"For much of the state of Maine, the environment is the economy"
2005 May 7
When members of the Passamaquoddy community who oppose LNG in Passamaquoddy Bay were told by two developers, the developer’s attorneys and a few of their own tribal council members that they could not see the proposed land-lease agreement affecting their ancestral lands, and that, in fact, all discussions about the proposed lease would be held in “executive session” and they would have to leave the Tribal Building or possibly be arrested, they stood upliterally. They stood up, moved shoulder to shoulder, remained steadfast, and, in their native language, announced that they would not be turned out or turned away from the process they have a right to have access to and participate in as tribal members.
Calling the “We Protect Our Land” members of the Save Passamaquoddy Bay 3-Nation Alliance “vigilant, courageous, and bold,” coordinators of the organization to keep Passamaquoddy Bay free of an LNG terminal said their Pleasant Point members “now stand proudly with the voters of Perry in saying their heritage and homeland have no price tag, and sustainable economic development is possible without destroying their community, degrading the ecosystem, and annihilating their culture. They also said, "We will not be pressured by anything or anyone who seeks to use their personal power against us.”
“Visualize this picture," said Linda Godfrey, coordinator of the 3-Nation group. "Twentysome members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe were told by two Oklahoma developers and two high paid lawyers that they were to leave the Tribal Courtroom and that they will be excluded from deliberations over parcels of land that these four outside individuals were demanding that the tribal leadership lease to them before the end of the day. Then, when tribal members assert their right as communal owners of the land, these outsiders become rude, threatening, and enraged that their demands were being thwarted.”
The steps that followed led to tribal members asking lawyer Robert D. Williams, of Masterman, Culbert and Tully lawfirm of Boston if he were licensed to practice law in Maine, and wasn’t it a conflict of interest when he stated that he was representing the tribe, but was being paid by Quoddy Bay LLC? Williams responded that he was operating under tribal lawyer Craig Francis’s license and denied any conflict of interest in representing both the tribe and the developer.
“We Protect Our Land” Co-coordinator Vera Francis is leading the process to pursue the question of a conflict of interest related to Attorney Robert D. Williams. Francis contends that Williams is participating in what she calls, “an inappropriate practice of law” when he said he is representing the tribe yet being paid by and clearly representing the interests of Quoddy Bay LLC. Attorney Williams sought to pressure the tribal leaders to sign the land lease agreement, an act which “effectively means that Quoddy Bay LLC would own Pleasant Point land for the next generation or two,” according to Francis. Francis has begun the complaint process with the Maine State Board of Overseers, and indicated that Massachusetts, where Williams is registered to practice law, has a similar agency where a complaint will also be filed. “The groundwork has been laid, the process is in motion,” said Francis.
Francis will include in the complaint against Williams that he lacks the basic legal knowledge of Maine’s status in relation to the land claims settlement language, election reform, and land use regulations. “Williams is aware of the legality of the Perry vote in relation to Article 40, yet he was supporting this land lease agreement that proposes to ignore the vote, take the land, and make the people of Perry and the town of Perry engage in a legal battle and legal costs to defend the legal outcome of their democratic expression in the vote,” Francis stated.
Francis also contends that “Attorney Williams and tribal Attorney Craig Francis have also been providing advice to tribal leaders which has resulted in tribal community members being excluded from public debate and scrutiny of issues affecting their communally-owned land and future livelihoods, denied access to justice, and literally pushed out of their own legal processes.” Francis stated that, “When three non-native men (Attorney Williams and developers Donald Smith and Brian Smith) tell community members to leave our governmental building or be arrested but they, themselves, stay it was a perpetration of the greatest injustice of all, and defining the greatest poverty of all the misuse of political power and the taking of human freedom. This is what Attorney Williams participated in, advised, and supported. It was wrong, unethical, immoral, humiliating, coercive, and demoralizing behavior on the part of the attorney and the developers, and 'We Protect Our Land' members will not stand for this treatment and this misuse of the law,” Vera Francis concluded.
Francis recounted an incident at the beginning of the evening meeting when developer Donald Smith entered the room and apparently did not like the lack of greeting from tribal member Dr. Deanna Francis. “Smith attempted to physically intimidate Deanna by moving to within inches of her face to force a greeting. It was an obvious attempt to demoralize and bully her. This was only the beginning of a meeting filled with insulting and bullying behavior by Donald Smith and Brian Smith. They apparently don’t comprehend the respect Native people give to elders, especially elder women. It was a shocking display of rudeness by these non-tribal arrivals in our community,” Francis said.
Developer Donald M. Smith, while unwilling to distribute copies of the land-lease agreement he was proposing for Quoddy Bay LLC., revealed that his company was pushing to lease the same acreage that is restricted by Article 40 and that was recently rejected by the voters of Perry as a site for an LNG terminal. This is also the land presently under development by the Pleasant Point Housing Authority as the site for 28 new tribal homes. In addition, it was revealed that Quoddy Bay LLC also desired to lease land near the tribal wharf and known as Split Rock, a traditional sacred site for the tribe. It is believed that at least one additional piece of land was named in the land-lease agreement which Smith declined to show to tribal members.
“We own this land, our people own this land, as we have for generations,“ said Vera Francis, a spokeswoman for the Protect Our Homeland group. “These men were demanding that the tribe give them a land lease for 30-plus years. They were proposing to take parcels of our land into their total control. These parcels of land are located in various locations around the reservation and with LNG exclusion zones, safety zones, and thermal radiation zones, under their plan the entire reservation would have to be moved to accommodate their project. It was a cruel and evil attempt on their part to take our land for their benefit. Ethics and morality were completely missing from their approach. Thank goodness our community members, and finally our tribal leaders, saw what the developers and lawyers were up to. It was a land grab attempt!”
Francis reported that “Tribal Councilor Hilda Lewis made the motion and Councilor Dale Mitchell seconded a two-week delay of action on the requested land-lease. The vote passed 6 - 1. This was a triumph for the Passamaquoddy people and the Bay, and a huge setback for the developers and their collaborators,” Francis concluded.
Passamaquoddy Tribal Representative Fred Moore, who originally invited LNG onto the reservation and has since separated himself from the project, was present and spoke about the positive path the proposed Downeast Racino/Racetrack is on, and he supported the moratorium on the LNG land-lease agreement in favor of letting the racino/racetrack move forward. This recommendation met with favor and was seen as an additional reason to delay any decision on the land-lease request.
Developer Brian Smith indicated that if they (Quoddy Bay LLC) did not receive a signed land-lease agreement from the tribe on Thursday, they would pursue developing a site elsewhere, such as in Robbinston. This announcement by Smith connects with several reports over the past few weeks that residents of Robbinston have been visited by Smith with offers to purchase land. Other reports said that the Robbinston selectmen had signed a letter supporting LNG in that town without bringing any discussion into a community venue, and there was word that a second LNG developer, or a remake of Quoddy Bay under another name, "Downeast LNG," was in formation. Referring to "http://www.downeastlng.com" does yield the result of a website “under construction.”
Canadian members of Save Passamaquoddy Bay are alerting the communities that have already issued official opposition to an LNG terminal in Passamaquoddy Bay (St. Stephen, St. Andrews, Deer Island, Campobello Island, Black’s Harbor, and Grand Manan) that the developers announced seeking an LNG site in Robbinston. Such siting would bring a greater LNG threat to Canadian shores, communities, and federal facilities. This threat to Canadian residents, businesses, biological research facilities, historic sites, and the traditional fishery is expected to draw additional resistance from the Canadian Provincial and Federal governments, as well as area residents.
Save Passamaquoddy Bay organizers in Perry intend to stand by the decision of the voters who rejected a terminal on Article-40 land. Perry organizers expressed shock that Donald Smith and Quoddy Bay LLC were proposing to the tribe that they lease the Article-40 land despite the Perry vote, thus forcing a legal action for Perry to protect its vote. Perry organizers confirm that several of their members continue to actively work with their own attorney in the pursuit of their request for a prosecutorial investigation into the statutory bribery complaint against Donald M. Smith, Quoddy Bay LLC., and their agents related to their financial offer to the voters of Perry just prior to the Article-40 vote.
Save Passamaquoddy Bay/We Protect Our Land 3-Nation Alliance has announced formation of the "Green Coast," an organization to move forward on planning sustainable economic development around Passamaquoddy Bay, and to take a leadership role in creating sustainable energy sources.
A meeting of the Green Coast will be held from 10:00 AM 5:00 PM ET / 11:00 AM 6:00 PM AT on Saturday, May 28, at the Crohn Conference Center on Otis Lane, South Meadow Road, in Perry. Persons from other communities in Maine that have been threatened with proposed LNG sitings, and residents of inland communities who wish to join in , or support, the Green Coast project are welcome to attend. This first session will be a formative process and think-tank approach. The session is open and a US$15.00 per-person fee will be charged upon arrival to pay for lunch and space rental. For more information, call (207)581-4123.
For more details on all of the past, present, and planned work of Save Passamaquoddy Bay/We Protect Our Land, visit our website at "www.savepassamaquoddybay.org".