Before Europeans settled on the East Coast, the Wabanaki tribes had open access to all of Maine’s natural resources, from eels to ash, and sweetgrass to salmon.
Currently jurisdictional battles over important natural resources still simmer, but the Wabanaki nation, and a handful of other federally recognized nations around the country, are working toward harvest rights in some of the nation’s most protected areas. A pilot project underway downeast could serve as a national model.
There are few places more challenging than a Maine marsh in the depths of July, which features humid, clinging air with the odor of rotten egg, plenty of places to disappear into the brackish muck and, of course, lots of mosquitos. But something very important has enticed generations of Wabanaki to places like this each summer.
“See this right here? This is solid, this is all sweetgrass right here. All of this…Behind you there’s another batch, but over there? See…that’s mixed in,” says Gal Frey.