Indigenous Nonprofit Successfully Reclaims Ancestral Lands

Published December 6, 2018

Sacred land is now home to Nibezun, a Native-led organization committed to preserving and restoring Wabanaki traditions

PASSADUMKEAG, Maine — Along the Penobscot River in Passadumkeag sits a majestic 85-acre property that is part of the ancestral homelands of the Wabanaki people. Thanks to efforts from Nibezun, as well as support from local and national nonprofits and generous individuals, this ancestral land has now been permanently reclaimed by the Wabanaki people.

The land, which contains the only land bridge to the Penobscot Nation’s treasured Olamon Island, as well as a historic ceremonial ground and cultural gathering place, is now home to Nibezun, a Native-led organization that seeks to revitalize and preserve Wabanaki culture, traditions and ways of life.

For generations, the previous owners allowed Wabanaki use of the land, but in 2015, the property was put up for sale.  Shortly thereafter, a small and courageous group of tribal members and allies sprang into action to permanently secure this sacred place. In the ensuing months and years, support for this effort grew, and with conservation advice and financial support from The Conservation Fund, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, The Quimby Family Foundation, community members and supporters from around the state and the country, Nibezun was able to pay off the bridge financing and own this land fully in late October of this year.

“As our community of support grew, we realized that Nibezun is not the land, not any one person, not the buildings; Nibezun is a medicine that binds us all in a common thought, provides a way of being together in a complicated world, and allows a prayer to echo through us all in our own individual ways,” said Dr. Ben Huerth, Vice President of Nibezun’s Board of Directors. “It is this collective prayer that allowed us to succeed in securing Nibezun for the generations to come.” Notes Sherri Mitchell, former Executive Director of Nibezun and Capital Campaign Co-Chair.

The Native-led non-profit will use the existing facilities – which include two large houses, an enclosed equestrian facility, a guest cottage, outbuildings, and walking trails through a rich and diverse landscape of woods and waterfront – to carry out Nibezun’s programming.