In an effort to target the ongoing Indigenous human rights issues happening in Maine, education and trust building are integral and inextricably intertwined parts of addressing racism against Wabanaki people in the state.

The lack of trust between the state and the tribes results in failed efforts to collaborate and produces “continued institutional processes of dehumanization and inferiority,” Wabanaki scholar Rebecca Sockbeson has found. Continued lack of support for legislation that allows for tribal self-determination, such as L.D. 2118 and L.D. 2094, sends the message that the state is not willing to engage in a government-to-government relationship with the tribes.

This perpetuates tribal sovereignty issues with the state and reinforces inequitable treatment of Native peoples in Maine. Deep listening to the voices of Indigenous peoples of Maine, which have been systematically suppressed, can allow Maine and the tribes to move forward in ways that mutually respect each other’s government systems.

The journey of resolving conflicts related to tribal self-governance and racism against Wabanaki people moves beyond just the relationship between the state and the tribes. As Passamaquoddy public health scholar Gail Dana-Sacco notes, it extends to the relationships between the Native peoples of Maine and the non-Native people who call Maine home.

Katie Tomer
Old Orchard Beach

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