House votes to grant Maine’s native tribes benefits of federal law


The United States House of Representatives has approved a bill that would allow Native American tribes bound by a state land claims settlement in Maine to benefit from federal laws in the future.

The proposal, attached to a defense bill approved Thursday, would not change how tribes are treated under state law, but would update federal law to allow future laws passed by the Congress to apply to tribes.

Rep. Jared Golden, who introduced the bill, said Maine tribes deserve the same benefits as other federally recognized tribes under federal law.

“What these tribes want is what all communities in my district want – economic opportunities for their families and safer, healthier communities,” the Maine Democrat said in a statement. A fellow Democrat, Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

The proposal faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation said in a statement Friday that tribal members “look forward to working with our senators to secure final passage through Congress this year.”

The Wabanaki tribes of Maine are governed by the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980, which states that they are bound by state law. This sets them apart from the other 570 federally recognized tribes.

“After forty years, it is long overdue for Congress to amend the Settlements Act to ensure that our people receive equal treatment under federal law with other Indigenous peoples,” said Chief Clarissa Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians.

Both houses of the Maine Legislature introduced a bill to amend land claims settlements to restore lost rights to tribes, but it stalled under threat of a veto from Democratic Governor Janet Mills.


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