Monday, November 30, 2015

Passamaquoddy power struggle: an update

With the Thanksgiving break and such, I've been remiss in posting a story I wrote for last week's Maine Sunday Telegram on what appears a chaotic power struggle at one of Maine's tribal reservations.

The Passamaquoddy reservation at Pleasant Point is the site of an ongoing struggle between Chief Fred Moore and Vice Chief Vera Francis, with four of the six tribal councilors currently siding with Francis. As the story reports, the council has suspended Moore, who himself had tried to suspend Francis, and just about everyone seems to be the subject of one recall petition or another. This follows an incident earlier this year where a tribal councilor was arrested and led away in handcuffs while organizing recall petitions against both Moore and Francis, only to have all charges dropped for lack of evidence.

I've no idea what is really going on at Pleasant Point, but it's hard to see it as a positive set of developments.

For background on the situation for the Passamaquoddy, start with "Unsettled," the 29-day series I wrote for the Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram in 2014.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Speaking on the world oceans crisis, Portland, Maine, Nov. 19

I'll be speaking on the crisis in the world's oceans -- climate change and all -- this Thursday, November 19th at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, Maine.

The event, held in their HUB Athletic Center at 119 Fort Road, kicks off at noon. It's free and open to the public and I hear there will be a book signing afterward.

Regular readers will be familiar with "Mayday," my recent six-day Portland Press Herald series on climate change and the Gulf of Maine. Longstanding  ones may know that I traveled the world in the late 1990s, reporting on oceans issues for The San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Chronicle of Higher Education while researching my first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas. The talk draws from this experience, and from subsequent reporting around the world -- including from Greenland, the Baltic, Adriatic, Iceland and close to home.

My next public speaking event on the schedule is in early April, 2016, at the Boston Athenæum, where I'll be talking about what will then be my newly published book. American Character. There's a book tour coming up in March, though, so expect more events posted at my booktour page in the coming weeks.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

50 years ago today, the Peter Francis murder

As we digest the horrible attacks in France and Lebanon yesterday, I've been thinking a lot about both Paris and Pleasant Point, Maine today. Regarding ISIS, who appear at this writing to be responsible for the attack, I highly recommend this Graeme Wood article from The Atlantic's March 2015 edition.

As for Pleasant Point, readers of "Unsettled", the 29-part series I wrote for the Portland Press Herald on the harrowing recent history of Maine's Passamaquoddy tribe, will recall the horrific murder 1965 murder of Peter Francis by five white hunters. That killing -- for which the perpetrators were allowed to walk away from -- happened fifty years ago today.

My thoughts are with the families of Peter Francis and the late Christy Altvater, who was brutally beaten in the attack, and who celebrated the two  men's lives in a ceremony there today. The Francis family continues to seek justice for the killing, as four of the five Billerica, Massachusetts hunters who were involved in the attack remain alive.. (The fifth, amazingly, has a scholarship named after him at Billerica High School.) Don Gellers, the attorney who blew the whistle on local authorities' mishandling of the case and ultimately paid a terrible price for representing Indians in Maine, died just over a year ago.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Canada's new government unmuzzles scientists

In today's Portland Press Herald I have a follow-up to "Mayday," our six-day series on climate change and the Gulf of Maine.

While researching the series, my reporting efforts were repeatedly interfered with by Canadian officials tasked with preventing government scientists from freely communicating information about their research with journalists. The controversial policies -- implemented by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's administration -- had been condemned by the scientific community at home and abroad and had become a campaign issue in this October's federal elections.

Harper's party was humiliated in a landslide election Oct. 19, losing every single seat in Atlantic Canada to the Liberals, whose government was sworn in a few days ago. As I report today, within 48 hours, incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's appointees reversed the policies, directing scientists to speak freely with the media.

Before the changes, I spoke with CBC-New Brunswick about my experiences trying to report the series in Canada.

Last week I also also the guest on the Michelangelo Singnorile show on Sirius XM radio, talking about the series. When it posts online, will add a link.