AUGUSTA — The Wabanaki Alliance wants sovereignty and the ability to self-govern.
On Monday, members of the Wabanaki Alliance, legislators and allies held a virtual rally and press conference in front of the state capitol to draw support for a bill they say will restore tribes’ rights.
“The state of Maine again, the executive branch, Governor Janet Mills remains unwilling to deal with tribes in a sovereign way. In an equal government-to-government relationship mandated by sacred inherent sovereign right,” said Darrell Newell, vice chief of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township.
Senate President Troy Jackson was critical of the 1980 Land Claims Settlement Act and said this is not just a tribal issue, but also a rural Maine issue.
Jackson said the tribes of Maine have missed out on emergency funding and environmental cleaning funds.
He also said there have been several laws passed that have not benefited them.
“With all the problems that we know with the settlement, the fact that we don’t treat the tribes in Maine like the 570 federally recognized tribes across the country. Why would Maine do that? Why would we not act the same as the other 49 states in that regard?” Jackson said.
The executive director of the Wabanaki Alliance said the bill would allow the tribes the ability to act on behalf of its people and take care of issues that are important to them.
“Issues such as natural resources management, taxation, civil and criminal authority, Wabanaki lands,” said John Diffenbacher-Krall.
The bill, which has been held over multiple times, is set to be revisited in January 2022.
Mills released a statement recognizing indigenous peoples’ day saying: “Maine’s culture is in large part the direct result of those who first hunted, farmed, fished and occupied much of the land that we call our home. On indigenous peoples’ day, let us pay tribute to those who were the first stewards of this land we love; celebrate their many contributions to our great state; and recommit ourselves to our shared home and future, with respect and trust for one another.”