The Katahdin region is sacred and is no place for a mine

By Maulian Bryant, Penobscot Nation tribal ambassador

Our homelands are at risk. The Katahdin region is at risk. The lands of our ancestors — where our people have been stewards for thousands of years — face an urgent threat from Wolfden Resources’ proposed mine. The company is seeking to rezone lands near Pickett Mountain in the Katahdin region and move forward with its controversial mining operation, which would primarily mine zinc. The Penobscot Nation continues to stand in firm opposition to this unproven mining company’s proposal. We call upon the Land Use Planning Commission to reject the rezoning proposal and help protect the lands and waters that are so precious to both our tribal citizens and all Mainers.

In every decision our Tribe makes, we consider the need to protect Mother Earth. Through our

ancestors’ stories that have been passed down for generations, we have been taught how to live in relation to the Earth. Our way of life is centered around living in balance — not taking more than we need just because we can. We respect everything that’s alive — the animals, the plants, the fish, the trees — all no more or no less important than humans. Our opposition to this proposal is not just about protecting the environment — we’re protecting our way of life. We’re protecting everything that gave our ancestors the strength and fortitude to make it through one of the worst attempted genocides this world has ever known. We are carrying all of them with us as we fight this threat to what we know and cherish — that which has nourished us since time immemorial.

The Katahdin region is no place for a mine. Katahdin is the most sacred place in our homeland — the birthplace of our ancestors. Potentially desecrating the region’s lands and waters is deeply personal to our Tribe.

Yet Wolfden has shown blatant disrespect for the Wabanaki Nations, with one of its leaders claiming several years ago that, “There are no Indigenous rights in the state of Maine and so this really streamlines the permitting process.” 

While we are actively working to have our sovereignty better recognized by the state, it was disrespectful and wrong to claim that there are no Indigenous rights in Maine. And we intend to continue to use those rights to oppose this potentially disastrous mine. The proposed Wolfden mine poses a significant risk to the region’s clean water and natural character — the lands that Mainers cherish, that tribal nations use for sustenance, and that people from across the country visit each year. Not only have our Tribes spoken out against Wolfden’s plans, so have leading conservation organizations and local businesses that depend on income from recreation in the region.

The site is surrounded by prime brook trout waters and contains the headwaters of the West Branch of the Mattawamkeag River, which is sacred to the Penobscot Nation and provides key, federally designated critical habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon.

Not only is the mine itself potentially dangerous for this region and our way of life, we also believe the same about Wolfden as a company. Wolfden is a little-known Canadian company that has never operated a mine before. In fact, the company withdrew its initial application after the Land Use Planning Commission’s staff found it was riddled with “errors, omissions, and inconsistencies” and now wants another shot at a project that could destroy the lands that we cherish and hold sacred. The company claims it will treat its wastewater to be as clean as natural groundwater in the region but has not provided a single comparable mine that has been able to do this. Why would we trust Wolfden’s claims?

Do we really want to risk a place as special as this on an unproven company making grandiose promises?

The Penobscot Nation, alongside our brothers and sisters in the Wabanaki Confederacy, state loudly and clearly: Absolutely not. The Land Use Planning Commission should follow the draft recommendation from its staff to deny the proposed rezoning of these lands for mining, and they should send Wolfden packing once and for all.

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