Native Tribes Declare Sovereignty from Maine After Failed Social Experiment

Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis at a May 26 rally outside of the Maine Statehouse.  Photo Courtesy Sherri Mitchell, Native News Online

Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis at a May 26 rally outside of the Maine Statehouse. Photo Courtesy Sherri Mitchell, Native News Online

Augusta, ME (TFC) – Due to Governor Paul LePage launching direct political and environmental attacks against the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes of Maine, leaders of those tribes have recalled their representatives from the state legislature and are asserting their sovereignty from the State of Maine.  “The Maine Indian Land claims Settlement act has failed and we cannot allow ourselves to continue down the path,” Chief Francis said.  “We’re saying it’s a failed social experiment.

In August of 2011, Governor LePage signed an Executive Order recognizing a “special relationship” between the sovereign State of Maine, and the sovereign tribes within the State.  In this order, the Governor instructed all State agencies to include a tribal liaison, whose role would be to facilitate communication and direct policy in all areas of State jurisdiction in such a way as to include the voice and interest of native peoples.  The Order instructs that “the State and Tribes should work together as one,” and Tribal interests should be heeded when developing policies and procedures “on matters that significantly or uniquely affect those tribes.

In April of this year, LePage rescinded that Order.  The new Order maintains that native tribes in Maine retain their sovereignty, but holds that they now have a “relationship between equals with its own set of responsibilities,” yet declares that tribal lands, forms of tribal governance and natural resources controlled by the native tribes are subject to the laws and jurisdiction of the State of Maine.  The takeover of lands was prompted by an EPA letter to the State, and claims that lack of Tribal participation in “the State’s interests” required the usurpation of Tribal sovereignty.  The Letter, in fact, actually supports the Tribal position, as the Tribal standards of environmental protection are much stricter than those of the EPA or the State of Maine.  Those close to the Penobscot Tribe tell The Fifth Column that LePage threatened to sue the EPA over the proposed new regulations, leading the Agency to back down.  LePage’s Order, then, becomes a direct political attack against the Tribes in affront to their sovereignty and an effort to exact more control over the land by the State of Maine.

Even though Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis and his Tribe couldn’t have been “happier” with the EPA ruling, the State of Maine blamed the Tribe for poor water quality and dissolved its sovereignty over the land and resources.  This comes in spite of a Penobscot lawsuit over fishing rights in the Penobscot River and another legal battle between the State and the Passamaquoddy Tribe over rights in other fisheries in the region, as well as Maine’s already stringent water quality standards.  Initiallya little bit – well, a lot – confused” by the new Executive Order, Chief Francis declared, “We have gotten on our knees for the last time, from here on out, we are a self-governing organization, focused on a self-determining path.

Francis spoke outside of the Maine Statehouse on May 26 in a rally celebrating the severing of diplomatic ties between the Tribes and the State.  He was joined by leaders of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, but not the Houlton and Maliseet Tribes, who cite too much of a vested financial interest in the outcome of several bills currently pending.  Matthew Dana II and Wayne Mitchell, just prior to the rally, issued statements on the floor of the legislature announcing the separation, and abandoning their pro forma seats in the state government.  Each Tribe was allotted one seat in the legislature, where they were allowed to submit and discuss bills, but denied the right to vote.  According to the Tribes, this is the first time since 1842 that a Native Tribe was not present in the legislature.

Passamaquoddy Representative, Matthew Dana II (right) stands by as Chief Fred Moore (left) explains the Tribe’s position.  Photo Courtesy Sherri Mitchell, Native News Online

Passamaquoddy Representative, Matthew Dana II (right) stands by as Chief Fred Moore (left) explains the Tribe’s position. Photo Courtesy Sherri Mitchell, Native News Online

We have gone to great lengths to demonstrate good faith and cooperation, only to be lied to,states Passamaquoddy Chief Fred Moore.  Meanwhile, LePage maintains in one breath that it is the interests of the State of Maine that have not been respected, yet in another breath has stated that he would veto any Tribal bill that reaches his desk from the legislature.  Urged to rejoin the legislature by Speaker Mark Eves, former Representative Mitchell of the Penobscot Nation told supporters that the decision to leave non-voting positions in the legislature had been made, and that any return would “be on our own terms.”  In the meantime, any interaction between the Tribes and the State of Maine will take place as separate and equal nations, not colonialized subservients to an occupying government that repeatedly refuses to respect Tribal interests.

The unique break in diplomatic ties signals the reassertion of full sovereignty for the Tribal Nations.  The precedent and political implications could spread to other tribes throughout North America, and serve as a model for natives and non-natives alike as state and federal governments continue to enact laws violating the rights of the People, and others to protect the environmentally and economically destructive interests of corporations.  The reassertion of sovereignty, more immediately, may protect much of the land and water in Maine from fracking, Tar Sands production, and mountain top mining.   More importantly, the Tribes are declaring that they no longer consent to the State to “define our sovereignty or culture or to interfere with our self-governing rights.

Attribution Note:  All photographs are courtesy of Sherri Mitchell, Native News Online, and republished with permission.  You can view her coverage of this event here.



15 comments for “Native Tribes Declare Sovereignty from Maine After Failed Social Experiment

  1. albert
    July 13, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Now the “Great White Father” will send Troops to exterminate you.
    Resistance is FUTILE.
    Assimilate with the BORG/Empire.
    JE SUIS Charlie Hebdo were but WORDS
    The Obama administration will remove Malaysia from its official list of the world’s worst human SLAVERY offenders, according to Reuters, a move human rights advocates fear will damage U.S. credibility. The maneuver would allow the administration to continue negotiating a controversial trade agreement with Malaysia and 10 other Pacific nations. Legislation authored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) effectively bars the U.S. from enacting trade deals with countries deemed “Tier 3” violators of human SLAVERY standards — the worst of the worst in the State Department’s formal reckoning of governments that facilitate modern-day SLAVERY.

    You are offended by my Confederate flag? —–JE SUIS CHARLIE HEBDO ! ——
    That is what you piously preached to the muslims when you offended them..
    JE SUIS CHARLIE HEBDO as long as “they” approve …………… actually the Confederate flag is not about race, but about COMRADE-UNCLE-Sam –it’s a symbol against the over reaching police state of federalism. Just as is the GADSDEN flag. Go examine the photos of early 1900’s Ku Klux Klan rallies, those are “AMERICAN” flags the Klan is carrying.
    ALL traces/symbols of FREEDOM are being erased. Andrew Jackson who DARED stand up to the International BANKERS is under attack on the $20
    “The American people, North and South, went into the [Civil] war as citizens of their respective states, they came out as subjects … what they thus lost they have never got back.” H. L. Mencken
    All those CongressSCUM who voted for Obamatrade are every so quickly running around trying to get removed any statue or symbol from the era of the Civil War. Such are the last reminder to a brainwashed public that once upon a time Americans fought against what is happening everywhere nowadays.
    Mel Gibson suppressed because EVERY one of his movies preached FREEDOM

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