The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians was federally recognized on October 10, 1980 as part of the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, or Metaksonikewiyik (People of the Meduxnekeag) currently have approximately 1,240 acres of farm and commercial land holdings (in both fee and trust status) in Aroostook County Maine. Much of the land borders the Meduxnekeag River, a critical link in preserving tribal practices, traditions and history.
The Maliseets are river people who have traditionally been hunters and gatherers in the St. John River (Wolastoq) Watershed, of which the Meduxnekeag is a tributary. The river banks provide fiddleheads in the spring, a favorite food of the Maliseets. The Meduxnekeag is also prized for its brook trout populations and historically supported sea run Atlantic salmon. The Maliseet are also excellent basketmakers, using the wood of the brown ash tree to fashion many different styles of baskets. This long-practiced art not only provides income to tribal families, it continues to help pass on vital cultural heritage.
The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians is part of the Maliseet Nation which also has tribal communities based in Canada. The tribe is also a member of the Wabanaki Confederacy, an alliance formed in the 18th century among the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Abenaki Tribes of what is now called New England (primarily Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont) and the Canadian Maritimes (particularly Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). The Maliseet are also party to a number of treaties throughout history, including the Jay Treaty of 1794 which granted tribal members the right to travel freely between the United States and Canada, and the Watertown Treaty of 1776, the first treaty signed between the newly formed United Stated and a tribal nation.
The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians currently has a population of 1,020 members and is led by its first female Chief, Brenda Commander.