2006 March 23
Even with Quoddy Bay LLC’s goal of quadrupling its plan for Split Rock, those most put at risk, the Passamaquoddy, have yet to hear what that plan actually entails.
Pleasant Point, Maine Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon (We Take Care of the Land) is a community-based group focused on protecting our exclusive and sovereign rights to design and create ecologically responsive projects on our ancestral lands. In our short history Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon has led grassroots organizing and action, collaborated with surrounding communities, including Canada, and sponsored environmental justice and educational workshops. We recently incorporated our group in our state and are currently pursuing Federal non-profit status.
On June 8, 2004, we learned that our tribal elected leaders and an Oklahoma-based company, Quoddy Bay LLC, had been pursuing a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) energy project. A cogeneration electric facility was part of the plan. We organized to stop the proposed development of the LNG complex within our ancestral lands. An LNG complex will negatively affect our health and environment and can potentially or permanently change our cultural identity. Historically, as a hunting/gathering Tribe, we derived our livelihood from the land. Our Tribal name, Passamaquoddy, translated means "People of the Pollock," reflecting our intimate connection with the bay and its abundance. Even in times of great need our ancestors remained steadfast in their connection with the land and the earth. Any impact on the land affected them. The most recent environmental impact bisected our community with the building of a road in 1955. As the largest Native community in New England, our lives, our community is at risk of being unalterably changed if ancestral land and waters are exploited for corporate development.
On June 1, 2005, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) authorized a ground lease agreement between Quoddy Bay, LLC and the Passamaquoddy Tribe. The lease allows the construction of an LNG facility on the Split Rock site located in our community on the shore of Passamaquoddy Bay and the US/Canadian border. BIA’s non-compliance of its trust responsibilities is easily the most troubling, if not the most essential point of our claim. The Vermont Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic assisted Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon in challenging the ground lease in Federal court based on BIA’s failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) standards, lack of public information, and non-compliance of the Endangered Species Act. Passamaquoddy Bay is home to a nursery of healthy harbor porpoise, a traditional food source for us, and also the migratory route to summer feeding and nursery areas for perhaps 300 Western North Atlantic Right Whales. The Pilot, Humpback and Fin Whale frequent the same route.
On December 16, 2005, Quoddy Bay LLC pre-filed an application for final regulatory approval with the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC), ushering/allowing them through the Federal permitting process. It was critical we file for intervener status with FERC. Ron Shems, Esq. from Burlington Vermont, agreed to defend our case and has filed a motion to intervene on our behalf. Responding to FERC hinges on timing, legal expertise, and legitimacy to assure that our traditional land use is not permanently changed. We focus not on the hardships brought on already by the developers, but on designing and creating sustainable projects for Passamaquoddy people.
The FERC processes are marked by legal complexity and expense positioning us at a disadvantage. We are confident that Split Rock, a ceremonial site, will remain untouched by unsustainable development. Passamaquoddy men participated in the revolutionary war in Machias and were given ten acres, which included the Split Rock site. Passamaquoddy ancestral land holds historic and cultural value and gives meaning to our lives.
Our ancestors paid a heavy price for our survival and their values of generosity, reciprocity and ingenuity are not lost on us. It is our responsibility to assure our descendents we did everything humanly possible to keep the bay ecologically sound.
Ron Shems, of Shems, Dunkiel, Kassel & Saunders, can be reached at 802-860-1003.
For more information about how to make positive change possible for generations to come contact:
PO Box 313
Perry, Maine 04667