, and shared that he hopes that five years from now, there are 25 cultural land use agreements in Maine. The people in this room have the potential to help find ways to guarantee native access to hundreds of thousands of acres.  Wabanaki prosperity enriches Maine and its conservation movement immeasurably. Peter commented that granting access is hardly sufficient, and land trusts in Maine must do more. Our efforts are too little, too late–and non-Wabanaki people have to prove their courage. They must ask themselves questions like, to what extent is this about bragging rights? And, how far are you personally willing to go?

We should shift from aspiring for subsistence to sustenance. Subsistence is just enough to get by, while sustenance is more.

1:00 to 3:00: Theme One: Expanding Indigenous Access and Stewardship: Examples from around the country

Peter introduced Chuck Sams of the Confederated Umatilla, who founded Indian Country Conservancy and has many stories about his experience of Tribes expanding their ownership of land across the country. 

Sams told us he would take us through the history that is not told. For native people, the history taught in public schools is not the history they grew up with. He told us the big river story about the coyote and the monster. He also told us the Umatilla creation story, in which the salmon asks human to be the steward of the land–not dominant over the land. Land tenure was a Western idea that came from Europe, which contrasts with Indigenous ideas of stewardship. Before colonization, 25-100 native people controlled 2 billion acres of land.

What you call wilderness, we call home. We don’t have a word for wilderness. Nothing’s wild, it’s managed.

Colonization was an imposition of will, an incursion with no proposals.

Precolonial societies were well organized and complex, and often seasonal. They were not nomadic, but seasonal. White ancestors are more nomadic.

Divided history into 7 time periods: Pre-Columbian, Colonial period (1492-1828), Removal, Reservations, & Treaty period (1828-1887), Allotment & Assimilation period (1887-1934), Indian Reorganization period (1934-1950), Termination period (1950-1968), Self-Determination period (1968-present).

In the colonial period (1492-1828), European settlers occupied native land under the doctrine of discovery.

In the East, treaties were made through war and the victor determined the fate of the tribes. But in the West, the government made treaties of peace because it was more cost-effective to not send in the army. There are 40+ Federal Indian Policies, which native staff have to deal with.

Sams gave advice to conservationists working with native people: be direct and straight to build trust, thank people several times, understand turnover, have a sense of humor, and know that you are a guest.

Trust in the Land is a good resource that shows what Native American land trusts are doing in the country.


Do you have any recommendations for small, local land trusts?

  • Introduce yourself to the local tribe and show up. Don’t offer or ask anything.
  • Don’t use the language of land trusts, it is often inaccessible.
  • Do your own research.

Do you talk to state legislators? I think they’d benefit from your presentation.

  • Yes, when they ask me. I talk with many groups, including legislators.

It is very important for tribal people to harvest and hunt on the land. Where have you seen this right repatriated/repatriated? And what advice do you have for making this happen?

  • Make fights with federal courts.
  • Return to treaty language to know what applies. Some treaties may include fishing and hunting rights for native people. Some tribes have a reserved right to hunt and fish on state and federal land.
  • Make sure new negotiations include fishing, hunting rights for native people.
  • Peter was asked to get a copy of the deeds.

There is extra complexity in Maine because of the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. The perpetuity of land trusts works, but our perpetual claims to the land didn’t. We are still on our ancestral lands. We are still in a court battle over our river.

  • Sams: The federal government can take land when they want to, according to the fifth amendment. This means they also have the power to give land back to the Tribes. This is a tool that we haven’t yet used. It shows that nothing–even land trust control over land–is ‘in perpetuity’.

How can we get your history lessons to kids?

  • Education programs have been revised to include indigenous history in Montana, Massachusetts, and Maine (not being implemented here). Tribes made sure money is given to tribes to tell their own history and set the curriculum.
  • Peter commented that we could maybe use First Light money to make this happen in Maine.

The Indigenous People’s History of the US was recommended.

Can you speak to Andrew Jackson’s legacy?

  • He was the last of the Indian fighters.
  • He promised to give Creek Indians lands if they could get to those lands when they invaded New Orleans, so they wouldn’t be forcibly moved West. So, his legacy is maybe not all bad. Chief George Marshall shut this promise down.

Do you have stories/symbols about solar eclipses in tribal traditions? (As there is a significant one coming in a few years that passes right over Maine)

  • Mapping/prediction systems that determined the solar eclipse existed in Pre-Columbian Massachusetts.
  • Morningstar: The cosmological significance of natural events is often kept concealed in our medicine communities.

Sams shared a story about when he joined the Navy, in which someone from the Bureau of Indian affairs on his reservation wrote a letter transferring ownership of him to his commanding officer. Sams told us that that’s when he realized “I am chattel,” according to the US government.

  • How can we heal from that?

Sams closed by asking us to imagine if we could get over ‘dominion’ philosophies of the land and into stewardship. The conservation movement can always be better by incorporating new voices.

Break/check into rooms

Theme Two: Cultural Respect and Use Agreements

Ciona introduced Ramona Peters, Elder of the Mashpee Wampanoag and Founder of the Native Land Conservancy in Massachusetts.  The Native Land Conservancy has pioneered the use of Cultural Respect Agreements east of the Mississippi.

Peters noted: When you are planning these agreements, make sure that your reach is realistic–can you really manage lands that are 80 miles away? If yes, we’ll make an agreement. This is between Indian people and the Creator.

We are ever reminded of the violent history on this land. My people were hosts to the people who landed on Plymouth. It’s not about sharing our culture now, that was more prevalent in the 80s. It’s political. Every new president change how the US treats Indian tribes. The present administration is not favorable to native people. My tribe is being attacked today, and trust land is being taken away from tribes.

Without an open hearted and brave white person, we don’t get to the table. The “good boys” system is in place in America–they open the door. On their end, this can’t simply be about a guilt complex.

There is a lot of ignorance in the East because it happened so long ago.

White people must be prepared for hostility from land owners. Tribal people are the ones who should be hostile, but this is often unsafe for us. What I heard in the circle is that your connection to the land is so deep you may be able to stand up to hostility.

Being very few means we may not be able to go to your meetings, because each native person probably wears 6-12 hats. They’re taking time out of their lives because this is important.

In Cape Cod, conversation organizations didn’t trust us. What did we do to not deserve your trust? It’s in the unconscious. Check yourself before you present to your organization. Understand your own histories. Why would you want to help a tribe (bragging rights)? What are your real fears? Why are you hesitating? In our first cultural land use agreement, the conservation group limited our ceremonies to a dozen people. We asked for perpetuity, and they gave us only years. What is the fear?

Once a year, we give a presentation on the land–how it is traditionally used, what is harvested, what is missing that used to be here–so that you can begin to appreciate where you live. It’s our offering. We made a movie which is posted on our website, too.

When I visited other countries, I knew I could not understand their ancestral history. But I could respect it. I won’t tell them how to do it better.

Always give people an opportunity to speak amongst each other at a gathering like this. This is an opportunity to let Native people visit together out of respect for our ways.

This morning’s conversation about what you feel on Katahdin gave me hope.

There have been acts of Congress that give us access to sacred places, but they have not been actualized. I will not ask Maine tribes where their sacred spaces are, but we expect you, white people, to stand with us when we want access to them.

We partnered with the Trustees of Reservations (a MA land trust) to get access to land for ceremonies. But where can we go where we don’t get invaded by fishing/hunting warden or police?

On land that we got access to far away from our homes where we do ceremony, we wanted to be able to stop and sleep and make fires. Provisions like this must be written into cultural land use agreements beforehand.

We must make a plan so we will not exhaust the source of medicinal plants, together.

Medical societies don’t always share their knowledge, and you shouldn’t get mad that we’re concealing this information. It’s part of keeping the practice alive.

We can revive ceremonies that haven’t been practices for decades, it’s within our ability and right to do so. Some of the places where this could happen are in your control.

What we need is respect and peace between us. We need protection, we’re getting battered around all the time and it hurts. We need assistance in land management, we need people to send students to us.

Think creatively: There are more indigenous plants on the military base in Cape Cod than in other parts of the land because they have kept people off of it. When their land became overpopulated with deer, they asked our hunters to go in first. Agreements that ask native people to go in early are important.

Whenever I’m up here, I enjoy how people know how to harvest from the land because we need to know how to rescue ourselves. Having access to places with fishing and hunting is important so we can nourish ourselves. Removal from the land challenges our existence.

Ciona then introduced the tool that Ramona Peters’ organization had used as had a few others around the country, to gain secured access on lands not owned by Tribes.  In follow up to an earlier meeting with Tribal Natural Resource Directors about this idea, she had been working to create a draft version that could be used in Maine. She commented that there’s a lot of talking and understanding that needs to happen to make these agreements work.

This idea of privacy what accessing land is important. To this end, how general can we be in the language of the cultural land use agreement? We should respect cultural privacy, and we also need to play by the rules. This is what’s hard.

Ramona Peters: We have to fit in the rules of conservation land sometimes, so we ask to pull out or alter the rules.

The very act of asking for permission from land trusts to use their land for something violates privacy. How can we reconcile this?

Ramona Peters: prevent people from invading the space during ceremonies. Respect us. This could go into the cultural land use agreements, although it is not in ours yet.

If someone is sick and they go to the doctor, the details of their medical condition are between the doctor and the patient. Not everyone should get to know the details of their sickness. It’s the same with our relationship with the land.

Is there ever a fee for accessing land trusts? In the middle of Passamaquoddy territory, 500 acres of land are privately owned and break up our territory. In the past he’s had to pay a camping fee to stay here, or for road maintenance.

The cultural land use agreements should address fees.

Ramona: In Massachusetts, the right of way allows us on our land. If we somehow destroyed their property, we agreed to make retribution to the land trust organization.

Ciona: Maine has strong landowner liability laws, which are strongest when no fee is charged for a use, so the draft document actually states that no fees are charged.  The question of uses is a different one from access rights, which do sometimes have a charge or fee.

Have tribal members ever felt exploited by details conservation organizations have asked for? Or by media presence?

Ramona Peters: I am always sensitive to media/camera presence. In the case of the newspaper article in our packets, I didn’t feel exploited–I wasn’t up to it that day but I did it for a minute. We’re expected to represent all of our people. I would appreciate everyone being sensitive to the question about exploitation because sharing the details of our practices has been used against us. If someone wants to retract what they say, honor that. Sometimes media can be a vehicle because there are so few of us.

How do you navigate band & traditional governments–where do you start?

  • We organize so multiple tribes are represented on a board.

What happens if some people come and exploit the knowledge native people have shared–is there recourse? If you interpret a map without consultation, what happens?

Ciona: This process will be important to address and clarify, and could maybe be added into the draft template document.

Intellectual property belongs to the tribes

Donald Soctomah told us an important story:  a paper company owned 90% of the land near the Passamaquoddy Nation. They owned an island where Passamaquoddy people would go to die of smallpox. At first, the company made it impossible for the tribes to buy this land back. When the company changed leadership, Donald called the new president and he had open ears and an open heart while he explained that the tribe wanted this island for ceremonies to our ancestors. Tribes should not have to explain why they’re doing ceremonies or what plants they’re collecting. The company gave the island to the Passamaquoddy, didn’t sell it. The executive explained that he didn’t want the tribe to have to explain themselves. We shouldn’t have to explain the 100+ varieties of sweetgrass we use. We shouldn’t have to explain why Katahdin’s sacred. So, the agreements we make should be general: to gather material, they don’t have to be about particular materials. Landowners are responsible for making sure it’s not exploited.

Too many land claims have been denied because they’re “not Indian enough.” But it’s none of their business what we do–the agreements should be more general.

Indian people have not overexploited land.

Keep traditional knowledge traditional. Once, a timber company wanted to know the details of when, where, and how ash needed to be harvested. In this context, respect went right out the window because the underlying assumption was that tribes didn’t know what they were doing. But they’ve been doing it for centuries. There is an inherent lack of respect when you ask us to explain why and where and when we harvest certain things.

Pages 3-4 are written to ease land trust and land owner fears. These pages tell why/where/what is being harvested. This is not respectful of tribal people. Will these agreements undermine your culture, if you have to report and meet land trusts’ conservation standards?

  • Ramona: It’s difficult. Harvesting is not always a secret issue. We have a list of what we want on our website in case local landowners want to share what they have on their properties with us. We haven’t bumped into anyone watching us, eyeballing us as we harvest. But we should think about safeguards if people do try to exploit us.

I met someone in Brunswick who claims to be Norridgewock. How do we deal with granting land access to folks who are not federally recognized?

  • We are more than federal recognition. It doesn’t make any difference, don’t pay attention to federal recognition.
  • Many people want to be native–they call themselves a tribe when they’re not, and make mockery of the true tribes. For now, only federally recognized tribes should get cultural land use agreements.
  • Land trusts may cut themselves off to other partnerships with tribes by legitimizing an individual’s nativeness.
  • Yes, go through our tribal governments.
  • Can descendants use cultural land use agreements?
  • Decolonization means we move in the direction of allowing descendants to access land, even if they are less than 25% native. Blood quantum was forced on us by the colonizers.
  • Peter: the core of this question is, how do we best show respect?
  • The key word is community. Can these individuals be vouched for by a community of native people? We don’t want to one off people with lineage, but they also should be actively involved in tribal communities if they are going to be granted access. Land trusts should also recognize traditional tribal governance, which is not always federally recognized.
  • Some non-natives can get a free hunting/fishing license if they claim native heritage.

A story was shared about a private landowner preventing someone from harvesting ash on his land, while claiming “we don’t have to give you anything according to the Maine Land Claims Settlement Act.”

Peter: We have the power so you don’t even have to ask. We have the power to make access guaranteed. You all are helping me see what respect is.

Chuck Sams: Long standing community is what matters, not federal recognition. Not individuals who claim ancestry. We should exercise our fifth amendment and get land back to the tribes, so they don’t have to deal with concerns over privacy.

Thoughts on this Day’s Learning. All attending Chiefs (or their representatives) will be asked to offer their thoughts on the day.

Chief Sabattis: I hope this is the start of a meaningful relationship between the tribes and land trusts. The work that is happening is not for us, but with us. We appreciate the drafts you have put forth, but we need to make sure Native voices are at the table/included in these drafts. I hope we can make a way for people to practice their traditional ways without explaining. When I was a kid, someone who learned our ceremonies started a local campaign accusing us of being witches and of working with the devil. So, there is a real need to conduct our ceremonies without people looking on. Also, people who aren’t citizens of a tribe may be part of the tribe. It’s not black and white. Sometimes we need to walk away from agreements because it’s not going to fit.

Chief Peter Paul: Times are changing for the better.


A Sunrise Ceremony was led by Donald Soctomah

After an opening prayer and a story, we were asked, what’s next? Relationships are important, how we can build them even more? We are going to discuss; how do we move at a pace and in a direction that fully supports and respects Wabanaki culture?

Trauma to the land, trauma to the people. Healing to the land, healing to the people.

Darren Ranco introduced Suzanne Greenlaw, who spoke about the Wabanaki cultural significance of brown ash and threats to its existence.

Only 2-3% of the forest is ash, and only 20% of the ash is good for basket making. Ash groves are highly managed through indigenous knowledge. Harvesting is sustained today because it was managed well by Indigenous people in the past.

The people who generated traditional ecological knowledge about brown ash are also the resource users. This is different than Western scientific understandings, because scientists aren’t liked to the use of ash.

There is variation of knowledge even in Indigenous communities about how to use brown ash–because different people have different preferences for harvesting ash, one kind of ash doesn’t get over exploited. No one is the singular expert in picking sweetgrass, the knowledge varies.

Some native people overexploit resources because they need money, while acknowledging that this hurts the ecosystem’s future generations.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) cuts around ash and other culturally important plants. The FSC hasn’t directly consulted the Penobscot, but has been in conversation with the Maliseet’s.

The only time we hear from FSC is when they need to check a box. Silliboy: When FSC harvests ash for us, they leave a bruise on it from the equipment.

FSC people think of themselves as the experts, but if they don’t use it, they don’t know it. There is a power dynamic–what will they do with the knowledge we share with them?

Scientists don’t see traditional ecological knowledge as knowledge, there is no education around the importance of TEK.

Ramona: Some machine operators take pride in their ability to use their machines. Maybe if you asked them to respect the ash they would? Richard: They don’t realize its ash until it’s felled, so they treat it like trash.

John Banks: One forester took us into the woods to show us an ash forest, and when we got there it was white ash. I said, where did you go to school? Brown ash is considered a weed to foresters, and some companies made a one-page agreement with tribes to allow them to harvest ash themselves, because it benefits the company, too.

There is no formal, large scale agreement between companies and harvesters.

Suzanne Greenlaw: The idea that it is wasteful to lay ash tops on the ground is a legacy of colonialism. This practice helps maintain the ash forest stock, so the seeds stay around. You can’t separate knowledge from the people who are creating it.

Suzanne requested that Irving give her data about their land so she could use her model to map ash habitat, but they denied her request.

The good ash stands are next to river bends.

There is a term in our language that means, you only take what you want.

Irving sprays for hardwoods, which can be dangerous to harvesters.

Suzanne Greenlaw: Consultation and collaboration is important, given that foresters may not be experts on native traditions. Foresters and conservationists must be thoughtful about their own approach, and recognize their bias.

Have you worked on establishing ash stands?

  • Yes, Charles is doing this with Fred.
  • The ash is doing well where I didn’t expect them to grow well. Showed that my small knowledge of ash wasn’t enough.

Peter: What do you ask of the organizations in the room towards collaboration?

  • Suzanne: Engage with native people at the table from the beginning, not at the end as an afterthought.
  • Share your data with native people. Create opportunities for native people to regain these lands to maintain our culture. Help fund projects like reintroducing native rice. Emerald ash borer is arriving and is a threat, but also means there is an opportunity for other things to replace it. There are potential projects/collaborations here.
  • The shift to basket making happened when there was a lack of birch. Birch is not as common as it used to be.
  • Is there a management tool to grow birch that would be good for canoe building?
    • Suzanne: Only the people who know how to harvest birch know how to manage it, and we haven’t had the opportunity to manage it in a long time. It used to be managed with controlled burns.
  • Could you add more detail about the wild rice restoration?
    • Suzanne: There are just conversations right now, mostly happening at the nonprofit level.
    • Elders remember harvesting wild rice.

Ramona Peters: Hundreds of Wabanaki got sick from bark harvesting when timber companies were spraying trees with chemicals, and there have never been reparations for this. Companies need to inform the tribes when they spray.

Where is there a geographic need for ash harvesting, that is not too far from your home?

  • 200 miles would be joyous ride. People are willing to drive from far away to get ash and stockpile it. Some foresters let us do this.

In the next 2 decades there will be ash scarcity because of EAB. We need more identification of where ash is so we can extend the time that the tradition can continue.

What about the recommendation that ash should not be moved, so as not to spread the disease?

  • They should quarantine the entire area where the disease is.

Ramona Peters: Conservation groups in the room, this is an urgent issue you should speak to your boards about. Climate change will affect ash, too.

Peter: 2 ideas for collaboration: 1. Build a statewide understanding of where ash is, to make sure it can be used by Wabanaki people. 2. Land trusts hand management over to tribes to manage a piece of land to promote birch tree growth.


Peter: We have the people in the room to make something happen, but do we have the will? What are the conditions needed–do we have the right pace, projects, and relationships that are needed?

Participant: I don’t want us to get bogged down in projects. The relationships are the most important. Qualitative work builds a strong foundation even more than quantitative work.

Zak Klein: Come to me if you have questions about grant applications. If you feel that you do not want to have to prove numbers or explain projects, we can find a way to move forward without that.

Needs and Next Steps

What is the movement forward? What direction? How can we be honest with each other?

Land trusts need to learn about the plants/indigenous knowledge.

Land trusts should cover the costs. Tribes are not going to come out and make requests. We should begin having what if? Conversations at the board level. What if we gave land back? We must overcome the inertia of doing things the colonial way, and let go of our expectation that the tribes will approach us about it.

How can we play to our strengths? Land trusts are so fixated in quantitative; we’ll never get to the qualitative. What we do well is quantitative. How can we build that out? I think we should figure out if and where we have ash and sweetgrass.

More stories about the use of other resources are needed. We have to open our lands and our hearts to native land usage.

How do we keep relationship building? Write emails. How do we do both/and–get quantitative data and also build trust? It’s about having ongoing intentionality that is not just transactional, and a continuing commitment. Even if this just means reading Kerry’s book.

We must build organizational trust, not just individual trust, because there is staff turnover.

To a certain extent, systems change is only possible through individuals. We can do things like, asking native people to weigh in on research questions. We can also think about providing resources and jobs for people like Suzanne Greenlaw (scholarship funds, leadership training).

Wabanaki Youth and Sciences Project works a bit on this. Conservation organizations can provide internships and partner with this organization.

We could write cultural land use provisions into our deeds without tribes co-signing, given that the tribes have expressed they don’t want more contracts. That conveys that we trust them.

The tribe determines who goes out to harvest and how, so we need to be in contact with tribal governments and not just write them into deeds. For example, ATV clubs watch their members and their rights to drive in the woods are suspended when they are harmful to the ecosystem.

Conservation organizations shouldn’t get bogged down with consulting/asking tribes, though.

Lunchtime reflections from Chuck Sams, Ramona Peters, and John Banks

Chuck Sams: Further agreements about what the trail forward is are needed. Relationships/partnerships/friendships are transformational. There must be mutual respect, not dominance of one group over the other. Non-transactional relationships with the natural world are needed for future survival. We must emphasize our interconnectedness. We are becoming human again.

Ramona Peters: Relationship building is a challenge but a necessity. We must learn more about where the conservation groups are based: if you’re far away, it may be hard to maintain relationships. Wabanaki people may choose to create a nonprofit for land conservation, so that they have a point person in these negotiations. You could make a nonprofit land trust like in California. There are also philosophical differences today: we’re in our minds now, not our bodies, which is a challenge for both native and non-native people. As long as we’re on a trajectory of technology, we lose interest in the land. I encourage tribal people to bring their families to local conservation events. Also, tribal governments should put maps of local land trusts on your websites, and organize group walks. I have noticed a big thirst for cultural information from non-native people. Native communities have been overwhelmed by this interest–it is good but we must protect our cultural intellectual property. Before asking for a story think about intention and how it will be received. It has never been safe for native people to be hostile. Non-native participants, I want to hear where you’re coming from.

John Banks: Acknowledged Peter for his fortitude. He shared three guiding words for us: Trust, faith, and hope. Trust: the tribes have a lot of reasons not to trust non-natives. There is a long history of agreements being broken. During the 1750s, Wabanaki agreed to support the colonies in the Revolutionary war in exchange for the protection of our lands and people. This was the first promise that was broken. They built dams that starved our people. So, it is hard for tribal people to put any trust in conservation organizations. You must prove to us that you are trustworthy. Prove it. Results are much better than promises. Too many non-natives have candy store syndrome; they just like to work with the tribes on the good stuff like drumming circles and celebrations but are absent when it comes to politics. We must move away from this relationship. Don’t keep us in the museum–don’t say we used to do this. We’re still here! Don’t come to us after the project is planned. Work with us from the beginning. Don’t talk about us without us. Faith: I have faith in the folks who have gone down this road with us. We have a lot of allies. People are showing up, continue to do this. Hope: This process gives me hope. We want these mutual relationships. For us it’s not about power, it’s about our creator-given responsibilities to this land. Wherever your area is, reach out to the tribes and ask if their land is important to the tribes and how they can be protected for them. This is the journey. This is a great first step, but the destination creates the journey and is important as well.

Next Steps for Building Collaboration

How do we best stay in relationship and build collaboration? What are the most important next steps for us to take on projects? What changes would all like to see with the Learning Journey?

The land trust group should share first.

Ciona: We were really appreciative of the honesty and directness you shared with us.

We talked about how we can do our best and be the best partners we can be.

John Banks: On the Wabanaki side, we talked about forming a committee with representatives from four tribes to continue this discussion with the land trust community.

We discussed forming 4 task forces:

  1. Relationship building
  2. Educating boards (without talking about you without you), using a single presentation that we can vet with you about our communal experience of this journey.
  3. Educating tribes about the workings of land conservation groups
  4. How to gain access to plants

We also talked about learning more about land trusts and how y’all can unify your message to the boards.

We want to see reciprocity from land trusts. We shared a lot these past few days, and our Chiefs were here. Don’t be like “I don’t know, I have a board…” –this doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.

We are nervous about how to communicate to our boards our experience. He shared that few people doubted land trusts would not commit to the work if their directors and board went on this learning journey. There was commitment to this cause.

There is already a feeling that our boards are supporting us in the right direction.

I feel reciprocity from my organization and support. I will individually do work.

It is worth being wary because our boards see us as employees. I think there would be more traction if our board members build relationships with native people. We will take you out and invite you to our land trusts, and pay you for speaking to our boards.

My organization wouldn’t spend the time and money to send me here if we weren’t going to do anything about it. We’re not kidding. You have a critical mass of people committed to doing this work.

We want to come up with a system that works for the tribes. We want to create a position of tribal liaison to continue this work. We know we’ve asked for a lot of time and energy from you and we want your involvement to be sustainable.

Peter: The costs will be taken on by us.

We recognize we are responsible to commit to you, responsible for the investment you made in us.

John Banks: Maybe I can’t speak for us all, but I don’t want you to pay us to come to meetings.

Peter: What we mean is, this relationship requires funding, funding for a position.

John Banks: There’s always money to do projects, but not for capacity.

Liaison positions sometimes don’t work out, because the knowledge is in our communities.

Ciona: Individual connections have been made. On the land trust side, we are all connected and can find a way to connect you to the people you need.

John Banks: How far have conversations gone on the land trust side of things? Do you have potential projects?

Peter: I pledge the asymmetry won’t happen again. We won’t have chiefs here without boards–I commit to that. The changes you’ve mentioned will be worked in.

Somewhere right in here, we miss an important addition/augmentation to Peters statement by Tom Duffus.  It was not as inequal as described… many of us are there with full Board approval and authority, and are acting as representatives of the entire organizations.  Let’s get that in here.

We’ve talked about everything from a memorandum of understanding to co-deeding. We are considering all options not knowing what the tribes want.

Ciona: It is good to remember that the Cultural Use Agreement document is just one of a set of tools to help with land access.  Land trusts can buy land and turn it over to tribes. Some other land trusts in the room can give loans. We also can offer fundraising assistance.  We need to do a better job of describing the spectrum of tools.

We also spoke about doing advocacy, science, and creating fish passages. It’s not just about the land. We haven’t taken anything off the table.

What if things get messy in the legislature? If there’s an expectation that we’re there, how can we show up?

Land trusts shy away from politics.

This is shocking to me. The idea that you can have a land-based culture without politics shows the cultural gulf between us. When we practice land-based culture, it is always political.

Nonprofits are operating from a place of fear and risk of having their nonprofit status revoked.

Organizations should do educational outreach about their shared interests with native tribes.

We can be useful politically where we have common ground.

Some of us in the room can exercise political power and lobby.

Penobscot people, would you be open to coming to our board and visiting the land? I am looking into co-buying an island with the Penobscot nation.

John Banks: Yes, if you are making a specific proposal that we’re working together on.

Peter: Wabanaki people, where do you think you can contribute?

We want to better understand the possibilities on your end of things. We’re a few steps away from committee work. We want the tools the land trusts have to be explained better. We hope to have another gathering for this. We hope for youth development, like the WAYS program, as opposed to sending our people to your organizations to train. You can come to our organizations instead. If we train these young people in the two-eyed approach (Western and Indigenous), they can give a lot to this work.

We need to return to the treaties, which are at the root of the distrust we feel today–in these negotiations, your side was concealed. We want to see your side of things. Hold true to what you say. We belong to the land; the land does not belong to us. Some people miss these small teachings because they want to work on projects. We want to return to past collaborations and see why they didn’t work. In the past, we put our hearts and souls into collaborations and we got smallpox blankets in return.

We want to understand the policing elements of this. If something goes wrong, how do we collectively understand and police this? We don’t want to violate aspects of our tribal sovereignty and citizenship. We need to hear your side of this. What’s your typical approach? How would you see it happening?

There is no consensus on our side either.

Peter: Monitoring is standard fare for conservation easements, but we’ve learned this is not the basis for respect. One big takeaway we have is that we need a gathering to explain and delineate the tools land trusts have. I promise this will happen.

Inviting all tribal people to use land is worrisome because not all of us have our traditional sustainable practices. The community should have the authority to permit people to go and harvest or use land.

ATV clubs’ police themselves to be respectful of private land. I’m concerned that if it was opened up to all tribal people, there may be problems. There may need to be a way to keep things in check.

We don’t have the capacity now, but we’d love to have a committee that teaches people sustainable practices.

How will trips across the state to other land trusts be handled?

I hope tribes will take the initiative to educate their members about sustainable harvest, but if something goes wrong the tribe reserves the right to punish their members, not the land trust or the state government.

John Banks: We want to hear your concerns and your board’s fears so we can address them.

Peter: In conclusion, what else do we ask of each other?

  • Keep up the candor.
  • Look up the treaties.
  • Take practices out of the museum, because our practices are evolving.
  • Call out white people/privilege when there are missteps, because all non-Wabanaki want to be our best selves. But don’t put all of the responsibility for naming white privilege on the people who are hurt by white privilege.
  • Stop using them & us language.
  • Remember that the Wabanaki voices here do not speak for all Wabanaki people.
  • We won’t share Wabanaki stories with others. Resist all temptations to tell the story.
  • Continue the conversations, outside of this controlled environment.
  • Inform your nonprofit members about what we’re doing here so they don’t ask too many questions and too much of Wabanaki people (Suzanne got well meaning but bothersome emails asking her where the sweetgrass was so they could protect it).
  • Attend events held by conservation groups, and Wabanaki tribes.
  • Peter will share information about treaties on the First Light website.

Notecards from small group discussions:

Trauma to land, trauma to people. Healing to land, healing to people. Cannot eat money. What would the tribe do with land? Pay taxes, steward, donations? Organizations need money and support. Maybe existing land trusts can help set up native land trusts (tribes don’t trust this)? We struggled with the legal document aspect of the land use agreement.

Are the land trusts the right groups to start the cultural land use agreements? Are there other groups that are more appropriate? Is the management plan a tool?

Possible next steps: Have meetings featuring more presentations like Suzanne’s about particular resources and cultural resources, but have them on land trust lands so we can be in the landscape together?

  • Meeting about the TEK research planning
  • Support WAYS program
  • “Science” is a good bridge to land trust boards who might be hesitant

If one tribe makes an agreement with a land trust, will that agreement extend to all of the Wabanaki tribes? If so, how would that responsibility be shared on the Wabanaki side?

Relationships need time. Conservation groups need to know who they are and what they do before they get into projects. Want to have more opportunities to make relationships. Come see what we’re doing with our land. Increasing visibility of the Wabanaki tribes in Maine (ex: Welcome to Maine, home of the Wabanaki people). Best practices for a land trust?

Small group Thursday a.m.: Wild rice–research project. Invite is a better word than access. Open house is a better word to build trust. How do we take this work and put it out there? Is this work going to be summarized to pass on to the boards? Share the stories about the relationships in person. Personal relationships create projects that work. Expand the reach–using media and social outreach? A major quandary is how to draw people in? Is there a place where people feel good and welcome? Cultural change where people are part of the natural community. Place based allows us to work together with people who are part of the landscape. How will this go back to our boards? Nonprofits engaged in DEI–this is a hot topic for nonprofits. Could be an opportunity. Tribal people should be on the board of directors. Tribal statement: creator given and inherent right and responsibility for stewardship land.

Notes on the bike rack:

  • What do we ask of each other?
  • Gatherings where non-natives are welcome to attend
  • 1st light learning journey→ tell your land trusts → inform your own people please.
  • It is very interesting that at day’s end, the energy was rising, not diminishing.
  • We can’t lose face to face touch and the value of personal discussions.
  •  It is not realistic to expect the tribes to step into conversations knowing what their desires are… walking & listening & seeing the life/terrain of a parcel is key. Invitations with no oversight are needed.
  • During early settler times, we were viewed as an impediment. That mindset may be so unconscious that it’s still flowing today. We were viewed as less than human.
  • I prefer invitation rather than access.
  • How do we develop a mutual understanding of trust?
  • There are moments where you can sense and feel honesty, but others where there’s fear and history of being patronized.
  • It’s never too little, too late. We have a responsibility to the next generation to prepare the way however we can.
  • For 400 years, the concept of land ownership has been deployed upon indigenous people.
  • Perhaps the time is arriving for a concept of land held/stewarded in common trust. The Anglos can grow into that.