Self-determination for the Wabanaki people
The Wabanaki people have cared for the land, water, and wildlife in Maine for 10,000 years. But the tribes here have a legal status different than all other tribes across the country, which limits their ability to steward the places that are central to their culture and identity.
AMC supports a bill being considered by the Maine legislature to establish that three federally recognized tribes, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation, and the Houlton Band of Maliseets, enjoy the same “rights, privileges, powers, duties and immunities” as all 570 other federally recognized tribes in the United States.
Under the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement, these tribes have legal status similar to a municipality. Unlike every other federally recognized tribe, they are unable to benefit from the opportunities created by federal laws passed in the last 42 years. Tensions between the tribes and the state have continued since the settlement. Many of these disputes involve environmental protection. Because Maine’s laws do not give tribes sovereignty over their own lands, the tribes are not able to regulate fishing, hunting, or natural resources use.
A 2019 bipartisan Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act recommended 22 law changes to improve the well-being of tribal members and reduce tensions between the tribes and the state. These recommendations included several measures that would give Maine’s tribes jurisdiction over hunting, fishing, and environmental protection on tribal lands.
LD 1626, An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act, puts most of those recommendations into effect. Importantly, it does not address issues of gaming. The bill does not apply to the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, who have not ratified their land claims settlement.
AMC has worked closely with the Wabanaki people, recognizing our common interests. We stand with these tribes in believing that tribal self-determination is necessary to address such long-standing problems as the lack of clean drinking water on the Pleasant Point (Sipayik) reservation and the quality of the water in the Penobscot River.
Our elected leaders will be considering LD 1626 soon. Please send a letter to your state legislators asking them to support the bill.