The Passamaquoddy’s purchase of Pine Island is the latest in a series of successful ‘land back’ campaigns for indigenous people in the US.
The advert painted an idyllic picture: For $449,000 you could buy 143 acres of forests with sweeping views of the rugged shoreline of Big Lake in Maine, on the east coast of the United States.
In fact, Kuwesuwi Monihq, or Pine Island, technically has just one true “caretaker”; the Passamaquoddy: a small tribe of nearly 4,000 Native Americans who had lived there for at least 10,000 years. It’s a spiritually important place for the tribe.
In 1794 it was officially granted to the tribe by Massachusetts for their service during the revolutionary war. But after 1820, when Maine became its own state, colonialists reneged on the deal and by 1851 there were 20 Passamaquoddy living there; in 1861 there were none.
“The land was stolen from us and it’s been every chief’s goal ever since to return it,” said chief William Nicholas, 51, leader of the tribe’s Indian township reservation for the last 11 years, who spotted the advert on a shop noticeboard on 4 July last year.
In March, with a grant from conservation charities, the tribe raised $355,000, and finally bought the island back.
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