Wabanaki Days in Maine

Boulders are placed in the Meduxnekeag River to create more natural aquatic habit for fish. Photo credit: USFWS

Boulders are placed in the Meduxnekeag River to create a more natural aquatic habit for fish. Photo credit: USFWS

Jen with fish
Today we hear from Jennifer Lapis, a public affairs specialist in the Northeast Region. This summer she visited three Native American tribes in Maine, getting a firsthand look at the restoration and wildlife conservation work being completed in partnership with the Service and other organizations. 

Laughs and smiles of excitement flooded the air as we pulled up to the project site on the serene Meduxnekeag River. On this sunny summer day in northern Maine, I had the pleasure of joining the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and several partnering agencies at a traditional blessing ceremony, honoring the start of an in-stream habitat restoration project that will benefit eastern brook trout and other aquatic species found in the river.

Others attending the Maliseet ceremony were part of a dedicated team of professionals who worked for more than a year to develop, coordinate and finally witness the anticipated habitat enhancement project come to fruition.

Representatives from the Maliseet Tribe and partnering organizations pose for a group photo. Partnering agencies involved are: Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Houlton Band of Maliseets, Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Town of Littleton.

Representatives from the Maliseet Tribe and partnering organizations pose for a group photo. Partnering agencies involved are: Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Houlton Band of Maliseets, Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Town of Littleton, Maine.

The Maliseets, members of the Wabanaki Nation, are river people who have traditionally been hunters and gatherers in the St. John River basin, of which the Meduxnekeag River is a tributary. The Meduxnekeag, which in the Wabanaki language means, “where it is rocky at its mouth,” runs through Maliseet Tribal lands and is prized for its brook and brown trout populations.

Standing on the bridge looking out, I watched in awe as large trucks and heavy equipment operators brought large boulders and entire tree trunks into the river, strategically placing them to create more natural habitats for fish. This particular restoration project is significant not only for restoring the area to its historical natural ecology, but also for the spiritual and cultural meaning the river and all its resources have provided for life and survival of the Maliseet people.

D.J. Monette, the Service's regional Native American Liaison, participates in the smudging performed by a Tribal elder. Photo Credit: USFWS

D.J. Monette, the Service’s regional Native American Liaison, participates in the smudging performed by a Tribal elder. Photo Credit: USFWS

The trip to Houlton was part of a whirlwind tour of several natural resource project sites in northeast Maine, all conducted by tribes, in partnership with federal, state and non-profit organizations. These projects are made possible, in part, with funding through the Service’s Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, National Fish Habitat Action Plan and Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture.

Other tribes we visited on this engaging trip were the Aroostook Band of Micmacs and the Penobscot Indian Nation, who also belong to the larger Wabanaki Nation. As with the Maliseets, these tribes are heavily involved with natural resource projects throughout their lands and in the community. Our tour of project sites brought us to a newly constructed farm store and fish hatchery, a natural rock weir (made for fish passage), and road culverts that will help restore streams to their natural flow for better fish passage, wildlife habitat and are designed to withstand 100 year catastrophic rain events.

A natural rock weir created on Penobscot Indian Nation land to help fish pass up and down stream. Photo credit: USFWS

“This natural rock weir helps direct fish and  allows them to move freely and naturally up and down stream, giving them access to important spawning habitat.” Photo credit: USFWS

As a public affairs specialist for the Service, my day to day job duties tend to keep me in the office a majority of the time. Having an opportunity to get outdoors and see first hand the conservation work I so often read and write about, was a refreshing and heart- warming experience. Along those same lines, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting two respected Tribal Leaders, Houlton Band of Maliseet Chief Brenda Commander and Aroostook Band of Micmac Chief Charlie Peter Paul. It was an enlightening, educational, and certainly, a most memorable trip.

Learn more about our work with Native American Tribes

Learn more about the National Fish Habitat Partnership

Learn more about Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture

One Comment on “Wabanaki Days in Maine

  1. Wonderful article of restoration and collaboration between multiple agencies! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: