Restoration of Land Stewardship

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. On October 30th, 2020, 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.

Penobscots Speak on Historic River Case Review by Court of Appeals: Short Video
    Chief Kirk Francis; Maria Girouard, Penobscot Historian; Sherri Mitchell, Indigenous Rights Attorney
  This summer, the US Court of Appeals vacated its opinion and granted a rare En banc review of its decision on Penobscot Nation vs. Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey, (previously known as Penobscot Nation v Mills).

This review will assess whether the appeals court adequately applied Federal Indian Law, when siding with the State of Maine’s claim that no portion of the Penobscot River is within Penobscot territory.

Federal Indian Law “Canons of Construction” are designed to protect federally-recognized Tribes, by siding with the Tribal position if there are ambiguities in the case

The Penobscot Nation adamantly asserts that the Tribe never ceded the Penobscot River under any treaty or the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, and that past case law and daily practice of our stewardship supports that position.

The Penobscot Nation views the State's action as an attempted territorial taking, a threat to Penobscot stewardship of the Penobscot River, and as a termination policy of the Tribe's cultural existence within our sustenance fishing waters.


Over 200,000 tons of out-of-state waste is disposed of at the Juniper Ridge Landfill megadump every year, a publicly owned, privately run landfill in Maine. The waste used to construct it is toxic enough to have been banned from disposal in all 5 other New England states. 10 million gallons of leachate from the Juniper Ridge Landfill is pumped into the Penobscot River every year, the largest river system in the state of Maine.
We've spent the last few weeks shooting, editing, and gathering testimony in order to put together something that hopefully folks can wrap their heads around.
The Maine Board of Environmental Protection is currently considering a citizen petition that proposes to close an industry created loophole, which has for years allowed an interstate commercial waste operation to generate profit by laundering waste material from all over New England into a public landfill through rules that Maine's own Department of Environmental Protection has allowed.
"This is a bipartisan abdication of responsibility on the part of our state government." - Ed Spencer
One of the purest examples of the "administrative state" run amok.
A Sunlight Media Collective production
Filmed & Edited by Chek Wingo
Featured (in order of appearance):
Kathy Paul - Penobscot Nation Elder
Ed Spencer - West Old Town
Paul C. Schroeder - Orono
Peter Crockett - Argyle
Hillary Lister - Co-founder, organizer w/ Don't Waste ME
Dan Kusnierz - Penobscot Nation Water Resources Program Manager
Jan Paul - Water Resources Field and Lab Technician, interim Air Quality Director


Watch: Mini-Lectures on How Disparate State Policies Invite Out of State Waste into Maine and How Landfill Leachate Threatens Health and Environment on the Penobscot River


 Hillary Lister, longtime activist on waste impacts in Maine, founder and organizer with Don't Waste ME, speaks prior to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection's consideration of rule changes that seeks to provide protections for communities directly impacted by landfills and waste facilities and to close a loop hole that encourages the importation of out-of-state waste into Maine.


Mini Lecture # 1

      How more stringent waste policies in neighboring states have resulted in the proliferation of out of state waste being imported into Maine. This has resulted in a growing business using Maine's publicly owned landfills and taking advantage of renewable energy credits. 

      Legally, publicly owned landfills cannot take out-of-state waste, but for years the waste industry has side stepped this with a loop hole that allows for waste from outside the state to be minimally processed once imported and then re-classified as “in-state” waste. 
      Link to video:


Mini Lecture # 2:

      Here we examine the impacts of pollution from the liquid leachate and gas produced at the publicly owned, privately operated Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town. Arsenic, mercury, PFAS/PFOS and other chemicals are released into the Penobscot River with limited processing and oversight, impacting the health and environment of neighboring communities in Alton, Argyle, Old Town and the Penobscot Nation.

      A petition before the BEP this month asks that the citing and licensing of waste facilities "is not inconsistent with ensuring equal protection and environmental justice for communities where the waste facility is proposed or operating."

      As compared to other states, Maine has minimal requirements for testing and pollution control equipment required at wastewater discharge sites disposing of landfill leachate. 
      Leachate video here: