A bill that would grant Indigenous people free access to Maine state parks and historic sites has been approved by the Legislature’s Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Sponsored by Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, “An Act to Provide Indigenous Peoples Free Access to State Parks” received unanimous approval Monday from the committee. L.D. 25, will exempt members of a federally recognized Indian nation, tribe or band from being required to pay a fee for admission to any state-owned park or historic site.

“We must do all we can to advance and improve our tribal-state relations, and this is one step in that direction. Our state parks are some of the most sacred sites for the Wabanaki people, and they have every right to enjoy this unceded land without paying a fee, just as their ancestors did before them,” Hickman said in a statement.

Aaron Dana, the Tribal Representative for the Passamaquoddy Nation, testified in support the legislation. Dana said the Wabanaki Nations have for generations used state park lands for ceremonial use in traditional and spiritual practices. Only in recent history, have the Wabanaki people been required to pay a monetary fee to sit and pray where their ancestors, grandparents and parents sat to pray, Dana said.

The legislation will now face votes in the Senate and House before it can be enacted. The Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and the Sierra Club all testified in support of L.D. 25.

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