Imagine, if you will, an outside entity comes to your home, knocks on your door and declares, from now on your home will fall under its jurisdiction. You are told what will happen to your home and, adding insult to injury, you are told you never had a right to your home, anyway. Your home is threatened, your sustenance is threatened, and now you have to spend time, energy and the limited funds you have to confront this bully at your front door.

Would you be angry? Would you be upset? What if it kept happening, over and over again? Would you give up? Or would you continue to defend your home?

This is the case of the Penobscot Nation vs. Mills, and now 18 intervenors, defendants against the Penobscot Nation, all of whom were recruited because they hold waste-water dumping permits along the Penobscot River.

This five-plus-century-old practice of state and federal encroachment and entitlement to the Penobscot River and all Native-reserved territory made me stop and contemplate, seriously, on what it must feel like to lose my home — and it feels like abject sadness.

Home is a place of connection. Home is where we share family meals, birthday and holiday celebrations, where we gather when we have lost a loved one. When we leave and then “go home” we might point out old stomping grounds to our children. It is an important part of who we are, our identity. As a teacher, a professional, a mother, I realized that in the 21st century, we are still entrenched in a very hostile society; one bereft of empathy, compassion and foresight, that can, without remorse or second thought, disregard this human need for home.

Ours is also a mobile society. We are immigrants. We came here for safety and security, to find a home. Even now, with our immigrant gene pools, we tend to not stay in one place for too long. Our children are encouraged to leave home — to make their way in the world. What we miss, in this context of home, what we don’t often understand or attach to home, is community.

The Penobscot Nation understands “home” on a much deeper level. It is not just the living family that reflects home; home includes family who have crossed over. Home means rites and rituals, ceremony, stories, language, culture maintained and passed down. Home means the grounds and waters and trees and mountains where past, present and future intersect. Community as home is a deep and abiding relationship with everything and everyone. It is safety and security and identity. Community holds the essence of home and has for thousands of years.

But because we don’t understand community as home, we have no right to impose and deny another community its right. We have no right to claim any piece of their home — and then say it was never theirs to begin with. We harm not only that community, but we also waste time and energy in our own communities. And for what reason? And for whose benefit?

I live in Orono. Orono is a diverse combination of individuals who come and go. In close proximity to Orono is Indian Island. As a community, Indian Island struggles economically — it deals with federally administered poverty. Regardless, it is a place of strength, endurance. It is home to many of my friends, neighbors and colleagues.

Disturbingly, Orono is an intervenor in the case against the Penobscots. Many residents demand the town of Orono withdraw from this assault on our neighbors and friends. No good can come of bullying home away from a people who know best how to care for it and have an inherent right to maintain and defend their ancestral home.

Further, a plea to the other townships along the Penobscot: Don’t be a party to hostility. Millinocket, East Millinocket, Lincoln, Brewer, Howland, Bucksport and Mattawamkeag should withdraw as defendants in this frivolous lawsuit. If you have extra funds to pay a law firm that boastfully decimates Native communities, a better investment is to strengthen and rejuvenate your own communities for your children to call home. Learn from your Native neighbors — embrace what it means to be home.

Dr. Cheryl Robertson is a former faculty member with the University of Maine in Diversity and Multicultural Education. She is coordinating a Restorative Community Collaborative in the Bangor region. She is also an ally for Wabanaki REACH and a diversity and sensitivity trainer for schools and companies.