Danaeh Neptune-Miliano fills up water jugs at a well in Robbinston in April 2020 as part of the Wabanaki Public Health's efforts to bring clean water to the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point. Credit: Courtesy of Wabanaki Public Health

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Maine has made strides in recent years in recognizing harm being done to our tribal neighbors and working to correct it. Laws have been passed banning Indian mascots and renaming Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but without granting Maine tribes sovereignty and enacting change to how the state interacts with our tribal neighbors, those victories can ring hollow.

Maine tribes are not asking for special privileges. They are asking to be on equal footing with the more than 570 other federally recognized tribes. The lack of sovereignty afforded Maine tribes makes Maine an outlier. We can fix that.  LD 1626, “An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act,” could have large and small positive impacts.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe living near Pleasant Point has been dealing with unsafe drinking water conditions for years. Tribe members have explained that the source that supplies their drinking water is brown, smells bad and is unpleasant and unsafe to drink. The tribe owns land that could be a good fit to drill a new well to access clean drinking water, but because of state and local policies put in place they are unable to do so. LD 1626 would remove many of the hurdles in place and allow them to use their land to provide safe drinking water.

LD 1626 would allow the Passamaquoddy to begin addressing the drinking water issues in their community. I urge the Legislature and the governor to support tribal sovereignty and pass LD 1626.

Sarah Woodbury

Freeport

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