Nuclear Dump Would Be On Regained Indian Hunting Land
TOWNSHIP 4ND, Maine (AP) _ The Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians are gradually regaining ownership of their ancestral hunting grounds from the white men, but a new takeover threat has them joining forces with whites to fight it.
The 92-square-mile area of rolling hills, forests and lakes in remote northern Maine has attracted the U.S. Department of Energy, which is seeking a site to store high-level radioactive wastes generated in the East.
″Why do they always pick on the Indian reserves?″ asked Lola Sockabasin, 75, a tribe member who said he hunted and trapped on the land since he was a child. ″Why? That’s what I’d like to know.″
The Indians are regaining ownership of much of the area through a land- claim settlement with the state and federal governments that was negotiated in 1980 to compensate the tribes for land they say was stolen and cheated from them by white settlers.
But part of the land, which the DOE calls the Bottle Lake Complex, is one of 12 candidates for the nuclear dump, and although no decision is expected before the turn of the century, preliminary work has already drawn the wrath of Indian leaders.
Passamaquoddy Indians made their feelings known earlier this year by ordering DOE officials off one of their two eastern Maine reservations, abruptly ending a briefing on the nuclear dump planning.
″We will not tamely submit to federal tyranny any more than our ancestors did to the tyranny of King George III,″ Glenn Starbird told DOE officials at a hearing last month. ″We are united and we will fight this thing....″
White people who live near the Bottle Lake Complex, and those who cater to sportsmen who fish in nearby Grand Lake for its celebrated landlocked salmon, say they share the Indians’ anger.
Gov. Joseph E. Brennan, who as attorney general had resisted attempts to settle the tribes’ 12.5-million-acre land claim out of court, has vowed to lead the battle against plans that could place a repository anywhere in Maine. Another site in southeastern Maine is also under consideration.
″It’s the first time the tribe and state are together on something,″ said Raphael Sockabasin, the Passamaquoddy forestry director and Lola’s son.
The Passamaquoddies are sensitive about the history of the land, where their ancestors hunted to supply food and clothes for their families, traveling by canoe through a chain of lakes to their homes east of the hunting area.
″It was always the best hunting around,″ said Sockabasin, who still makes birch canoes, snowshoes, sleds, tools and weapons like those used by his forefathers.
Other Indians say the area is full of burial grounds with religious significance, and that it was the site of a bloody battle in the 17th century in which the Passamaquoddies were defeated by marauding Mohawks.
Tribal lawyers say about 90 percent of the Bottle Lake land is or is likely to be held in trust for the two tribes under the land-claims settlement.
Asked how much of the land is Indian owned, former tribal governor Archie LaCoote, 70, shot back angrily, ″All of it.″