Legislators will hold a public hearing Tuesday, May 4 on legislation to restore tribal sovereignty to the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation, and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. QUICK ACTION: Submit written testimony in favor of LD 1626 and ask your legislators to support this bill!
Maine legislators are considering a bill to restore tribal sovereignty by enacting consensus recommendations from a bipartisan task force convened to address long-standing issues with the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act (MICSA) and the state law that accompanied it, the Maine Implementing Act. Passed in 1980, the settlement was a negotiation between the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation, and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and the state and federal governments. Even though tribes in Maine never ceded federally recognized rights, the state and courts have for 40 years used language in the settlement to treat the tribes as little more than municipalities, leaving them with fewer rights than all other federally recognized tribes across the country. Under MICSA, tribes in Maine were unable to benefit from more than 150 federal laws passed since 1980, missing out on opportunities for economic development, increased access to health care, expanded environmental protections, enhanced K-12 education, and legislation that fostered job creation, ensured safe drinking water, and strengthened laws regarding prevention and prosecution of sexual assault and domestic violence. A 2012 report from the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission, created by the 1980 settlement to continually review its effectiveness, found that MICSA “created structural inequities that have resulted in conditions that have risen to the level of human rights violations.”
These inequities prompted the creation of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act, a bipartisan group of tribal leaders, legislators, and state officials. After six months of hearings, meetings, interviews, and research, the task force issued a report in January 2020 with sweeping recommendations to restore tribal sovereignty over a range of issues, including the prosecution of crimes on tribal lands, the regulation of fishing, hunting, and other uses of natural resources on tribal lands, gaming, taxation, and land acquisition. The task force’s recommendations do not affect the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, who are pursuing their own sovereignty proposal through parallel efforts.
LD 1626, sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-South Portland) and supported by the Wabanaki Alliance, is an omnibus bill to enact most of those recommendations. The legislation is supported by Rep. Jared Golden (D-CD2) and a broad coalition of environmental, faith-based, and social and racial justice organizations, including Suit Up Maine, have voiced support for the legislation and tribal sovereignty. A similar bill introduced in the last session received overwhelming bipartisan support from the Judiciary Committee, but the legislation died when the COVID-19 pandemic forced an early adjournment.
- Testify in support. The Committee on the Judiciary will hold a public hearing at 9 am Tuesday, May 4 and legislators need to hear from allies! Submit written testimony in support of LD 1626 following the steps, preferably before the hearing May 4. Your testimony does not need to be long, and the more personal you can make it, the better. See the talking points below for some ideas.
- Email your legislators. Email your testimony to your legislators and urge them to support LD 1626. Find your legislators here.
- Write an LTE. Turn your testimony into a letter to the editor for your local paper! Find out how in our LTE Guide.
- Sign up! Sign this petition from the Wabanaki Alliance in support of Tribal sovereignty and join their email list.
HOW TO SUBMIT WRITTEN TESTIMONY
- Go to: https://www.mainelegislature.org/testimony/
- Select public hearing
- Select Judiciary Committee
- Select May 4 2021 9:01 AM (that’s not a typo! 9:01)
- Select LD 1626
- If you would like to present your testimony during the hearing, select “I would like to present my testimony live” then select “I am for the proposed legislation.” If you will not present live, leave that box unchecked and proceed to the next step.
- Upload a PDF or Word doc with your testimony or write a few paragraphs directly into the text box.
- Enter the requested contact information.
- Select the “I am not a robot” captcha.
- Select “Submit/Register”
TALKING POINTS & RESOURCES
- Use these talking points from the Wabanaki Alliance and 350 Maine when crafting your testimony, emails to legislators, and letters to the editor.
- Wabanaki Alliance
- Maine Environmental Priorities Coalition fact sheet
- Abbe Museum
- Resources for continued learning on MICSA, from Wabanaki Reach
- Maine Conservation Voters Lunch & Learn Recording with Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Dana and Passamaquoddy Tribal Citizen and Attorney Corey Hinton