We are indigenous to the Penobscot River watershed. We are part of the Wabanaki Confederacy, including the Maliseet, Mikmaq, and Passamaquoddy have resided for over 10,000 years in the regions now located within the boundaries of the State of Maine. The early European explorers found our powerful confederacy upon their arrival. Beginning in the 1600’s, an apocalyptic time of pestilence, believed to be European introduced smallpox began to decimate our population. Penobscot numbers were estimated to be over 10,000 at the time – but by 1803 – only 347 Penobscot remained, based on our earliest recorded census.
Increased warfare between English settlers and the Native people took place between 1675 and 1760. Most of this was a result of the battle for control by the French and English over Northeastern lands. During this period, the Wabanaki Confederacy tribes allied with the French, which had been the friendlier trading group, while the English formed a strong military alliance with the Iroquois Confederacy. The French and their native allies made peace with the English after the 1760 war – but the wars had further exhausted the strength of the Wabanaki Nations and their resources. At the request of George Washington, we Penobscot sided with the American colonists in the Revolutionary War, and there is archival documented names of Penobscot who fought for US independence. The tribe’s efforts though would soon be largely forgotten as land acquisition and forced assimilation dictated local area policy.
This trend continued even as Penobscot people would faithfully serve in every major U.S. war and conflict in the country’s history. Systemic prejudice and discrimination regulated tribal people to second class citizenship. Economic and social poverty became engrained and harder to overcome. Treaties were made between the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under the threat of further war and massacres. These treaties pertained largely to remaining lands, goods, and services to be provided by the new State of Maine, starting in 1820, but were reneged upon and lands still appropriated. These land transfers were in violation of the Federal Trade and Non-Intercourse Act of 1790, which forbid the transfer of Indian territories without the consent of Congress, and became the basis for a 1980 lands claims suit against the state and the federal government.
The tribe has always had a government of self-rule in place, but after 1980, implemented its own departmental structure, based on the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. The tribe has tried to remain as self-sufficient as possible under the limited means and historical barriers to succeed in the business world. Like all other tribes, Penobscot citizens live to maintain traditional cultural ways, while living in an ever modernizing world. We have had a number of commercial ventures, some successful for many years, other not so.
In 2006, the tribal chief and council formed PINE under Chapter 17 of the Indian Reorgani-zation Act (IRA) of 1934. (48 Stat. 984, 25 U.S.C. §§ 461 – 479.) The first priority of this structuring was to avoid some of the organizational conflicts that can result from businesses run by tribal government. Penobscot citizens with business backgrounds, and professional advisory boards, including non-tribal help, are able to focus more time and experience on PINE than the previous model allowed.