Wabanaki nations elect new tribal leaders, Maliseet appoints first ambassador

The Penobscot and Passamaquoddy nations held elections on Sept. 13 and saw several leaders re-elected to four-year terms as tribal chiefs. 

Chief Kirk Francis, who has served as chief of the Penobscot Nation since 2006, was re-elected to serve a sixth term. The Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkmikuk re-elected Chief William Nicholas to serve a fourth term and the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik elected Rena Newell as chief. 

They will begin serving their new terms on Oct. 1.

“I am very thankful to the people of the Penobscot Nation for continuing to trust me with such a huge responsibility,” Francis said. “It has been my honor and consider it a privilege to have been able to serve in this capacity over the past sixteen years representing so many amazing people. I look forward to the many issues we will work on over the next four years.”

Newell just completed a four-year term as the Passamaquoddy Tribal Representative in the Maine State Legislature, where she served on the Judiciary Committee and supported the legislative campaign to recognize Wabanaki tribal sovereignty. Newell also sponsored a successful bill to address the dirty and contaminated water at the Sipayik reservation. 

“To serve the Sipayik community is a great honor that I accept with humility and a pledge to both honor all our ancestors and to make decisions with future generations of Passamaquoddy people in mind,” she said.

Newell is replaced by Aaron Dana, a resident of the Motahkmikuk reservation, who was elected by Passamaquoddy voters last week. The Passamaquoddy Tribal Representative alternates between a resident of the Sipayik and Motahkmikuk reservations.

The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians has announced that Osihkiyol (Zeke) Crofton-Macdonald will be their first ambassador. Crofton-Macdonald, who is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of New Brunswick where he focuses on Wabanaki treaty history, has served as a commissioner on the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission and has advocated for the sovereignty and rights of Wolastoqey, another name for Maliseet, in both the U.S. and Canada.

“Wolastoqey people in Maine have been asserting our sovereignty and nationhood on this land since time immemorial,” he said in a statement. 

Crofton-Macdonald continued, “My elders teach that sovereignty means more than just jurisdictional or political authority. It is the responsibility to maintain the health of every living being on the land, including the water and the land itself. Wolastoqey people have practiced this sovereign responsibility since before the United States existed and we will continue to practice this sovereignty.”

In the Motahkmikuk election, former Chief Joseph Socobasin defeated incumbent vice chief Darrell Newell. Motahkmikuk voters also elected Wade Lola, Alex Nicholas and Roger Socobasin to the Tribal Council.

Sipayik voters elected Pos Bassett to serve as vice chief and Shirley Mitchell, Melissa Whipun Francis and Cyril Francis to serve on the Tribal Council. Alberta Newel was elected to serve on the school board.

Penobscot voters elected Ronald Bear, Miles Francis, Maria Girouard, Patricia Knox-Nicola, Debra Kondilis and Faye Lawson elected to the nation’s 12-member Tribal Council. Vice Chief Mark Sockbeson was reelected unopposed and Carole Binette, Naomi Neptune and David Sapiel were elected to the School Board.

Photo: Chief-elect Rena Newell of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik and advocates attend a rally at the Maine State House in 2019 highlighting the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. | Beacon

About Dan Neumann

Avatar photoDan studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North's interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago's West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan(at)mainebeacon.com.

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