The Coastal Packet: Native tribes declare independence

Thursday, May 28

Native tribes declare independence

WCSH- A historic day for three of Maine's Native American tribes, as they sign a document declaring their efforts to self-govern their people. The tribes said they can no longer participate with state officials because they fail to recognize the people of distinct tribal nations.

After 200 years, Native Americans made a monumental change in rewriting their history. Tribal leaders will no longer have a seat in the legislature, instead they will self-govern their people.

The Penobscots, Passamaquaoddies and MicMac signed a declaration claiming the right to decide what and how they're going to practice their culture and their indigenous rights. Tribal leaders said they no longer want to participate in the Maine legislature. Leaders said they're not wards of the state and Augusta representatives aren't their guardians.

Leaders also said they are tired of being denied proper fishing rights along with having a proposal to regulate violence against women blocked. Just last month, Governor LePage issued an executive order stating that the tribes, their people, lands and resources are subjects of the State.

Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Frances said they're going to defend what's theirs.

"State rights are not the only rights that exist within Maine's borders. When Maine became a state it was a condition of the State of Maine to honor treaties and to recognize indigenous people in this state."

Colin Woodward, Press Herald -  The tribal leaders acknowledged that the move is largely symbolic, and they could not come up with any examples of laws they might ignore as a result.....

“The Maine Indian Land claims Setlement act has failed and we cannot allow ourselves to continue down the path,” Chief Francis said after the signing ceremony, which was held in the Penobscots’ cavernous bingo hall. “We’re saying it’s a failed social experiment and it has a negative effect on people from a health care standpoint, from an economic standpoint, from all of those things.”

Under the historic 1980 settlement acts, Maine and tribes negotiated a compromise to avoid a legal battle over the tribes’ claim to more than half of Maine’s territory. The tribes accepted broad state authority and jurisdiction, except over “internal tribal matters” and certain other issues, but the parties have clashed over its interpretation and implementation.

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