Holy smokes. Turn on the news right now and it’s enough to make you want to hide. Our nation is facing some pretty crazy circumstances, both those beyond our control, and those entirely of our own making. Some are a bit of both. Recently, we’ve seen yet more violence, a growing awareness of systemic oppression, environmental atrocities, threats to basic governance systems, a hurricane, wildfires, tornadoes, a tragic fatal shark attack – and, of course, the ever-present pandemic and the questions of how/if to reopen schools. That’s a lot. I realize we are all feeling a bit overwhelmed. And rightly so. Life, right now, is overwhelming.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

It makes me think of the oft quoted Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m struggling with the sense of helplessness. So much of everything is beyond my control. So, when a pressing issue of vital importance is brought to my attention and it is something I can impact, well, that seems like we all ought to get busy.

Happening right now, here in our state, is a history-shaping conversation on tribal sovereignty.

The catalog of events, tragedies and broken treaties that led to this moment is extensive. Promises have been made, and broken, time and time again. The most recent understanding was crafted in 1980 with the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. Recently, the need to reassert the sovereignty of Maine’s tribal nations has become abundantly clear, and I am proud to say Maine’s Legislature has been responsive. For 16 months, elected officials have met in work sessions with tribal leadership to set things right. What is lacking now is agreement from the governor’s office.

To quote from a recent Sunrise Media Collective press release on topic:

“Through this legislation the Tribes are not asking the State to give or to grant sovereignty, but to recognize that the Tribes still retain their inherent right to govern their own affairs. This is what is meant by ‘Tribal sovereignty,’ ” said Maria Girouard, Penobscot Tribal historian. “The Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980 was supposed to strengthen Tribal sovereignty, however, years of  narrow interpretations of the Settlement Act have chipped away at and limited Tribal sovereignty.”

“It has always been about the inherent sovereignty of Maine’s first peoples, of the Tribes that are here with us today,” said Rep. Thom Harnett, D-Gardiner. “We’re celebrating the bicentennial of the state of Maine. Obviously there were people here long before us. We’ve had 200 years to try to get this right. I don’t think we can keep asking the Tribes as coequals to come and negotiate against themselves. Either we recognize their sovereignty, or we admit that we’re never going to do so, and I certainly hope that’s not the case.”

“This is starting to feel like 1980 all over again,” Rep. Jeffrey Evangleos, I-Friendship, said “What are we asking for, the advocates of LD 2094? … We’re asking for what the other 49 states already have. This shouldn’t be that difficult.”

The committee vote is scheduled for this Thursday, Aug. 6. I hope you will join me in calling on our elected officials to support this work. Also, consider signing up to receive updates from the Wabanaki Alliance, and if you are able to donate, that’s helpful, too.

This is a rare opportunity for all of us, collectively, to do something right and make a positive change in our world. We can’t afford to let it slip away.

Comments are not available on this story.