Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald
A Passamaquoddy elder rests his hands on an oar while working near Long Lake in Indian Township this spring. The people on the tribe’s two eastern Maine reservations have spent decades fighting for their rights while struggling to preserve their collective identity.

Maine Paper Completes 29-Part Series on Passamaquoddy Tribe

Colin Woodard

A Maine newspaper’s unprecedented 29-part series on the triumphs and tragedies of the Passamaquoddy people concluded on Sunday, July 27. The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram series spanned 50 years, exposing readers to shocking injustices—including an apparent state-sponsored conspiracy to stop the tribe’s all-too effective attorney—and current rule of law problems within the tribe, which, while federally-recognized is subject to most state laws and jurisdiction.

“Unsettled”—which the Columbia Journalism Review called a “masterclass in serialization”—shook Mainers’ understanding of their history, their state’s troubled relationship with its original peoples, and current day struggles between the tribe and state over sovereignty and jurisdictional issues. It tells the story of how a tiny exploited people managed to successfully challenge and overturn centuries old tenants of federal Indian law, allowing “eastern” tribes to achieve federal recognition. In the process, however, they were forced to make a difficult compromise that has undermined Maine tribes’ sovereignty and self-determination.

An epilogue to the series will appear this coming Sunday, August 3.

Read the entire series here.

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