Native American Tribe in Maine Gets Back Sacred Island Taken 160 Years Ago

The Passamaquoddy Tribe reacquired 140 acres of their ancestral territory, thanks to help from The Nature Conservancy which granted them funds to purchase Pine Island, known to them as Kuwesuwi Monihq.

The largest island on Big Lake, Maine, the place has deep historical and cultural significance to the Passamaquoddy community. The small tribe of 3,700 Native Americans had lived there for at least 10,000 years.

“The Tribe felt this land loss was an injustice,” explains Indian Township’s Chief William Nicholas. Today with the island’s return, he continues, “There is no doubt that the Ancestors are jumping all over the place over there.”

Because of its cultural significance, regaining this stolen treaty land has been a high priority for the Tribe. Then, the island came up for sale.

“For $449,000 you could buy 143 acres of forests with sweeping views of the rugged shoreline of Big Lake in Maine… a unique property steeped in history … with only two owners in the last 95 years,” wrote the real estate agent.

Chief Nicholas contacted First Light—a collective of advocates working to serve as a bridge between conservation organizations and tribal communities. First Light and The Nature Conservancy in Maine partnered with the Tribe to remedy an historical injustice and reacquire the island.

In March, they used the $355,000 raised to finally bought the island back.

“The Passamaquoddy People have dwelled on and cared for Kuwesuwi Monihq for countless generations,” said Corey Hinton, Esq., Passamaquoddy Citizen and Lead Attorney.

“The return of the island to the Tribe will allow us to return home and to resume our stewardship of this special place.”