BANGOR, Maine — An opportunity to do her part to support effort to protect the Penobscot River prompted Elaine Levine of south Freeport to make her first ever trip to Bangor to take part in Saturday’s Water is Life! Penobscot River Rally and Flotilla at the Bangor waterfront.
“The river is beautiful, and Maine is my spiritual home,” said Levine, who recently joined the 350 Movement, a global grass-roots climate change activist group.
“There’s so many things to be involved in we don’t even know where to begin. It just seemed like one of the things we should do,” she said.
Levine was among the roughly 100 people who gathered at the waterfront overlooking the Penobscot River to hear the latest on efforts, largely led by the Penobscot Indian Nation, to protect and enhance the quality of the river and watershed for the benefit of all.
Hosted by the Sunlight Media Collective and Community Water Justice, Saturday’s rally was the third of its kind held so far at the Bangor waterfront. It came a month before Healing the Wounds of Turtle Island, a global healing ceremony set for July 14-17 in Passadumkeag.
Sherri Mitchell, a Penobscot indigenous rights attorney and activist, said the healing ceremony aims to fulfill the Wabanaki peoples’ Prophecy of the Eastern Gate, also referred to as the Eastern Door.
“We have a prophecy were that talks about a time when people around the world are rising up for the protection of life,” she said.
The prophecy says that the Eastern Door is the gateway to creation and when it is reopened, the process of healing will begin. It predicts that people will come together to heal the common wound that they carry from their shared history of violence and to heal the Earth.
Plans for the healing ceremony began last year, when Mitchell received a call from tribal elders telling her that the time to hold it was drawing near. Two months later, the protest at Standing Rock began.
“We’re at this critical place right now where we have a decision to make,” she said. “Our stories tell us that we’ve been here for times before and that this is not the first expression of human life on this planet, that four times before we have come here, four times before we have failed to make the right decision and human life has ended on this planet and had to be renewed over and over again.
“It’s my belief that we’ve all come back to this place together so that we can make a new decision and part of that process is not allowing others to decide that profit is more important than life. We need to make that stand really strongly right now,” she said.
Well over 1,000 people are expected to attend — including representatives of indigenous groups from all over world, descendents of Germans and Jews who were involved in the Holocaust, and Lakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th generation keeper of the sacred white buffalo calf pipe.
“It’s open to everybody in the world because the purpose of us coming together is for us to heal our common wounds, to recognize that we are all impacted by these mental and spiritual illnesses that have led to this history of violence that we’ve all been engaged in,” Mitchell said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the victim or the perpetrator or a witness to that violence, you still have an imprint of that in your spirit.”
Also speaking during the rally, organized by Jim Freeman, were Dawn Neptune Adams, who discussed the Penobscot Nation’s ongoing legal battle with the state over who owns the water that makes up Penobscot River; Ed Mercer, who urged Mainers to fight plans to double the capacity of Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town; Nickie Sekera, who briefed the crowd on Nestle’s plans to build additional water bottling plants in Maine; Lew Kingsbury of Pittston, who spoke of work to protect the state’s water bodies from the harmful effects of metal mining; and Fred Greenhalgh of ReVision Energy, who touted the merits of solar power and panned a Maine Public Utilities Commission rule that would create fees for homeowners and others who sell their excess solar power to the grid and in turn, would require utility companies to update their billing system at expense of all ratepayers.