The Passamaquoddy tribe has bought back its ancestral island, located off the coast of Maine, United States, 160 years after being cast out from it, thus regaining a piece of land loaded with sentimental value and spiritual importance.
“We have a role in the systemic injustice that was inflicted on indigenous people and therefore a responsibility addressing that,” says Mark Berry from the Nature Conservancy which contributed to helping the tribe get back its land. For the Passamaquoddy tribe, the “concept of land ownership is that nobody ‘owns’ land. Instead, we have a sacred duty to protect it. This is like finding a lost relative,” explains Chief William Nicholas, leader of the tribe’s Indian township reservation.
For at least 10,000 years, the Passamaquoddy tribe lived in Kuwesuwi Monihg, or Pine Island. As of 1861, no members of the tribe lived there anymore. When the island was listed for sale under the name “White’s Island” for $449,000, the tribe raised $355,000 in donations to buy it back. The bid was funded by First Light, a group of ecologists from Maine, who has a history of returning land to tribes in Nebraska, Alaska, and Oregon.