On a day meant, in part, to take note of past injustices, Maine tribal members and their supporters pointed to ongoing injustices in the treatment of Maine’s tribes.
The Wabanaki Alliance staged a rally outside the State House complex that was shared on Facebook. There was criticism of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and the 1980 land Claims Settlement Act.
Passamaquoddy Vice Chief Darrell Newell said, “Tribal-state relations are broken and we’re in need of repair. We are in need of strong state leadership to make tribal-state relations a reality.”
Newell said Mills had been “steadfast” in “maintaining oppression” of the tribes, and unwilling to deal with them as the sovereign entities they are.
Democratic State Senate President Troy Jackson laid some of the blame on the Settlement Act. Jackson said it led to Maine’s tribes being unable to take advantage of about 150 federal actions that have applied to the other 570 federally-recognized tribes over the past four decades.
And Jackson said those federal actions included funding for infrastructure and environmental protection. Jackson said that made the Settlement Act’s terms “not just a tribal issue, but a rural Maine issue.”
Governor Mills, in a statement marking the Monday holiday, pointed out she signed the legislation renaming Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
She also pointed to other steps: the banning of Indian mascots, allowing tribal law enforcement to prosecute non-tribal members in domestic violence cases involving tribal members and taking steps to increase tribal land holdings.
Her statement concluded by saying “The Mills Administration remains committed to finding common ground and making important progress with Maine’s Tribal Nations.”
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.