Dominated in Maine: A Tribal Perspective From Behind the White Curtain

Donna M. Loring

Maine is the Whitest State in the Country. We as Wabanki Tribes in Maine live behind a White Curtain of poverty, bigotry and isolation from the rest of Indian Country.

Nearly five years ago the State of Maine elected Paul R. LePage as its Governor. Paul LePage will go down in the annals of history as the most ignorant, racist and hate filled Governor ever elected to that position in Maine. The Maine people put him there through their vote. Maine people are mostly good people and try to do the right thing for everyone and the good of the State but there are those who still hold on to the White Supremacist 'No Nothing Party' philosophy of the 1920's that so engulfed this State. (I'm not saying LePage is influenced by the KKK but I am saying his brand of ignorance and bullying fall into that category.) so much so that the KKK had a great foot hold here as evidenced by their *parades held here in Maine in broad daylight.

The Town of Milo was the first in New England and the first in the U.S to hold a KKK parade n full KKK Robes in daylight hours. The first KKK State Convention was held in Waterville Maine in 1923 and attracted over 15,000 participants. It is this legacy passed from generation to generation that has found fertile soil here once again. It was the solid base of the far right that put LePage in office. It is this same base that continues to haunt the State in all areas of Legislation and it's dealings with the Wabanaki tribes and people of color.

* The history of the KKK in Maine can be found at Wikipedia and the Maine History and Memory site

However, Maine's maltreatment of the Tribal Nations began long before 1923. This treatment of the Tribes laid the groundwork for a long slippery slope that leads Maine to where it is today.

I am more and more convinced that the relationship between the State of Maine and the Maine Tribes was and is not only one of Paternalism but one of dishonesty, marginalization and disrespect. It is a relationship of total and complete domination. I truly believe that Maine cannot get on the right path until it learns to treat all it's citizens Native People and People of Color with respect and dignity. The historical record shows they never have.

The State of Maine has never recognized our Tribal governments sovereign status.

It has continuously kept firm control over the Tribal governments that live here since it became a State in 1820. The ironic thing is that Maine owes its very existence as a State to the Tribes.

When Maine petitioned Massachusetts for its Statehood Massachusetts agreed but only under the condition that this new State take over its treaty obligations. These obligations were made in lieu of the Tribes agreement to join the American Revolution to fight against the British. Massachusetts agreed to give $30,000 to be held in Trust upon the new States completion of the agreement with the Tribes.

Maine included the Treaty obligations in its 1820 State Constitution. Article X sec 5.

In 1841 Article X was revised to read: "Original sections 1, 2, 5, of Article X not to be printed; section 5 in full force. Sections 1, 2 and 5, of Article X of the Constitution, shall hereafter be omitted in any printed copies thereof prefixed to the laws of the State; but this shall not impair the validity of acts under those sections; and said section 5 shall remain in full force, as part of the Constitution, according to the stipulations of said section, with the same effect as if contained in said printed copies."

The act of removing the above sections from print in effect took away the mention of tribes from the visible written Maine Constitution and made that obligation invisible and easily forgotten.

The question comes to mind:

 Are there any sections in the United Sates Constitution that "Shall not be printed but remain in full force"? I don't believe the American people would allow that. Yet the State of Maine is allowed to do this and has gotten away with it. The Last State Legislative session of 2016 a bill was brought forward to put those sections back into print in the Maine Constitution. The bill was amended so that it said those sections would be in the State Public library for anyone who wants to see them. This is just a huge example of the way the State of Maine keeps the Tribes invisible and marginalized and shows the intent of the State to continue to dominate and control them. The Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, which was a treaty between the Federal Government, the State and the Tribe’s has many examples of their attempt to maintain control and isolate us. We see evidence clearly showing the extent of these attempts from the implementation of that agreement. One of the conditions of the Settlement Act was that there could be changes to the Act but only if both the Tribes and the State agreed.

What has happened with this agreement in the thirty-six years since its implementation is that the State of Maine has done an end run around the Act. It has brought misunderstandings and disagreements to be settled in State Courts and these State Court decisions have been in the State's favor and Federal Courts have recognized the State's rulings thereby beginning a process that will place the tribes back under total control of the State.

A few more examples come to mind that stem from the implementation of the Settlement Act:

 Clean water and the right to gaming

Two federal Acts apply in these two areas.

 The first is the Clean Water Act and the Second is the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. These two Acts enacted by the US Congress do not apply in the State of Maine. Why? Because of two clauses in the Maine Indian Claims Act (MICSA) and the Maine Implementing Act (MIA). Section 1735(b) of MICSA states:

"The provisions of any Federal law enacted after the date of enactment of this Act (enacted Oct.10,1980) for the benefit of Indians, Indian nations, or tribes or bands of Indians, which would affect or preempt the application of laws of the State of Maine, including application of the laws to lands owned by or held in trust for Indians, or Indian nations, tribes, bands of Indians, as provided in this Act and the Maine Implementing Act shall not apply within the State of Maine, unless such provision of such subsequently enacted Federal law is specifically made applicable within the State of Maine."

MIA section 6204 states: Except as otherwise provided in this Act, all Indians, Indian nations, and tribes and bands of Indians in the State and any lands or other natural resources owned by them, held in trust for them by the United States or by any other person or entity shall be subject to the laws of the State and to the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the courts of the State to the same extent as any other person or lands or other natural resources therein.

These two sections of the Act have been used by the Attorney General's office of the State of Maine to stop the Maine tribes from benefiting from these Congressional Acts and other Acts passed to benefit the rest of Indian Country. Senator Susan Collins stopped the Violence Against Women Act that would allow these cases to be heard in Tribal Courts from applying to Maine Tribes. She also stopped Federal Emergency Legislation, which would have allowed the Maine Tribes to go directly to the Federal government for emergency assistance. Maine Tribes were forced to withdraw and remove our Tribes from the bill under threat by Collins that she would hold the bill and it would die and not one Indian Tribe would get the benefit of these bills. She effectively isolated us from Indian Country. Too much power for one Senator in my opinion!

The State of Maine has hung a very powerful White Curtain in front of the Maine Tribes and it has effectively kept us invisible. These acts of isolating the Tribes and suppressing them have an effect on how the State treats people of color in general. It has been allowed to isolate, abuse and control the Tribes and no one cares. It has been allowed to do it without question. The State of Maine first must treat the original inhabitants of the State with respect and honesty before it can treat the rest of the people of color fairly across the board.

On May 26th 2015 the Penobscot Nation's Tribal Representative and the Passamaquoddy Representative both non-voting members picked up their jackets and walked out of the House Chamber for good. The two Tribes had held seats in that body since 1823 and 1843 respectively.

 I'm hoping that this editorial will bring attention to the unfair treatment and the tactics of isolation the State of Maine has used against Maine Tribes for almost 200 years. It is time to consider equal justice and the Civil Rights of Maine Tribes. Time for a Congressional investigation!

Donna Loring is an author, playwright, and Penobscot Tribal Elder. 

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