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view of Meduxnekeag River from a bridge Meduxnekeag River in Houlton, Maine. The river flows through Maliseet tribal lands. A September roundtable with the Houlton Band of the Maliseet Indians in Littleton, ME led to initial steps for development of a Fish Habitat Management and Restoration Plan for the Meduxnekeag River and Wolastoq/St John Watershed. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Lieutenant Commander James Brinkley, NOAA Corps
group poses in front of stone fireplace Participants in the Maliseet Nation roundtable. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Lieutenant Commander James Brinkley, NOAA Corps
James Brinkley of NOAA and Maliseet Chief Sabbatis LCDR James Brinkley, NOAA Corps (left) with Chief Clarissa Sabattis, Maliseet Tribe. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

November 30, 2017
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

Tribal Leaders, NOAA Hold Summit on Preserving Cultural Practice Through Environmental Protection

Summit, roundtables show relevance of agency's work, mission

NOAA’s North Atlantic Regional Team (NART) continued its efforts in November to show the relevance of the agency’s work and mission to leaders from eight Native American tribes and bands throughout New England at a summit on Martha’s Vineyard. During November 1-3, more than 120 met at the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) Tribal Community Center in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard to discuss preserving cultural practice through environmental protection.

The tribes and bands included the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Mohegan Tribe, Narragansett Indian Tribe, Passamaquoddy Tribe, Indian Township and Passamaquoddy Tribe of Pleasant Point Reservation, and the Penobscot Indian Nation.

Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the American Indian Environmental Office discussed a variety of topics relevant to the tribes, from programs and budgets to federal regulations. During the summit, the Aroostook Band of Micmacs and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe signed the EPA-Tribal Environmental Plan. Other activities included a tour of tribal lands, and an artists’ panel on the importance of environmental resources for cultural use. Native artists also displayed and sold their work.

“As a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, this summit provided a unique opportunity to engage my ancestral colleagues while representing NOAA,” said Lieutenant Commander James Brinkley, NOAA Corps and the North Atlantic Regional Team coordinator. “It raised awareness of tribal issues that intersect the NOAA and EPA missions. Engagement with these tribes, while recognizing their sovereignty, has allowed federal agencies the opportunity to present information on how their data and services can help tribal communities.”

During the summit tribal elders and youth held a roundtable discussion on preserving cultural heritage through environmental protection. Other topics included discussion of the Northeast Ocean Plan, an update on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs, and a roundtable on water quality issues with scientists from the EPA and MIT.

In March, NOAA scientists and staff from various line offices, including NEFSC Director Jon Hare and other Center staff, attended a day-long roundtable focused on adapting to climate change with members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. This summer and fall, the North Atlantic Regional Team continued its engagement with Congressional-district staff and tribal elders in the region on NOAA’s work and its relevance to their state or tribe. Twelve congressional roundtables have been held in ten states from Maine to Virginia.

A September roundtable with the Houlton Band of the Maliseet Indians in Littleton, ME led to initial steps for development of a Fish Habitat Management and Restoration Plan for the Meduxnekeag River and Wolastoq/St John Watershed.

NART is expanding its tribal engagement activities and is working with the Shinnecock Nation to host a tribal roundtable in February 2018 on Long Island.

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(File Modified Nov. 30 2017)