Native Students Help Keep Penobscot River Clean

By: John Krinjak

An internship program on Indian Island is teaching the next generation the value of preserving natural resources.

It includes protection of the Penobscot River.

“We’ve got like 180 sample sites. And we keep an eye on the water, watch the discharges,” said Jan Paul of the Penobscot Nationa Department of Natural Resources.

The Penobscot Nation on Indian Island goes to great lengths to make sure the surrounding waters stay clean.

And this summer, as part of the Wabanaki Youth Science Program, Native American students are learning how to do that firsthand.

“We go out and test the water, the Penobscot River and lakes and tributaries,” said Haley Francis, an incoming freshman at the University of Maine.

“We’re taking samples to test for different stuff like the P-H levels and different bacteria,” said high school junior Shayne Dow.

The goal-to show the next generation the importance of environmental management.

“It’s important for them to appreciate our river and taking care of it. It’s like anything else. It’s the blood that runs in our veins, this river,” said Paul.

Now that they’ve grabbed all the samples from the boat, it’s time to bring those samples back to the lab.

“We’re looking for alkilinity and conductivity, and also we’re looking for e-coli in the river because that makes us sick,” said Francis.

The students examine the samples and log them in the computer. Then they seal them up and place them in this incubator.

“The water reacts with a chemical which will end up turning a yellow or fluorescent color,” said Francis.

“If there’s a flag in the lab, then we tell DEP, we notify DEP that this site on the river or wherever it is, that there’s an issue,” said Paul.

And these interns know they’re helping preserve a resource that’s been a part of their culture for thousands of years.

“Knowing that my ancestors utilized this river for their food source, travel source, everything, and just being able to help keep this river healthy and don’t let it get any worse than what it already is,” said Francis.

“It’s so important because my culture in general just depends on it, and really everyone who lives on the river kind of depends on it in some way,” said Dow.

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