Tag Archives: tribes

The Maliseet Nation, Restoring Sea-Run Fish in the Beautiful, Flowing River

This blog is the second in a series written by Jr. Native American Liaison Zintkala Eiring to highlight our Tribal partners and the work they are doing to manage wildlife populations – in honor of National Native American Heritage Month.  

The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians are known by several names: “Wolastoqeqiyik”, the “People of the Beautiful, Flowing River” or the “Metahksonikewiyik”, the “People of the Meduxnekeag River”. The Houlton Band are ancestrally committed to conserving the native fish with whom they share their home in northern Maine. Traditionally, the Houlton Band crafted birch bark canoes to travel during spring, the spawning season for sea-run fish, within Saint John’s Watershed, known as “Wolastoq” to the Maliseet. Historically, Maliseet Native Americans occupied most of the eastern border between the U.S. and Canada. In fact, the Jay Treaty of 1794 established free border crossing for Maliseet people between the two countries. Currently, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Tribal trust land is near the town of Houlton, Maine.


The sea-run fish of the Meduxnekeag are traditionally significant to the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, but due to several threats, the Atlantic salmon is now defined as an “at risk” species in the United States. In fact, the species is listed as Endangered within the Gulf of Maine’s Distinct Population Segment (https://www.fws.gov/fisheries/fishguide/atlantic_salmon.html). Photo Credit: Zintkala Eiring

One of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians’ effort toward protecting their traditional fish, is to improve fish passage enhancement around culverts in tributaries of the Meduxnekeag River, which is named for being “rocky at its mouth”. This project is funded by Tribal Wildlife Grant, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

One of the individuals leading this effort is, Sharri Venno, the Environmental Planner for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. She mentioned several impairments that are encountered by the Atlantic salmon and other native fish that travel and shelter within the Meduxnekeag River. For example, up until the 1970’s, the Meduxnekeag riverbed was used to transport logged trees down the river to for lumber and timber-related industries. This resulted in an unnatural habitat for spawning fish, with few resting sites and little habitat to escape predation. Additionally, the State of Maine still identifies the presence of  DDT and mercury in Maine’s inland waters. Furthermore, the Mactaquac dam in Fredericton, New Brunswick, built in 1968, creates a major obstacle for spawning, migratory fish. Due in part to several consultations with Tribal Nations, the dam company agreed to dedicate $100 million to fish passage. The Houlton Band and other Maliseet First Nations continue to increase awareness about fish being trapped within the dam’s head-pond and the difficulty of upstream passage for fish. Currently, fish have to be captured below the head-pond and trucked upstream to artificially complete their sea-run fish passage, terming the phrase “trap and truck” for spawning fish.

atlantic salmon greg thompson

Recently, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Natural Resource staff learned that Atlantic salmon were found during a Canadian survey in Marven Brook, North Branch, and Hagerman Brook, which are all segments of the Meduxnekeag River near their Tribal trust land. Marven Brook was the most successful, with 16 fry and 2 parr sampled in August 2016, using electrofishing equipment, according to Cara O’ Donnell. The HBMI’s next project goal is to use Environmental DNA (eDNA) to have a greater understanding of the presence/absence of Atlantic salmon and other aquatic species in the Watershed, which is being done in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Pictured here: Atlantic salmon. Photo Credit: USFWS, Greg Thompson

Due to the efforts of  the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department and funding from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians have also improved 2 miles of the Meduxnekeag Main Stem, over 1 mile of the North Branch, and 100 feet of Pearce Brook, an upstream tributary and fishing location. HMBI has also placed large boulders and trees within the river system to replicate natural habitat structures that would have been in the river before the timber industry removed them in Maine.


The goal of placing pooling structures is to provide resting spots for spawning fish swimming upstream the Meduxnekeag River. Sharri Venno imagines the new habitat structures will help narrow and deepen the stream like it was naturally. Photo Credit: Zintkala Eiring



The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians have been passionate advocates for the conservation of native fish, and have been heavily involved in the protection and recovery of sea-run fish. Several agencies have partnered with Maliseet Tribes through the signatures of several U.S. Federal Agencies (including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and Canadian Departments on the “Welastekw River Interim Statement of Cooperation” The document may be viewed here: Final Signed Statement of Cooperation 2017 Photo Credit: Zintkala Eiring

The conservation story of the Atlantic salmon is one of adaptability, perseverance, and pure passion and cultural attachment by the Houlton Band of Maliseet Tribe. Maliseet Nations have been sustainably harvesting sea-run fish for thousands of years. And today, they are at the heart of returning them to the Meduxnekeag River.

The Fish Enhancement Project was made possible by the dedication and efforts of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and the Tribal Wildlife Grant program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Grants are funded through an annual appropriation from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. For more information on the program, please view this website: https://www.fws.gov/nativeamerican/grants.html


103 Native Youth Pollinate for the Future

The open space technology communications model is similar to pollinators in the natural environment. Individuals move and buzz around through preference areas of subject matter. In the case of the Native Youth Climate Adaption Leadership Congress (NYCALC), topic areas with the potential to be pollinated were Networking, Education, Spirituality, Sustainability, and Respecting Elders. Unlike flowers, these topics were specifically chosen by 103 indigenous, high school students from across the United States and American Samoa. Like butterflies, bats, and bees, students were able to to browse through these topic areas and decide which topics they were most passionate about. Students communicated and creatively designed a presentation about their chosen topic throughout the NYCALC week at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. 

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Indigenous youth from diverse cultural backgrounds immersed themselves in brainstorming  and taught faculty about their  solutions to the question, “What can you do to cultivate/nurture adaption to make your community resilient in a changing world?” As young leaders, indigenous students provided inspiration and encouragement for a bright future.

Jamilla Martell, Dilon Ortiz, Ben Hunter-Francis II, and La’akea Judd share their experiences of NYCALC. (Click on the image to view a slideshow of these experiences)


My tiospaye (extended family (Oglala Lakota language))

NYCALC, who would’ve thought bringing nearly two-hundred people together would feel like family on their third day of just meeting? The week was memorable at the least, but really, a life changing experience that connects you to an indigenous family and indigenous ally family that supports, encourages, and believes in you. We all are there for each other and that was really, the heart of NYCALC.


Learning, Planting, and Preserving Homelands with the Mashpee Wampanoag

The Mashpee Wampanoag (Wopanaak) Tribe, the People of The First Light, have lived in the Eastern Massachusetts area for thousands of years. The Mashpee, are one of the sixty-nine Tribes that existed of the Wampanoag Nation, which extended from present-day Provincetown, Massachusetts to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. Today, the Mashpee reside in their traditional village of Mashpee off the southwestern coast of Cape Cod. Nearby, the Waquoit bay area, home of salt marshes, cranberry bogs, Atlantic white cedar swamps, freshwater marshes, rivers, and vernal pools, are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge.


Not only are the Mashpee NWR and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in close proximity to each other, but they also collaborated for a conservation sharing experience: traditional ecological knowledge from the Mashpee Wampanoag and conservation methods from the Service. In fact, on August 1st, 2017, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Mashpee, Massachusetts hosted their sixth annual Preserving Our Homelands (POH) Summer Science Camp. This year, the Service participated extensively on a sunny, Tuesday, “FWS Day”.

Tom Eagle, the Deputy Wildlife Manager, and Jared Green, the Wildlife Refuge Specialist from Eastern Mass. NWR Complex visited the Tribe and demonstrated radio telemetry tracking. Students engaged during the process by using equipment to track a tagged, symbolic New England cottontail and Northern long-eared bat, while learning about native and ecologically important species in the region. In fact, both animals are species of concern due to habitat loss for cottontails and white nose syndrome in bats. Tom Eagle expressed the experience by saying, “The Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge has had a great partnership with the tribe since the refuge was established in 1995. Together, the Service and partners have protected many acres for wildlife and have cooperatively managed hundreds of acres of habitat for rare species.” Eagle continued with, “However, this is the first time that the refuge has interacted with and connected with tribal youth. It was a great experience to learn along with them about their culture. I hope we continue to work together as a team on conservation issues and that some students continue in their learning and seek careers with the Service.”

The Northeast Regional Office participated at the FWS Day as well. Leah Hawthorn, the Public Affairs Assistant led a pollinator lesson about native species roles and pertinence to daily life. Students were able to make chapstick using pollinated ingredients and create bee bundle habitats with Japanese knotweed, a recycled invasive plant. Chloe Doe, a SCA/Americorp Intern for the Regional Office also designed a jeopardy board and engaged students in answering fun factoids about pollinators. The prize for correct answers were chocolates pollinated by the peculiar, chocolate midge!

As Americorp Jr. Native American Liaison for Northeast and Regional Tribes with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I presented how my Oglala Lakota culture has influenced my pathway to the Liaison position. I explained how my internships with several environmental federal agencies all maintained a similar mission of preserving the environment for future generations. Lakota traditions similarly believe in thinking seven generations ahead in order to ensure the spiritual, physical, and emotional health and stability for the future of our Tribe. These expressed similarities presented the commonalities between the mission of the Service and my cultural traditions. I then segued into career options for the Mashpee Wampanoag youth and received several questions about the Youth Conservation Corp and how they might become involved.

That day at Mashpee, Wampanoag youth were already involved in conservation of their ancestral homelands. In fact, students were encouraged to design their own aesthetically-pleasing and meaningful garden to benefit pollinating insects. Ted Kendziora, wildlife biologist from the New England Field Office led this native species garden planting activity with Mary Kay Fox, the President of Friends of Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge. In all, 185 native plants were put into Mashpee Wampanoag ground for pollinators, including 21 different plant species, 6 of which were host plants for 8 different species of butterflies. Serviceberry, yellow false indigo, New Jersey tea, perennial lupine, New England aster, and butterfly weed were planted specifically for pollinators. Culturally relevant plants to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are chokecherry and American hazelnut.

A Mashpee Wampanoag community member reminded students that decades from now when the students are elders, they can look back upon this garden and be reminded of their contributions to their community. Casey C. Thornbrugh PhD, Director Of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Natural Resources Department and Chuckie Green, Assistant Natural Resources Director also contributed to sharing the traditional ecological knowledge of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and how Mashpee youth can continue to be involved in preserving their ancestral homelands.

The Preserving our Homelands experience was not only a partnership and collaboration between the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Service, but a positive learning experience for all who were involved.. It was rewarding to share our knowledge of radio telemetry, pollination, and career pathways, but it was a much greater gift to be welcomed by the Mashpee Wampanoag community. A sincere thank you to the Tribal students who made our day inspiring, exciting, and memorable. The students shared with us their enthusiasm for their home and we are so honored to have been invited by Casey Thornbrugh and Chuckie Green.

In my language, I thank the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe for the Preserving Our Homeland experience. Pilamaya. Wopila.