Protecting our sacred Wolastoq

9 years ago

To the editor:

On behalf of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, I want to express profound gratitude to all who worked to defeat proposed weak mining rules that came before the legislature earlier this year.  These rules would have seriously threatened water quality in Maine.  I also want to thank the many members of the legislature who voted against this bill.

Since first proposed, these rules have been of great concern to our entire community.  These rules presented the high likelihood of extensive, irreversible damage to Maine’s waters from acid mine drainage.  Such damage would likely have occurred first at a project already proposed for Bald Mountain, in Aroostook County, where we live.

Bald Mountain is also located in the St. John River watershed.  We call it “Wolastoq” which means “beautiful river.”  We call ourselves, “Wolastoqiwik,” people of that river.  Water is sacred to us.  Maliseets have fished in the waters of the Wolastoq/St. John for thousands of years.  We want to continue our cultural traditions in this, our ancestral homeland for thousands more.

As an elected leader of my Tribe, I am charged with the responsibility of protecting the health and welfare of our community and sustaining and renewing our traditional ways and ancient cultural ties to the environment.  We too testified in person and in writing against these weak mining rules.  We know the health and welfare of all Maine people depends on clean water, now and for generations to come.

It was heartening to hear many citizens and legislators of our State agree.

Brenda Commander

Tribal Chief