Documentary released on contested Penobscot River territory

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INDIAN ISLAND – This week, the Sunlight Media Collective releasedThe Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory, a documentary film that explores the conflict between the state of Maine and the Penobscot Nation over contested river territory.

Spanning from the 1700’s to the present-day legal battle of Penobscot Nation v. Mills, the film illustrates the Penobscots’ centuries-long fight to retain their territory and their inherent, treaty-reserved sustenance fishing rights for future generations. Featuring first-person accounts, the film tells the story of a struggle for justice and cultural survival in the face of what the Penobscots have termed  as an open abuse of state power.

The documentary release closely follows a meeting between Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis and President Obama, where they discussed the Penobscot Nation v. Mills case. The Penobscot Nation is suing the state of Maine in response to a decision by former Attorney General William Schneider that the Penobscot Indian reservation, which includes more than 200 islands in the Penobscot River, does not include any portion of the water. Oral arguments for the case are scheduled for October 14 at US District Court in Portland.

The case is taking place in the context of a larger state battle over river jurisdiction and water quality standards. In February, the federal EPA ruled that Maine must improve its water quality standards to protect Penobscot sustenance fishing rights. Governor Paul LePage has called the ruling “outrageous” and threatened to relinquish state regulatory responsibilities to the federal EPA if they did not reverse the ruling.

Funded by Broad Reach Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory is available for free on the Sunlight Media Collective website (www.sunlightmediacollective.org), and DVDs are available by order. To schedule a screening, please emailsunlightmediacollective@gmail.com.

The Sunlight Media Collective is a collaboration between Penobscot and non-native filmmakers.