St Croix Watershed
St. Croix River: Schoodic or Skutik River
Since time immemorial the Schoodic River watershed, now known as the St. Croix River watershed, has been the heart of the Passamaquoddy Ancestral Homeland. This important watershed is also the natural spawning ground and ancient homeland for several species of sea-run fish such as Atlantic Salmon, Shad, Blueback Herring and Alewife (river herring). Quantities of sea-run fish ascending the St. Croix River was so great that it was described as something “almost miraculous.” The river’s watershed created an ideal nursery environment for spawning fish, making the St. Croix a river of great fertility and productivity which generated an abundance of nutrients and food for countless other fish and wildlife species within the watershed and within the saltwater regions of the Passamaquoddy Bay and the Bay of Fundy.
Sea-run fish in the St. Croix River have sustained the Passamaquoddy for thousands of years, without which the people may not have survived. The Passamaquoddy have a unique cultural and historical relationship with the river ecosystem and the fishery. The tribe has the duty to protect and preserve the river ecosystem, the indigenous food fishery, the sustenance fishing and the saltwater fishing rights of the Passamaquoddy people so that future generations will continue to survive. The tribe recognizes that the St Croix River ecosystem and related Natural Communities have a fundamental right to exist, flourish and evolve, and that the river has a right to be clean and flow unobstructed, and the fish have a right to spawn and to live out their natural history and life cycles.
Man’s activities have seriously upset the productivity and natural balance of the St Croix River ecosystem and life cycles of the native fishery and has put this unique river ecosystem into a state of distress. Immediate and sustained action is needed to remedy this distress. Atlantic Salmon, Shad and Blueback Herring are now near extinction in this river and the Alewife are threatened with extinction. Marine species such as Cod, Haddock, Pollock, Whales and Porpoise are dependent on high energy fatty fish auch as river-herring as a vital food source.
For 18 years Maine law blocked sea-run alewife from accessing its natural and ancient spawning grounds in the St. Croix River watershed. This blockage has harmed the Passamaquoddy People by severely diminishing an important traditional sustenance food source and disturbing the cultural practices of the tribal members. The Joint Tribal Council agrees with and supports the June 14, 2012 Passamaquoddy Chief’s Declaration of a State of Emergency within the St. Croix River. The Joint Tribal Council believes that Maine’s law blocking sea-run Alewife on the St. Croix River has resulted in a devastating loss of sea-run fish in Passamaquoddy waters and has reduced the productivity of the ecosystem and the availability of native food sources thus disturbing Passamaquoddy culture in a way that is contrary to the Settlement Act.
The Passamaquoddy Joint Tribal Council authorized the Tribal Representative to the Maine Legislature to submit, sponsor and support legislation (LD-72) that would require the Grand Falls dam fish passage be opened to allow sea-run alewife to pass into the upper watershed above the Grand Falls Dam. With the passage of LD-72 the State of Maine finally reversed bad state law. LD-72 required the removal of the blockage at the Grand Falls Dam. Now the sea-run alewife are able to pass up river to access their ancestral spawning territory. The Joint Tribal Council also authorized the Tribal Chiefs to take action to restore the indigenous fishery within the St. Croix River Watershed.
For several years prior to 2012 the tribal position on alewife was not clear. Finally, on September 26, 2012 the Joint Tribal Council adopted a resolution to clarify the tribes’ position. Now the tribal position is clear – Sea-run fish are vital to the people and the balance of the ecosystem. For more info on the ecological role of the alewife read the Amazing Alewife
Google Earth Tour 6MB A New Google Earth Presentation of the St. Croix Watershed