It has been 40 years since the signing of the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. Most states abide by federal Indian law, but Maine has been an outlier; its relationship with the Tribes has been more paternalistic. Maine Tribes want the freedom to control their own destiny in order to prosper.

Last spring the Legislature established a Maine-Tribal Task Force to review the 1980 Act and report back with recommended revisions. In doing so, lawmakers referenced the many past disagreements over the language of this agreement that “have caused protracted and long-standing litigation” and “the diminishment of rights, privileges, powers and immunities of the Maine tribes resulting in “a loss of health, education and general welfare compared to the overall population.” It concluded, “[T]he State does not prosper when a specific portion of its citizenry suffers.”

The Task Force recommendations are reflected in an omnibus bill, L.D. 2094, which awaits a public hearing in Augusta on Feb. 14. It is important that all Maine citizens show their support for this bill by contacting their legislators.

Maine Tribes want the freedom to control their own destiny. The state should not be restricting the prosperity of the Tribes in Maine. When the Tribes have the freedom to determine their own economic development, the rest of Maine will prosper beside them.

Wayne Cobb