We would like to begin by recognizing that the University of Maine at Farmington occupies the traditional homelands of the Abenaki people of Anmessokkanti, whose communities lived and sustained themselves along what we call the “Sandy River” for millennia until very recent times. We would like to honor them by sharing a short summary of this region’s significance to Abenaki people.
The Sandy River is a vital part of the food and kinship network extending throughout Abenaki or Wabanaki homelands. The river’s original name, Anmessokkanti, loosely translates to “land of the small fish,” being home to shad and alewives, and providing critical spawning habitat for Wild Atlantic Salmon. The plentiful fish populations here were a major food source for the Anmessokkanti and used as fertilizer for corn, beans, and squash cultivation. These crops, but corn in particular, were then shared with Wabanaki communities to the northeast whose soils and climates were less amenable to cultivation. This network was disrupted by colonialism and the industry, pollution, and river damming that accompanied it.
We acknowledge that UMF inherited its campus at the expense of the Abenaki community, after centuries of war, scalp bounty policies, and other tactics designed to extinguish the Abenaki from their own land. These events forced most Anmessokkanti to relocate to two Abenaki reservations in Quebec in 1704, called Wôlinak and Odanak. Many families descending from the Farmington area remain there today. We recognize that the dispossession and expulsion of the Abenaki from their homeland is an ongoing injustice upheld by settler colonialism. We pledge to bravely confront this painful reality.
We acknowledge that the Abenaki people of Odanak and Wôlinak descend from the original care-takers of this area, and maintain a sacred connection with it. We pledge to honor them by educating ourselves about their history and current struggles and accepting our responsibility to correct ongoing injustice. We wish to also extend this acknowledgment to the Maliseet, Miꞌkmaq, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy nations who, with the Abenaki, make up the Wabanaki people.
We recognize and affirm the sovereignty of the Native nations in this territory and beyond. We recognize that sovereignty means the ability to self-govern, and to govern over one’s homelands. We understand that this statement has real implications and that decolonization is not a metaphor.
We pledge to continue our collaboration with Wabanaki people to further decolonize spaces and to transform UMF into a place that honors Wabanaki and other Indigenous peoples. We acknowledge that this is an ongoing process in which the University of Maine at Farmington promises to partake, in partnership the many Indigenous individuals who have contributed to this important cause.
— The Indigenous Land and Water Acknowledgement statement was authored by Mali Obomsawin (Odanak Abenaki First Nation, Bomazeen Land Trust) with input from Darren Ranco (Penobscot Nation, University of Maine).