Tribes seek 500 supporters for sovereignty bill hearing

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Supporters of a plan to restore the self-government rights of indigenous tribes in Maine hope to send a clear message at the bill’s state legislative hearing on Tuesday.

The Wabanaki Alliance, a cross-tribal advocacy group, is working to collect 500 testimonies in support of the bill ahead of its hearing before the Legislative Judiciary Committee.

A series of groups, including the Maine Council of Churches, Farmland Trust, Youth for Climate Justice and many others, have called on members and supporters to join the effort by submitting written testimonials beforehand and getting involved. registering to speak at Tuesday’s hearing.

The bill, which Governor Janet Mills vetoed in 2021, would implement recommendations from the task force on updating the 1980 law that separated Maine from the rest of the country by limiting sovereign rights. of the state’s four federally recognized tribes – the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs.

The Wabanaki Alliance, which includes all of these tribes, states on its website that the bill would “take enormous steps to ensure that the Wabanaki tribes are generally treated like all other federally recognized tribes,” giving them much more control over issues such as environmental protection. , criminal justice and economic development on their lands.

In an opinion piece for The Bangor Daily News last week, Mills Governor’s chief legal counsel Jerry Reid reported that the administration remains skeptical of the bill, writing: Disputes over their meaning and their effects at a time when we are working so hard to improve relationships.

Reid touted other areas where the state has improved its relationship with tribes and said the Mills administration was working on separate legislative language to offer other new forms of support, including making tribes the primary beneficiaries. online sports betting in Maine.

It remains unclear how legislation from the governor would interface with the sovereignty bill. In recent months, the tribes have argued that the Mills administration has been more of a hindrance than a help in finding solutions to their concerns.

Two days after Tuesday’s public hearing on the sovereignty bill, the same legislative committee will hold a hearing on several other bills that would benefit tribes, including an emergency measure to provide safe drinking water. at the Passamaquoddy reservation at Pleasant Point.

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