Justice for indigenous women at stake with Maine tribal sovereignty bill

The first of two public hearings was held Friday morning before the Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee on a bill to implement a majority of the 22 state law changes recommended in the final report of the Maine Indian Claims Task Force, released in January.

Tribe leaders and members described the changes — which require the state to recognize tribal governments’ authority over some issues of taxation, natural resources and criminal justice — as necessary to recognize and restore the sovereignty, or the right to self-govern, of Indigenous tribes in Maine.

The Task Force met beginning in July 2019 with the purpose of reviewing the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Act, as well as the 1991 MicMac Settlement Act, in order to come up with suggested reforms for the legislature to consider.

“Our sovereign authority over our lands and resources did not come into existence in 1980 with the Settlement Act,” said Penobscot Nation Chief Francis, who served on the Task Force, at the Friday public hearing. “Our sovereignty predates the Republic. We have exercised it since time immemorial.”

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