the ills of Casella and Juniper Ridge Landfill

what we're trying to protect

society for roots and trees is appalled that the sacred place where we live is becoming an ever expanding toxic chemical dump.  We like to live and breathe and coexist in health and happiness.  We don’t like it when heartless aliens come in and kill all the magic for money.

Maine’s a gloriously beautiful place, what is worth destroying it?  When it is destroyed, we are all destroyed.  Poisoning our land and water and air poisons us.

Right up river from the home of the Penobscot Nation – Indian Island – the state of Maine has allowed an out of state corporation, Casella Waste, to operate Juniper Ridge Landfill (JRL).  Casella Waste has been continuously making shady deals that severely undermine the environment and people who live around the landfill.

Originally, JRL was only supposed to be used for Old Town mill waste, then it was only to be used for state of Maine waste, now Casella is trucking in biomedical waste from Massachusetts, Vermont, Connectitcut and New Hampshire.  The blood and poison and drugs and disease and chemicals seep into our ground and spread through our river.  The toxic gasses flare up and choke our lungs.

For a complete synopsis of these happenings, and information on the danger of landfills in general, go here.

After decades of exploitive industries contaminating the Penobscot River with dioxins from Mill waste, damming, flooding and pulp waste from logging, Penobscot Native Americans have worked hard and unceasingly to clean up the river over the years, vastly improving the health of the Maine ecosystem.  The river is a fundamental part of Penobscot cultural traditions and survival, and home to many species, not just humans.

Native Americans in Maine and throughout the Americas have been treated unfairly and had genocide committed against them enough.  It’s unacceptable that this level of injustice is still going on right outside our doors.

In the midst of so many environmental affronts against our beloved place of residence, just lately, Casella is trying to get further control of Juniper Ridge:

If you can, find time to write.  Representatives can be looked up at

Here’s an example of the kind of letters we’ve been sending to our senators, governors, representatives and department of environmental protection agents:

Dear Senator Raye,

It has come to my attention that a resolve concerning Biddeford MERC and Juniper Ridge Landfill is being rushed through the motions without a chance for leadership and citizen input!

What’s the rush?! I hope state lawmakers are aware of the multitude of concerned citizens in towns surrounding Juniper Ridge Landfill (JRL) who will be OUTRAGED if Casella Waste is given more corporate control in Maine.  I am particularly concerned with the lack of transparency that surrounds JRL activities.

We don’t need Casella bringing more toxic waste into our precious environment.  Destroying and poisoning the land that we live on also destroys and poisons us.

It’s appalling how the state of Maine is giving Casella, an out of state company, so much power to do lasting harm to the Penobscot river, Penobscot Native Americans, and the citizens of Old Town, Orono, and Maine.

People who vote their lawmakers into office trust them to do the right thing for the well-being of the citizens of Maine – not for the pockets of corporations and industry.

PLEASE Senator Raye, do everything in your power to stop Casella Waste from getting complete control of Juniper Ridge Landfill, control which would expand that company’s power to destroy our environment and health.

It’s not right nor just what is being allowed to happen. Concerned citizens have a right to know what is going on around them and to participate in the democratic process.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

15 polluted water road
toxic mill town, maine 00100

Feel free to use that as your own template for writing letters to help.

Here are words from some other society for roots and trees members who wrote in to describe the dire straights we’re faced with:

“Juniper Ridge Landfill history has been riddled with sneaky, underhanded deals between the operators and the State of Maine.  Now it seems the state wants to give up its responsibility for this dump, leaving Casella to do as it pleases.  We already know about the underhanded politics that landed Casella the job of operator several years ago (under Baldacci’s administration), we already know that they are trucking in tons of waste from out-of-state, including biomedical waste!  We know that they were granted a partial expansion, despite citizen protests, we know that they have entered into a multi-million dollar deal with the university of maine to construct a methane pipeline, and the saga continues….

In short, the state of Maine (ancestral wabanakiland!) is under severe environmental attack right now!!  We need people to be aware, become involved, and help spread the word.”


Perhaps you have seen the terrible news for anyone who cares about our
community that there is a bill (LD 1911) before the legislature to
sell Juniper Ridge Landfill to Casella!
We do not know what the legislative procedure will be over the next
few days for this bill that was introduced very suddenly.
The bill is here
This resolve authorizes the State to take action to facilitate the
transfer of the Maine Energy Recovery Company facility to the City of
Biddeford and the closure of this facility. It also authorizes the
State to transfer the ownership and licenses
of the Juniper Ridge Landfill in the City of Old Town to Casella Waste
Systems, Inc. It specifies requirements that must be met before the
Maine Energy Recovery Company facility may be closed, one of which is
the transfer of the Juniper Ridge
Landfill to Casella Waste Systems, Inc.


“Writing letters to state representatives with an overall message for them to protect our environment and natural resources is helpful.

At this point in time, there are so many bills being introduced that sabotage our environment for corporate greed that it’s nearly impossible to keep up on them, and to respond to each bill individually.  That’s why I would recommend contacting lawmakers with an overall message that we need our resources left in tact for Maine people and not for corporate greed.

Right now we are faced with a super east-west highway construction that will cut through the heart of Maine, from East, along the Stud Mill Road, crossing the Penobscot River at Freese Island, to Dover, and on through to Cobure Gore.  The purported purpose of the highway is to support industry – moving tar sand oils from Quebec to the New Brunswick port.  Tar sand oils is particularly dirty business, and the method used to extract the oil sludge is wicked destructive, using thousands of gallons of fresh water and chemical cocktails to extract the dregs of oil.  The process, referred to as fracking, has proven incredibly destructive to many, many indigenous communities, particularly from cracking the rocks below the surface of the Earth, and causing methane gases to leach into well water.  The industrial highway will be a privately owned toll road.  Our state lawmakers recently passed legislation to approve the use of $300,000 of maine taxpayer monies to fund the feasibility study for these wealthy private investors! I think our money should be used to fix our existing roads, etc, not to fund wealthy investors who only intend to hold the state ransom (they said they would pay the money back if the entire project was deemed feasible, and if it was approved by the state).

There’s the Enbridge pipelline project, moving tar sands oil from Canada to Portland.  Apparently this Canadian oil giant Enbridge has a long history of spills including 840,000 gallons of sludge spilt into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

Then there’s the LPG tanker proposed for Searsport; the mountain top mining in Aroostook county (Thank you Irving oil for chopping the heads off our mountains!! – PS – now I won’t buy Irving oil), and of course all this landfill business – juniper ridge, norridgewock crossroads, and who knows what the heck is going to happen with Dolby (right up there at the headwaters of the Penobscot).

Scary, scary times”

A few months ago, we went to protest Casella Waste at a public meeting.  The power of the written word was most apparent when used towards justice.

I held that cardboard hand written sign to my chest as the money men talked lies and tried to silence us.  The people of Maine rallied for their land and water, “the river is my medicine,” a friend’s button said.  An old man was kicked out for speaking out to Casella with the outraged passion of a beat poet: “you’ve destroyed our land and our lives with your greed.”

Like the old quote says: “Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we cannot eat money.”

Our blood doesn’t run on dollar bills, it likes clean air and water, and food grown from uncontaminated soil.

Cipenuk Red Hope: Mobilizing Indigenous Knowledge – Dr. Rebecca Cardinal Sockbeson

on friday we heard Dr. Rebecca Cardinal Sockbeson give a talk .  Sockebson is an indigenous peoples education scholar and a member of the Penobscot Nation.  her scholarship and activism have done important work for Native Americans, and all people – such as helping to remove the use of “squaw” in Maine place names and getting LD 291 – An Act to Require Teaching of Maine Native American History and Culture in Maine’s Schools emplaced in K-12 classrooms.

Doctor Sockbeson began her presentation by having us stand and join her in singing, the longest walk , an intertribal song used for the 1978 cross country walk by Native Americans speaking out for rights.  This introduction was moving and connecting.

Sockbeson talked about how indigenous ways of knowing are disputed by academia, which insists upon “empirical evidence” as the only way of knowing.  She counters that indigenous knowledge is empirical evidence – Native peoples have seen the reality of their intellectual traditions such as basket weaving for millenniums, therefore they know the truth of their traditions – and that is their empirical evidence.

She uses examples from her own life and family as empirical evidence, like showing a picture of her great grandmother as a young girl holding a dog as a segue into talking about the Spencer Phips proclamation.   Her grandmother’s generation was the first to survive genocide that was enacted in full force with Spencer Phips’ bounty on behalf of the king of England, which offered cash rewards for Penobscot scalps.  Such bounties were inflicted on indigenous people all across the Eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada since 1755 – causing 97% population depletion amongst Natives.  The intention was that indigenous people would be wiped out.  As Passamaquoddy poet and elder Mary Basset says, “We’re not supposed to be here” – according to colonizers.  Yet natives are still here, and deserve to be here.

Knowledge of survival, argues Sockbeson, is the reason for mobilizing indigenous knowledge.  Indigenous knowledge of oppression is necessary because it brings context to the effects of colonization.  Unemployment and poverty are 30% higher for Maine Native Americans than the average Maine citizen, and life expectancy rates are 15 years lower for Natives.  Sockbeson points out the reason for this disparity is colonial history and all the suffering it has brought tribes.  When young people understand this and understand all they’ve survived – they are less likely to succumb to internalized oppression that tells them to believe they are inferior.  Rather than believe negative stereotypes about themselves, young natives can unpack the root of the problem: colonization.

Ignorance isn’t bliss in this situation, Sockbeson says.  Knowledge of survival is intrinsic knowledge.  Red Hope is battling death of indigenous ways of knowing and being, such as the ability and right to speak one’s native language, practice beliefs and share creation stories.  “I teach my kids our creation story of Gluskape making us from the ash tree – that’s how we were given entrance into this world” Sockbeson said, but society, even the teachers, tell natives their birthright is just a myth.

Sockbeson talked about the importance of having indigenous scholars in academia – and at UMaine there are so few.  She says compulsory Native American studies courses need to be here.  There are few indigenous faculty on campus or Native aesthetics, yet the university is on Wabanaki territory and everyone is benefitting from the colonizing of Penobscots –except for Penobscots themselves.  Sockbeson quoted Penobscot artist ssipsis, who pointed out how often natives think of white people, but how seldom, if ever, whites are asked to consider natives.

Sockbeson calls for use of political will to create a revolution in instiutions such as academia.  Bringing rights to practice our own cultures in places such as the university – means overturning the current “universal-way” standards.  Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. also called for revolutions in institutions.  The university yields a lot of power in distributing knowledge, but as Sockbeson points out, knowledge doesn’t belong to anyone.  Knowledge is the energy passed between us when we have these discussions.

Dr.  Sockbeson also talked about Peonobscot scholar Eunice Baumann Nelson’s awareness of string theory and how we’re all connected: taking care of you is taking care of me – an understanding that makes us be respectful and loving, makes us use loving words, thoughts and actions.  Spirituality is reality, and who we are is in our blood and in the land.

Doctor Sockbeson taught us a lot about decolonization and practicing human rights and being stellar.

at the occupy umaine student panel

the students started off talking about their backgrounds – several were grateful for good parents who taught them to be non-violent, question the system, oppose war, and live by their principles.

the students sited some reasons why they’re protesting: the burden of student debt, stresses of the modern world and wage system, human rights violations, solidarity with occupy wall street.

the group has already completed several projects to further occupy umaine, including:

  • chanting / singing “we are the 99%” on the mall
  • organizing marches on campus
  • staging “poverty on the mall” demonstrations, where a shanty town made of cardboard boxes was set up in front of the library – displaying different aspects of poverty and how it’s related to the 1% system
  • publishing a 99% / occupy umaine story in the maine peace and action committee (mpac) newsletter
  • promoting moving money from big corporate banks to local credit unions via flyers and handouts
  • sending supplies to occupy maine in portland
  • administering a guerilla projector display on the side of the library one evening – showing photos of activism – inspired by a brooklyn bridge march

some things they’re currently working on:

-bring awareness of non-violence to the movement – not bringing hate to people who oppress us
-build self and community
-read, watch, listen to issues – helps in interacting with community because questions can be answered
-plan, attend meetings – behind the scenes stuff big part of it
-practice non-violence
-bring awareness of oppression of students.  who’s profiting off our debt? 
-envision a society where we worry about meeting human needs and taking care of one another
-entitle everyone to basic needs like education, not money
-protest – discuss – call out
-buy locally
-be compassionate

when the panel was opened up for questions, the society for roots and trees asked, “how important is art to the movement?”

the students answered:

  • we promote valuing art and happiness over war and dollar
  • we are planning an occupy umaine “art-a-thon” – a day to discuss political themes on campus – “we declare art on war” – artathonflyer
  • storytelling is art – here we are telling our story
  • read political poems at open mic
  • we like the beehive collective of maine
  • art matters more than money
  • gross domestic happiness not gross domestic product
  • you can’t have freedom and inequality

there is power in a union

on the day that we went to meet with our elder union leader the sound of elmore james’ voice filled the silver, the sky is crying, see the tears roll down the street. we were drenched to the bone, rain telling us the way home. become rolling and one my daughters and sons. we flowed from each other.

we walked to the café on the corner above the river. above the record store, that we could feel say, come down to me, sainte-marie and seeger are waiting for you.

we gathered round for labor movement blues

we heard about the 1917 logger strike for the eight hour day – the workers blew whistles to each other through the woods when eight hours was up and it was time to stop working

the people who do the work should have the say on how the job should be done –

if people on the bottom were given authority they’d be making conscious decisions closer to the point of project.

like loggers realizing that clear cutting was destroying the land and they needed to use sustainable forestry practices

the elder union leader has seen many gains in the area of gender equality. she was once told by her boss, you women, don’t think, the computer will think for you.

women weren’t allowed to teach. got paid the lowest.

moon of maine

union of maine

st vincent millay

betsy sholl

take heart

direct us to use art for justice

Here is Utah Phillips singing “Ship gonna sail,” talking about all the progress we’ve made in labor and life – and how we can’t lose resolve.  We’ve got to keep building the good ship that will sail us into a respectful, sustainable, equitable way of life.  Even if we’ll never get to sail the ship, we must keep building anyway, and pass our tools onto the young.

the educating your white friends at the kitchen table blues

-where is this systematic racism you’re talking about?

-this country was founded on it:

genocide                                   broken treaties            bounties for scalps                            spencer phips proclamation               small pox blankets             stealing the land                                 damming the rivers                they’ll never get chief joseph off that mountain

boarding schools           abuse by nuns & priests                        forced assimilation       slaves

lynchings                                 jim crow         segregation                   shackles on the feet of crow god        poverty            substandard   schools, jobs, housing                                     no health care             subhuman                                 generations of trauma on your back               higher death rates      dying younger                                    suicide              goodnight irene whites benefiting from it                    internalized oppression       black and blue

addicted                                    diabetic                                    immigration control
deportation                ethnic studies ban         japanese internment camps                  muslims treated like terrorists                          wounded knee

torture                        guantanamo bay                 beating the human rose to blood sap           stomped light                           palestine          1973 chilean coup              censored history         profit for few               teargas in oakland

hurricane katrina          war       how billie holiday was made to use the backdoor       imprisonment                          troy davis

kill you when you’re innocent

-how come i can’t see it?

-they’ve taught us to stay deaf dumb and blind