The foundation of the Penobscot Indian Nation Tribal Corporation reflects the hard work and industrious efforts of its citizens over the past centuries. While traditionally living on lands within the State of Maine borders, our folks have continuously had to develop strategies to address everchanging social and political conditions. Early on, most family maintained self-sufficient means to live a traditional life. With the advent of the economic and monetary system for the purchase and bartering of goods in the new United States, families had to then find ways to earn incomes. As the main fur trade was decreasing, due to competition and tightening laws on Indian hunting, many of the Penobscot men would work in the burgeoning Maine lumber industry. They were specially noted for river driving, which was one of the more dangerous trades, and we know of many who died or were permanently injured while driving. Other traditional Penobscot, both women and men, would practice medicine, providing services to the mainstream, utilizing their knowledge and skills in herbs and root medicines. Basket making would also become a primary source of the tribe’s income generating efforts. In basketry, many families worked in unison, gathering ash and sweetgrass, processing it, weaving, and selling their wares in different coastal and tourist towns over the summer months. Weavers made both industrial-type baskets that could handle heavy use, while others made fancy and more decorative baskets. There are still Penobscot basket makers, including root club carvers, who make livings making these crafts even today. Up to the 1970s, most efforts were familial based. A few individuals and families would host craft and product shops on the tribe’s main Indian Island village as well.
In the 1980s, with aid from the resources secured from the 1980 Indian Land Claims Settlement, the tribe started to develop companies that could provide employment opportunities to our citizens. The first meaningful operation was Olamon Industries, opened in 1980, which produced cassette tapes. The company would eventually branch out to other products, utilizing the vast machinery it had built up over the years, into a custom molding and contract manufacturing company. Olamon Industries was continually profitable over the years and provided many jobs to our citizens. This tribal venture would match the local paper mill industry as the largest local employer during the 1980s and 1990s. Inevitably, CD and DVDs took over cassette tapes, where our R&D was not sufficient to diversify, and Olamon closed around 1999. The tribe next attempt to operate a mail-order pharmaceutical delivery company. The State of Maine had originally aided the tribe in developing the market to sustain the company, but after local pharmacies and groups started to oppose the effort, the company struggled to maintain a client base. This operation closed about 2001. During this time, efforts were underway to get the tribe involved in federal contracting.
In 2005, the U.S. Department of Interior conferred a Federal Charter of Incorporation to Penobscot to set up its corporation. Authorized under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934 (a.k.a. Wheeler–Howard Act (25 U.S.C. ch. 14, subch. V § 461 et seq,) the IRA extends certain rights and privileges of the tribe to the corporation while allowing the corporation to compete in the broader business world. This, in turn, protects the Nation’s own resources and assets. business backgrounds, and professional advisory boards, including non-tribal help, are able to focus more time and experience on the corporation than the previous model allowed.
In 2007, the Nation invested meaningful resources to develop its first federal contracting entity. Multiple professionals from with the Penobscot citizenship were recruited and placed on a fast track path to capturing and managing federal contracts. Additionally, the corporation enters its companies into the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) business development and HUBZone certification programs to
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