In the News

We track local, state, and national news coverage and editorials about the Wabanaki Alliance and issues important to the tribes in Maine, and have included excerpts from recent articles below. For more recent news, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Maine Voices: Mills should stress action, not words, in committing to tribal sovereignty

This guest editorial explains how Gov. Mills’ latest Indigenous Peoples’ Day message highlighted incremental fixes that don’t effect systemic change. It was written by Shirley Hager, chair of the Friends (Quaker) Committee on Maine Public Policy’s Committee on Tribal-State Relations and a resident of Chesterville, and James McCarthy, former managing editor and editorial page editor of The Times Record and a resident of Brunswick.

November 24, 2021

“We need action – not self-congratulatory words or feel-good references to Maine’s ‘first stewards’ that completely gloss over the many ways our state continues to keep the Wabanaki people under its thumb as if they were no more than municipalities. Passing L.D. 1626 would be the best way to fulfill the governor’s pledge to ‘recommit ourselves to our shared home and future with respect and trust for one another.'”
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Find links to other news coverage of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Rally for Wabanaki Rights at the bottom of this post.

Maine tribal leaders say Indigenous Peoples’ Day is call to action, reform
During a news conference at the State House on Monday, Wabanaki tribal leaders call for restoring sovereignty to tribal governments and criticize Gov. Janet Mills, saying she hasn’t done enough to restore tribal rights.

October 11, 2021

AUGUSTA — As Maine celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day for a third time Monday, tribal leaders called for deeper reforms to restore the rights of Maine’s tribes and help indigenous communities.
Penobscot Nation Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana said the change from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day remains a cause for celebration. But she and other leaders also said it is time for meaningful changes that would give tribes more independence under Maine law.

“We can say this (holiday) is a symbolic change, but it wouldn’t make much sense to talk about tribal sovereignty on a day glorifying the genocide of our people,” Dana said during a news conference at the State House Monday.

Tribal leaders also criticized Gov. Janet Mills, saying she has not done enough to restore tribal rights and instead seems committed to maintaining the societal status quo for tribal people.
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Our View: Indigenous Peoples Day is a time to look back and ahead
October 11, 2021

From this editorial from the Bangor Daily News Editorial Board:

“Symbolic action, however, cannot be the only action. It’s time for meaningful reform to parts of the 1980 land claim settlement that, while ending a significant amount of uncertainty at the time about ownership of two-thirds of the land in the state of Maine, also set the stage for decades of friction. It is in the state and the tribes’ best interest to rebalance this relationship as one of cooperative, self-governing partners. It’s also the right thing to do.”
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More work remains as we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day
The history of tribal/state relations affects how people live today and points to what we should do next.

October 11, 2021

From this editorial from the Portland Press Herald Editorial Board:

“Bills have come before the Legislature to put the tribes in Maine on the same footing as federally recognized tribes in other states, but one was tabled and the other, which would have allowed tribes to regulate gambling on Indian land, was vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills.

At the time, Mills pledged to work with the tribes to overcome her technical objections and address these historical inequities. We urge the administration to continue that work and develop bills that will make a real difference in the lives of tribal people in Maine.”
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Without self-government, Indigenous Peoples’ Day does not honor Maine’s Wabanaki tribes
October 8, 2021

In this guest editorial, Chief Clarissa Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseets and Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation share why passing LD 1626 is the only way to truly honor Wabanaki tribes.

“To celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day you first must appreciate and respect Indigenous people. You must understand the importance of the inherent sovereignty that is the backbone of our heritage and culture. You must trust us to self-govern. The only true way to celebrate Indigenous people in Maine is to change the system that treats us differently than every other tribe in the country.”
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It’s time to correct legal inequities harming Maine’s tribes
September 24, 2021

In this guest editorial, former Maine Attorney General and state Senator Michael Carpenter–who supported the Settlements Acts in 1980–explains why he now backs efforts to change them.

“Nothing in life is set in stone. I no longer embrace views I held strongly more than 40 years ago on any number of issues, including how the government-to-government relationship between the tribes and state should be understood and practiced. I’m hopeful LD 1626 , the bill that encompasses the task force’s recommendations will finally be approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills in 2022. LD 1626 provides us the opportunity to right a wrong and restore the full rights of self-determination to the tribes in Maine that are enjoyed by 570 federal tribes across the nation in 49 states.”
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The Quest For Clean Water On Maine Reservation
August 31, 2021

For decades, members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe have issued a message to family and visitors to their reservation at Pleasant Point in the state of Maine: Don’t drink the water.

Residents there have long complained about its color, smell and tests reporting excess levels of contaminants. Recent efforts to improve the water treatment system have some members hopeful that a fix could be on its way.

But as Maine Public Radio’s Robbie Feinberg reports, tribal leaders see the solution as a matter of tribal sovereignty.
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Wabanaki tribes, community rally in Maine to support tribal sovereignty
Tribal leaders are advocating for the same rights as federally recognized tribes.

August 2, 2021

BANGOR, Maine — Members of Maine’s Wabanaki Tribes gathered Sunday at the Bangor Waterfront for a solidarity rally.

They used it as an opportunity to engage with the community and educate people on their push for tribal sovereignty.

“What the Penobscot Nation and with our allies are really trying to accomplish here is a cleaner water system. One that respects the culture and heritage of the Penobscot people,” said Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis.
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Mining CEO defends comments that Maine tribes lack rights
July 20, 2021

PATTEN, Maine (AP) — The head of a Canadian mining company has defended comments in which he touted the state of Maine as a good place to do business because of a lack of rights for tribal groups.

Wolfden Resources wants to develop a precious minerals mine in rural Maine. The chief executive officer of the company, Ron Little, has faced criticism recently because of comments he made during a 2019 presentation to investors in which he said there are “no indigenous rights in the state of Maine” and that “streamlines the permitting process.”

The Natural Resources Council of Maine, which opposes the mining project, shared the videos with Maine tribes, the Bangor Daily News reported. Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis has described the statement as “obviously not an accurate comment.”
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Gov. Mills vetoes bill to provide gaming rights to Maine tribes
Leaders of the 4 tribes reacted harshly to the veto, which was issued just hours before the measure would have become law without the governor’s signature.

June 30, 2021

AUGUSTA — Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have allowed Native American tribes in Maine to open casinos or other gambling businesses on their tribal lands.

The bill, approved by the Legislature in June, would have ended years of state government opposition to allowing tribes in Maine to open casinos as a means of economic development.

In a lengthy, four-page veto message, Mills detailed her efforts to repair the state’s frayed relationship with the Wabanaki, whose tribes include the Maliseet, the Micmac, the Passamaquoddy and the Penobscot.

But Mills said the bill, which would have restored federal gaming rights that were stripped from the tribes in a 1980 law that settled a land dispute between the tribes and the state, was fraught with problems.

Leaders from the four tribes reacted harshly to the veto in a prepared statement issued shortly after the Mills administration released the veto message.
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Tribal sovereignty protects Maine’s outdoor heritage
May 16, 2021

This guest editorial in support of LD 1626 was written by Ray ‘Bucky’ Owen of Orono, commissioner of Inland Fisheries Wildlife Department for former Gov. Angus King, and Paul Jacques of Waterville, deputy commissioner of Inland Fisheries Wildlife Department for former Gov. John E. Baldacci.

“There is a misconception, like there usually is when it comes to the tribes in Maine, that LD 1626 will have negative consequences for Maine. This idea is being pushed by the same, but much dwindled, industries which fought Sen. Muskie and his conservation efforts.

Indigenous people are the original conservationists of what we now call Maine. They are the original stewards of this land. They are the original hunters and anglers. Four hundred years ago they opened their arms to our ancestors. We lived and continue to live side by side with them as neighbors. Their heritage and our heritage are intertwined. The tribes are the ones that are our greatest allies in protecting our outdoor heritage. Join us in supporting LD 1626.”
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Maine Governor Pushback Stalls Tribal Sovereignty Proposal
An effort to change Maine’s relationship with tribes has stalled with pushback from the Mills administration.
May 5, 2021

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — An effort to change Maine’s relationship with tribes stalled with pushback from the Mills administration, which has reservations about a bill aimed at ensuring tribal sovereignty.

A proposed bill states that the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians shall “enjoy rights, privileges, powers, duties and immunities similar to those of other federally recognized Indian tribes within the United States.”

Mills’ chief legal adviser, Jerry Reid, expressed “serious concerns” about Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross’ bill on Tuesday. Ross, a Portland Democrat, said lawmakers must recognize and honor tribes and “affirm their inherent sovereignty in this territory.”

“We are very ready for a new dawn of tribal-state relations,” Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Dana said. The 1980 settlement, she said, has been used “to oppress tribes and undermine tribal sovereignty.”
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Tribal sovereignty effort stalls again with renewed opposition from Janet Mills
May 4, 2021

AUGUSTA, Maine — The ambitious effort to change Maine’s relationship with indigenous tribes was stalled for the second straight year on Tuesday as a pandemic session stretched already fraught negotiations well into the spring.

Lawmakers reinvigorated efforts to restore tribal authority over land use in 2019 after Democrats took full control of Augusta. A task force produced 22 recommendations on changes ranging from natural resources to gaming and taxation. The tribes had momentum when a legislative panel approved a slate of bills last year, but they died when a lame-duck Legislature adjourned.

They may be back to square one. Legislators and tribal leaders began questioning if the bill could receive the attention it would need during a session already strained by the pandemic last week, said Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Dana. By Sunday, there was a “pretty clear possibility” the major sovereignty bill and others would be tabled until 2021, she said.

“As we’ve seen with tribal bills, committee work can take quite a bit of time,” Dana said. “There’s a need to really [take] a fine-tooth comb to a lot of things the tribes bring forward, and there was some concern that we couldn’t get the bill to a place where everybody is on board with it.”
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It’s time to modernize Maine’s tribal-state relations
April 9, 2021

This guest editorial in support of LD 1626 was written by Rep. Jared Golden, who represents Maine’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“In the last half century, tribal nations across the country have made significant gains in reclaiming their sovereignty and exercising their right to self-government on their own lands. Unlike hundreds of other tribes, however, Maine tribes have not been afforded the respect and dignity that comes with the full recognition of tribal sovereignty.

The reason for this lies in a 40-year-old law called the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act (MICSA) and the state law that accompanied it, the Maine Implementing Act. This 1980 deal marked the culmination of years of litigation and at times acrimony between Maine tribes and state leaders over whether a significant amount of land within Maine’s borders was wrongfully taken from the tribes in the 18th and 19th centuries.

While the act successfully resolved the land claims challenge for both the state and the tribes, ending one era of contentious tribal-state relations, it has become clear that the unusual jurisdictional arrangement that the law enshrined between the tribes and the state government in Augusta is problematic and increasingly unsustainable. This arrangement, unlike that of almost any other agreement with a federally recognized tribe in the country, treats the tribes more like municipalities within the state rather than sovereign governments.”
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Wabanaki Alliance releases first legislative scorecard, listing ‘champions’ and ‘adversaries’
October 2, 2021

A new political organization advocating for tribal sovereignty in Maine, the Wabanaki Alliance, has released its first legislative scorecard on their priority bills.

The scorecard lists 13 policymakers, including Democratic House and Senate leaders Sara Gideon and Troy Jackson, and two Republicans as “tribal champions.” It highlights six legislators, including two Democrats as “tribal adversaries.”

A major legislative priority for the Alliance is the omnibus bill LD 2094, which would implement the state law changes recommended by the Maine Indian Claims Task Force, released in January.

The tribes say that the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Act has been interpreted by the state in a way that has stifled the tribes economically and put the Wabanaki in a category separate from other federally-recognized tribes throughout the country in regard to their sovereignty and the applicability of federal legislation.
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