2010 Nov 12
A Passamaquoddy woman who has been an activist against a liquified natural gas terminal being built at Split Rock, Pleasant Point, was awarded the Natural Resources Council of Maine's 2010 "People's Choice" Award.
"A lifelong resident of Sipayik and a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Vera Francis has an intimate knowledge of and attachment to this region," said presenter Bill Houston at the ceremony. "The land and water for which the area is famous has tremendous cultural and spiritual significance to the Passamaquoddy people, who gather here to pray and partake of ceremonial traditions that go back centuries."
"Francis has worked for many years to keep LNG out of the area that is so integral to their lives," continued Houston, who added that Francis established the nonprofit group [Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon], which in the Passamaquoddy language means "We are taking care of our land."
"Vera's persistence in ensuring that the decision-making process was open and responsive to the grassroots constituency resulted in a landmark ruling giving rights to tribal members themselves, not just the tribal governing body," added Houston. "This ruling, acknowledging that tribal people as individuals have standing, set an international precedent and gives voice to those whose concerns may otherwise be silenced."
Francis accepted the award "with great humility" and noted, "[Houston] said 'You should have a vision'. I would only add, not only should you have a vision. You need to hang onto it tightly because it's only when you lose sight and when we lose touch with vision, when inappropriate industrial complexes can be proposed for a pristine [and] a cultural and ceremonial gathering grounds, for lands that are attached to one of the largest Native American populations in New England, there's only in those kind of moments that that can be proposed."
"Luckily for me, I was surrounded with grandmothers with traditional knowledge. Those are my leaders," stresses Francis. "They had the farsightedness to know that everything was about Passamaquoddy descendants. It's their rights we're protecting."
"I think our work has been done in such a way that any present or future proposal for liquified natural gas would be much more difficult," she adds. "Like the Pittston oil refinery proposal [for Eastport], there will always be something that comes along. For us, during our watch, it was LNG. We were able to stand up and be voices of protection for that which sustains us — Passamaquoddy Bay."
"For those who naively believe that Passamaquoddy Bay is for them to exploit, be reminded that even BP was unprepared for one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history," she points out. "[Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon] remains committed to defend and protect Passamaquoddy Bay — our namesake, our heartland.
© 2010 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.