Wabanaki Sovereignty

A story by Mali Obomsawin (Abenaki) and Lokotah Sanborn (Penobscot) from 2023

Mali Obomsawin (Abenaki First Nation at Odanak)

Bomazeen Land Trust is a Wabanaki-led 501(c)3 non-profit. Our mission is to enable Abenaki/Wabanaki peoples to renew and resume our caretaking and stewardship roles for lands and waters with historical, spiritual, and ecological significance to the Abenaki/Wabanaki people. Our programs are devoted to cultural transmission, land return, and food sovereignty.

Waterways in central and western Maine, and their outlets to the Atlantic, were once home to countless Wabanaki communities engaged in food sovereignty. They grew diverse crop varieties along their banks, harvested salmon, sturgeon, and shellfish, and through food maintained a deep intertribal trade and political network. Grounded in history, this region is Bomazeen Land Trust’s primary focus.

Alongside warfare and financially incentivized genocide, Euro-American colonists targeted Wabanaki food systems in an attempt to disrupt self-sufficiency and political alliances. The damming and pollution of vital rivers that began in the 1700s aimed to starve communities from their homes and continues to inhibit safe and sustainable fish consumption today. The destruction of forest ecosystems which bolstered Maine’s proud timber industry severed many Wabanakis from their hunting territories, and European systems of private property ended millennia of communal landholding. Gradually over centuries, a landscape once teeming with food, medicine, and relationality has been destroyed in attempts to subdue Wabanaki people.

Today, our communities still experience these disruptions through food insecurity and diet-related disease. We lack access to lands where our cultural traditions can be practiced and are legally inhibited from collective landholding as Wabanaki people. Bomazeen Land Trust is working to secure Wabanaki land access and re-center our foodways in order to restore the traditional economies, alliances and cultural practices of our ancestors. Rematriation– the return of land to Indigenous peoples and the renewal of cultural traditions that accompany it– is Bomazeen Land Trust’s work across Abenaki/Wabanaki territory.

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