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The Passamaquoddy People Get Their Sacred Island Back

Posted by 
Stephen L Dalton
Stephen L Dalton
 30 days ago
Dawn Neptune Adams holding a feather.Photo used by permission from Dawn.

In early 2021, an act of humanism, reparation, and solidarity reunited the Passamaquoddy people with their Ancestral territory – the tribe never ceded these 140 acres. It is the largest island on Big Lake, Kci Monosakom, Maine.

Sacred island, Kuwesuwi Monihq, returned to Passamaquoddy People

To these people, it’s like a kidnapped child brought back centuries later. It is a reunion of a snatched family member with her people.

The Passamaquoddy tribe recently reacquired the 140-acre Kuwesuwi Monihq, formerly called White’s Island and Pine Island, ME, by partnering with Nature Conservancy and the advocacy group First Light.

This video is a short film shared by Dwayne Tomah, a Passamaquoddy Language teacher, with the Passamaquoddy community, who can finally embrace their reunited non-human Relative.

Flyover of Kuwesuwi Monihq with Dwayne Tomah Passamaquoddy

Watch the video here:

#IsLandBack #landback

In the southeast part of Maine, close to the Canadian border, lies Big Lake and Pine Island (Kuwesuwi Monihq), also known as White’s Island within Indian Township, Maine. Indian Township, known as Motahkomikuk to its people, is one of the most recognized tribal townships in Washington County, Maine.

The census as of 2019 counted 773 residents with the primary language of the tribe of Algonquian. The Passamaquoddy Indians were one of the first Indigenous Tribes in Maine to contact and trade with the Europeans. You can learn more about their heritage, way of life, and traditions on their website, Passamaquoddy Tribe @Indian Township.

The back story

What was once part of the Passamaquoddy Territory was illegally taken from them in the mid-19th century. Despite it being a violation of the treaty and the Maine Constitution, it wasn't easy to prove that Kuwesuwi Monihq was indeed the island referenced in the treaty.

Over the years, the property fell out of the tribal stewardship because colonizers change the name to White’s Island from the island referenced as Pine Island in documents that said it would forever be a reserved and protected property of the Passamaquoddy people.

Private parties bought up the property. At one time, the island was considered privately owned. The Passamaquoddy people were denied access to the island even though many of their ancestors who died from a smallpox outbreak were interned there.

Pine Island, ME, was renamed over the years to White’s Island on the map, and no longer matched the 1794 treaty language, which listed Pine Island, ME as protected, reserved property of the Passamaquoddy people in agreements with the government while Maine (Wabanakik) was still part of Massachusetts.

Peskotomuhkat: The Passamaquoddy People – “People of The Dawn” - History, Culture & Affiliations

Jaguar Bird uploaded this video, “…for the Passamaquoddy People & Tribes.”

How the tribe got their land back

The land is essential to the Passamaquoddy (People of the Dawn) Tribe, who sought the return of the land. The Chief of Indian Township saw the land for sale in the fall of 2020 and reached out to First Light, partnering with many trust groups to gain the property back.

The Passamaquoddy Territory has sought the return of the property for decades but didn’t have the means to purchase it, so the chief of the Township worked with the trust groups to reacquire the land.

The Wabanaki nation “Believes that all beings, people, animals, plants, water, earth, stars, and spirits have souls,” says Dawn Neptune Adams, narrator and producer. If that name rings a bell, it should. Dawn was a candidate for Vice-President as a Progressive Party candidate with Dario Hunter in 2020. She is also a National EMMY® Award Winner – Outstanding Research with Dawnland.

Kihtahkomikumon (Our Land) - #IsLandBack in Passamaquoddy Territory

This video was uploaded to Vimeo by the Sunlight Media Collective.

Final thoughts

The Passamaquoddy people now have their #islandback to continue their connection with the land without being harassed or asked to leave, now and forever. After acquiring the island back, the tribe now owns over 200,000 acres of land.

This movement is part of the #LandBack initiative to help heal damaged relationships between Indigenous and colonizers and allow the return of millions of acres to tribes that lost their beloved land.

The return of the Kuwesuwi Monihq will help bring the land and water back to a healing status. The Wabanaki Nation is known as the stewards of the land and (try to) protect the water from greedy industrialists and politicians.

In related news, Laguna Pueblo tribe-member, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, and former Representative from New Mexico, Deb Haaland, will give the commencement address at College of the Atlantic on 5 June.

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