Penobscot River Sovereignty Rally
Media Contacts: Dawn Neptune Adams (207-907-0460) and Meredith DeFrancesco (207-266-6846), Sunlight Action Network
When: Sunday, July 9, 2017- Noon-3pm
Where: Bangor Waterfront Park
What: Rally Response to Appeals Court Decision on Penobscot Nation vs Janet Mills, Attorney General for the State of Maine, et al.
Speakers: Chief Kirk Francis, Penobscot Nation, and other members of the Penobscot Tribe and allies
Background on Decision:
Penobscot Tribal members and allies will gather to oppose the June 30th US Court of Appeals decision in favor of the State of Maine.
In a vote of 2 to 1, the three judge panel ruled that the Penobscot River surrounding the Penobscot Nation’s reservation islands are not part of Penobscot territory. The majority ruled that the language of the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act supports their decision and that the federal Indian law canons of construction do not apply, which requires treaty ambiguities to be construed liberally in favor of the Tribe.
In a strong 37 page dissenting opinion, Judge Juan Torruella opposed the majority’s reasoning and conclusions, and supported the position of the Penobscot Nation, and United States Department of the Interior, that the Penobscot Tribe did not relinquish rights to the Main Stem of the Penobscot River surrounding their islands in the 1796, 1818 and 1833 treaties with Massachusetts, and subsequently Maine, and that the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act reserved what was retained in those treaties. Furthermore, the Settlement Act provides for the tribe’s sustenance fishing rights “within” the boundaries of the reservation, which only could include the Penobscot River. (Torruella, pg 61: “ The fact that the Indians can fish “within” their Reservation implies that there is a place to do so…there is no place to fish on the uplands of the Nation’s islands—which implies that some part of the River has to be part of the Reservation”) Even if this was not the case, Torruella states, Maine common law regarding the riparian rights of private land would apply.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 25th, 2015
Sunlight Media Collective Releases Documentary on the Battle Over Contested Penobscot River Territory
Indian Island, ME: On Friday, Sunlight Media Collective released The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory, a documentary film that explores the conflict between the state of Maine and the Penobscot Nation over contested river territory. Spanning from the 1700's to the present-day legal battle of Penobscot Nation v. Mills, the film illustrates the Penobscots' centuries-long fight to retain their territory and their inherent, treaty-reserved sustenance fishing rights for future generations. Featuring first-person accounts, thefilm tells the urgent, inspiring story of a struggle for justice and cultural survival in the face of an astonishingly open abuse of state power.