Socobasin on Maine Commission Report: Not a Commercial Venture – Our Culture

Gale Courey Toensing

Following a new report that says Maine lawmakers violated the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act with the passing of a law this spring that limited the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s jurisdiction over elvers fishing without the tribe’s consent, Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkmikuk Chief Joseph Socobasin wants to make sure the Maine lawmakers know the fishing isn’t a commercial venture – it’s a culture.

RELATED: ‘Racism Is Central’ to Tribal Conflict with Maine, Says Report

Socobasin wanted to remind the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission “Saltwater fishing has sustained the Passamaquoddy throughout all of our history. Fishing in the ocean is not a commercial venture: it is our culture. Our relationship with the ocean is core to our concepts of sustenance as a people living on this bay that bears our name. For us, sustenance has always included components of barter and exchange. At the same time, we are very worried about the damage to our intertidal zones and to the saltwater fishery. This is why we have set a high standard of conservation and encouraged the state to do likewise. This report sheds light on some hard truths, some very disturbing truths, about the relationship between the Passamaquoddy and the State of Maine. It is my hope that the contents of the report will bring us all back to the table with a newfound respect and commitment to finally resolve this conflict.”

The carefully researched 41-page report, co-written by Jamie Bissonette Lewey, chair of the MITSC and Commissioner Dr. Gail Dana-Sacco and researched by MITSC Executive Director John Dieffenbacher-Krall, called “Assessment of the Intergovernmental Saltwater Fisheries Conflict Between Passamaquoddy and the State of Maine” found that the legislature violated the MICSA by circumventing its amendment process when it legislated on saltwater fishery issues without the consent of the Passamaquoddy Tribe in 1998, 2013, and 2014.

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