Penobscot Chief Calls for Investigation of Maine Attorney General's Office
Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis is calling for an investigation of the state attorney general’s office following the latest successful effort by Attorney General Janet Mills to thwart a tribal-state agreement that would have benefited all stakeholders while acknowledging the sovereignty of the Wabanaki nations.
Francis and leaders of the Passamaquoddy Tribe learned on February 12 at a meeting of the Maine legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources that a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) over elvers fishing licenses and conditions, which had been hammered out over months of negotiations, would not be finalized as planned. DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher said the department was backing off from its support of the MOA because of “legal concerns” raised by Mills. According to Indian law experts, neither the U.S. Constitution nor case law supports Mills’s legal concerns.
The undermining of the Memorandum of Agreement is just the latest in a long line of actions by the attorney general’s office to quash any enterprise that would acknowledge, recognize or affirm the tribes’ sovereignty and right to self-determination, Francis said.
“This is getting infuriating; that office needs to be investigated,” Francis said in an exclusive statement to Indian County Today Media Network in response to a request for comment.
Francis testified in front of the marine resources committee a number of times during the months of negotiations. The Memorandum of Agreement was critical to amendments to Legislative Document 1625, a bill to codify the rules over elvers fishing. Although only the Passamaquoddy Tribe was a signatory to the MOA, the agreement would affect all Wabanaki nations—the Penobscot, the Houlton Band of Maliseets and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs.
“The negotiated MOA proved that when the tribes are treated as governments and dealt with as sovereigns, solutions and mutual compromise can provide for an acceptable solution to both sides,” Francis said. “But there really is no place in the state system for meaningful government-to-government negotiations and agreements when the attorney general’s office wants this relationship totally managed by state law.… The reality is, while this makes them feel better, it is wrong! And as we’re starting to see, the tribes are not the only ones seeing this behavior for what it is—criminal,” Francis said.
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