Tribes could get more fishing, court and gambling rights in changes to landmark settlement

AUGUSTA (BDN) — After trying to gain authority over gaming, natural resources and certain crimes through the courts, the State House and the ballot box, Maine’s Native American tribes are trying to reassert their sovereignty by changing law giving the state tribal oversight.

A task force examining the state law that led to the federal Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980, which settled a Passamaquoddy claim to 12 million acres of Maine, has drafted a set of proposed changes that would strike language allowing Maine to treat tribes largely like municipalities and adding provisions tribes say would help restore their status as sovereign nations.

Doing so would give them more jurisdiction over certain fishing rights, courts and gambling enterprises — except when the tribes and state reach an agreement or federal law supersedes jurisdiction — that are excluded from the nearly 40-year-old agreement tribes have often criticized since it was signed.

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