The Passamaquoddy, a small tribe of 3,700 Native Americans, lived on Pine Island for at least 10,000 years.
The island is a spiritually important place for the tribe, as it is full of graves of Native Americans who died from outbreaks of smallpox, cholera and measles caused by white settlers.
In 1794 the island was officially granted to the tribe by the state of Massachusetts for its service during the Revolutionary War.. But after 1820, when Maine became its own state, the colonialists changed its title, voiding the treaty. In the 1851 census there were only 20 Passamaquoddy living there, and by 1861 there were none.
By 2021, the tribe had not set foot on Pine Island in 160 years.
“The land was stolen from us and since then it has been the goal of all the bosses to return it“Said Chief William Nicholas, 51, the tribe’s Indian Township Reservation Leader for the past 11 years, The Guardian reported.
Nicholas saw an ad in a store on July 4 of last year selling 143 acres of the island with panoramic views of Big Lake in Maine for $ 449,000.
In March, with a grant from conservation charities, the tribe raised $ 355,000 and eventually bought the island..
Donald Soctomah, the tribe’s historic preservation officer, said: “Our concept of land ownership is that no one ‘owns’ land. Instead, we have a sacred duty to protect it. This is like finding a lost relative. “
The Pine Island purchase is the latest successful land reclamation attempt by Native American groups following the loss of 1.5 billion acres since 1776, rendering Native Americans impoverished.
In July of last year, the previously landless Esselen tribe purchased 1,200 acres in Big Sur in California for $ 4.5 million., money that was also donated by conservationists. This happened 250 years after they were forced to participate in Christian missions.
Also, in 2019, the Wiyot tribe took back the 280-acre Duluwat Island in California, when the city of Eureka returned it for free, 159 years after a massacre suffered by these Native Americans.
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