First Light is a bridge between conservation organizations and Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac Communities who seek to expand Wabanaki stewardship of land. First Light aspires to reciprocity: its goal is to expand Wabanaki access and stewardship of land for prosperity and to create a stronger conservation movement that includes and reflects Indigenous expertise and perspective. All will benefit from this, and it all begins with the land.
Since its first Learning Journey, begun in 2017, First Light has been raising awareness about Wabanaki history and land loss in the conservation community and building connections between Wabanaki leaders and conservation leaders. A group of 23 Maine conservation organizations were involved in the first cohort of the Learning Journey, and First Light hopes to grow and broaden the reach of the second cohort of the Learning Journey to include more land trusts as well as funders and others who are part of Maine’s conservation community.
First Light has evolved into three main focus areas:
- Building the capacity, voice and power of Wabanaki leadership to address their needs around land stewardship by supporting the chief-appointed Wabanaki Commission on Land and Stewardship; Nil yut ktahkomiq nik (the whole earth is our home).
- Coordinating land trusts around contact and conversation with the Tribes: Creating a similarly sized Conservation Community Delegation for Wabanaki engagement to pool resources and coordinate the conservation community’s best skills and abilities to best collaborate and respond to the needs and requests from the Wabanaki Commission on Land and Stewardship; Nil yut ktahkomiq nik (the whole earth is our home).
- Continuing the Learning Journey for a second, larger cohort of committed landholding organizations around Maine to build awareness and understanding about Indigenous land loss, develop and practice equitable principles for Wabanaki engagement, and create new tools to share land and resources. You can read more about how to participate here.
Coordinating Land Trust Communication and Action: The role of the Conservation Community Delegation
The Conservation Community Delegation primarily collaborates with the Wabanaki Commission on Land and Stewardship to develop processes and tools for sharing or returning land. Another important role of the Delegation is to serve as a liaison between the conservation community and the Tribes; The Delegation receives requests from the larger conservation community in Maine about Wabanaki engagement and assist in getting these questions answered by the right Wabanaki person, thus minimizing the administrative and communications burden on tribal representatives and ensuring less time away from their own priorities.
The Conservation Community Delegation should be your first contact when your organization has a question about offering a gift of land to the tribes, constructing a land acknowledgement, or finding out the cultural importance of certain pieces of land to Wabanaki people. They will consider your question and respond or connect you with a member of the Wabanaki Commission for further conversations. You can reach the Delegation at .
The Conservation Community Delegation is currently made up of representatives from The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, The Appalachian Mountain Club, Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative, the Forest Society, and Maine Mountain Collaborative who are serving an 18-month term. All of these representatives were members of the first cohort of the Learning Journey and have demonstrated organizational commitment to the larger goals of First Light to increase Wabanaki access to and stewardship of land. Other organizations can join the Delegation with a board endorsement of this extra responsibility and assignment of work.
Collective Learning by the Conservation Community: The Learning Journey
Early in First Light, Wabanaki Leaders told land trusts that we needed to first learn about their history and culture, before engaging in conversation. The second cohort of the Learning Journey–posed to begin in September 2020 and end August 2021–will involve private and public land-holding entities and entities that work closely with them. The goals of the Learning Journey are to build awareness and understanding about Indigenous land loss, to develop and practice equitable principles for Native engagement, and to create new tools to share land and resources. Another significant goal of the Learning Journey is to broaden and increase the number of groups who might be willing and able to step up to facilitate or convey access rights, to organize the repatriation of land, and to work alongside Wabanaki Tribal communities in acquiring new lands. First Light Learning Journey’s curriculum will include collaborations with Maine Wabanaki REACH, the Native Land Trust Council and the Wabanaki Commission on Land and Stewardship. Per request of our Wabanaki colleagues, members of this cohort need to demonstrate and express documented organizational commitment to the journey and send two staff or board members to approximately 12 events over the course of a year.
Learn more about the process of committing to First Light’s Learning Journey 2020-2021 here.
Want to learn more about Wabanaki history and priorities around land independently?
- Check out First Light’s resource library, a compilation of hundreds of books, essays and media to help us achieve our goals of expanding Indigenous access to land and resources.
- Frequently asked questions from the conservation community about Wabanaki Tribes and engagement with Wabanaki tribes.