Former Penobscot Chief Returns to Campus
By Lori Wright, Media Relations
March 21, 2007
Due to overwhelming interest last fall, UNH welcomes back
former Penobscot Chief Barry Dana, who will discuss the
struggle by Native Americans to protect their homeland
from government and corporate exploitation Monday, March
The event includes the showing of the award-winning documentary “Homeland:
Four Portraits of Native Action,” which begins at
4:30 p.m. in Theater II of the MUB. Dana is one of four
Native American activists prominently featured in the film
and will speak about 15 minutes prior to the start of the
film. A question and answer session will follow. The event
is free and open to the public.
“We had a huge response to Barry Dana’s visit
in November. His story and the documentary are compelling,
and we had a lively discussion following the film. Unfortunately,
the theater filled to capacity quickly and we had to turn
people away. We hope that with his return visit, those
who did not have the opportunity to attend will join us
in March,” said Priscilla Reinertsen, who teaches
Introduction to Sociology.
The public also is invited to sit in on a classroom discussion
with Barry Dana prior to the afternoon events. Dana will
speak to two sections of Reinertsen's Introduction to Sociology
class. The times are 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. in Horton Room
“Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action” features
leaders from four Native American communities passionately
engaged in struggles to preserve sovereignty and save their
lands from environmental degradation. Dana will discuss
confronting the state of Maine and powerful paper companies
about dumping toxins in the Penobscot River, the source
of his tribe's food and culture for 10,000 years.
Dana grew up on Indian Island on the Penobscot Reservation
along the Penobscot River, just 30 miles downstream from
a pulp and paper mill. As a child, when Dana swam in the
river, he would emerge covered with blisters and rashes. “Spending
about half the summer in the water, I’d get these
lesions on my legs,” Dana says. “So eventually
I stopped swimming.”
In 1983, Dana graduated from the University of Maine at
Orono with a bachelor's degree in education and an associate's
degree in forest management. Since then, he has worked
to educate people about the traditions of Maine’s
indigenous nations and help his people regain control of
their culture and ancestral lands.
Like many others in Maine, Dana had come to believe the
Clean Water Act of 1972 had cleaned up the river that the
Penobscot had depended on for centuries. However the people
of Maine learned that pulp and paper mills were still dumping
toxins in the river, which elicited penalties from the
State of Maine.
“Those fines amount to, on a yearly average, $3,000
-- $3,000 a year for basically the right to dump billions
of gallons of untreated wastewater directly into our river,” Dana
Today his people are unable to eat the fish, harvest the
medicinal plants or swim in the river they hold sacred.
Dana continues to fight for a clean Penobscot River.
“All over the country, 30 years of environmental
protections are quietly being dismantled,” he says. “Sometimes
it seems like many Americans are blind to what’s
going on. But we don’t have the luxury of looking
the other way. We can’t give up on the river.”
The event is sponsored by the department of sociology,
and the Dean of Academic and Student Affairs.