Environment | Opinion

Opinion: Penobscot Nation fights state to regain control of river

The Penobscot River runs through the Penobscot Nation in Maine. Photo by Cheryl Daigle

Professor Joseph Hall looks at the fight between the Penobscot Nation and the state of Maine over control of a river that runs through the reservation:
Right now, the Penobscot Indian Nation is fighting to retain control of the river that is the heart of its reservation. Penobscots have been forced to go to federal court because the state of Maine contests their right to regulate fishing and other activities along the river.

Since 1818, the heart of the Nation’s reservation has been the islands in the river north from Indian Island, their town 15 miles upriver from Bangor. Although the state supports the tribe’s right to regulate fishing activities of people on Penobscot lands, Attorney General Janet Mills is contending that the state has exclusive authority to regulate activities in the river itself.

The problem with this claim is that a number of laws and treaties dating back to 1796 support the Penobscots’ claims to the river that bears their name.

The stakes in this case are big.

Whoever regulates fishing in the river also has a say in the quality of the water those fish inhabit. Consequently, whoever wins this case will likely influence the crafting of pollution permits for towns and paper mills as well as building permits for any new east-west highways or other projects that cross this stretch of river.

Get the Story:
Joseph Hall: The Penobscots are fighting for their culture (The Lewiston Sun Journal 3/15)

More Opinions:
Cheryl Robertson: We’re forcing the Penobscot Nation to fight for ‘home’ (The Bangor Daily News 2/26)
Editorial: EPA decision sets up two-tiered water quality system that is not workable (The Bangor Daily News 2/11)

Also Today:
EPA ruling on water quality standards in Penobscot River tribal sections could cost towns millions (The Bangor Daily News 2/11)

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