Bravo to the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Micmac chiefs for their recent Joint Declaration. They’ve demonstrated their resilience and self-respect in calling out the state of Maine for its patronizing and disrespectful behavior. In the process, the chiefs have issued us a wake-up call. We owe them our full support.

The state of Maine needs to move forward, to bring its approach to the tribes in line with federal Indian policy and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Thirty-five years of misinterpreting the 1980 Land Claims Settlement Acts in the state’s favor (instead of the tribes’, as is required by the Settlement Acts and settled federal Indian policy) has resulted in this unproductive estrangement.

While I’m saddened by the temporary closing of doors, I can only hope it ushers in a new era of tribal-state relations – one that honors, in practice, the tribal right of self-determination.

Wabanaki citizens should be able to benefit – as fully as any other federally recognized tribe – from congressional legislation like the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the 2013 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Yet our attorney general continually thwarts the development of legitimate tribal authority. What is she afraid of?

To celebrate and enable the emergence of Native communities into healthy self-reliance is to be on the right side of history. We all have a choice to make, and actions to take. Learn the history. Stop allowing the state of Maine to oppress its tribes. Become an ally.

Diane Oltarzewski

Belfast