BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission approved Monday a trip its executive director will make to an event in New York which will include a symposium on the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Several MITSC commissioners questioned whether they were ready to have John Dieffenbacher-Krall comment on the declaration, which the commission hasn’t yet discussed, at the International Council of Environmental Law awards ceremony on May 13 in New York City.
The commissioners, however, agreed their executive director should go.
“We approve of you attending and we gave you some of our concerns about the discussions that might occur there, but we certainly want you to provide whatever information that you can,” Commissioner Paul Jacques said after MITSC voted unanimously to support Dieffenbacher-Krall’s appearance.
“We have not really looked into this thing,” Jacques added. “It’s difficult to provide the specific direction and thought process of the commission, but we certainly want you to be there.”
Dieffenbacher-Krall’s trip will not be paid for by MITSC, which is an intergovernmental entity created by the Maine Implementing Act of 1980.
Six members are appointed by the state, two by the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, two by the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and two by the Penobscot Indian Nation. The 13th, who is the chairperson, is selected by the 12 appointees.
That position is now vacant in the wake of Paul Bisculca’s resignation in January because of frustrations over the state’s failure to address issues important to the tribes, according to a Jan. 27 Bangor Daily News article.
Commissioners Denise Altvater, Brian Reynolds and former chairman and current Commissioner Cushman Anthony agreed to serve on a subcommittee to field nominations for a new chairman.
Jacques chaired Monday morning’s meeting. He said some MITSC members expressed doubts about whether Dieffenbacher-Krall should attend the symposium as an MITSC representative. Dieffenbacher-Krall said he would have gone representing himself regardless of MITSC’s decision.
Dieffenbacher-Krall will speak May 13 about the declaration’s impact, or lack thereof, on Maine’s tribes. He said the invitation came from the recommendation of Tonya Gonnella Frichner, who serves as the North American representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
MITSC has not yet talked about the U.N. declaration, which was adopted in 2007 by the U.N. General Assembly, and what the human rights document means for Maine’s tribal groups. The U.S. was one of four nations to vote against the declaration, although Maine’s Senate and House of Representatives voted in 2008 to sup-port the declaration.
“My main concern was we hadn’t had a discussion about any of this,” Altvater said. “I’d really like to have a good understanding about everything so we can make a good decision.”
Dieffenbacher-Krall did not comment on the vote during the meeting, but said he had hoped to put together an MITSC statement on the declaration to take to the symposium.
The tight timeline of his trip prohibited that action, but Dieffenbacher-Krall said he believed he could communicate the viewpoints of all of the parties involved.
“I think I have a pretty strong track record on inclusiveness,” he said.