We have Jerry Reid, Gov. Mills’ chief legal counsel, to thank this week for some insight into the governor’s opposition to legislation that would restore language on tribal treaty obligations to the Maine Constitution.

Tribal members and supporters of the proposal to put the language back in called it a “powerful truth-seeking measure.” They are backed by both the secretary of state and the attorney general. According to the governor’s office, via Reid, the proposal amounts to no more than “a misguided attempt to right a historical wrong that never occurred.”

The practicable, applicable law is the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, Reid pointed out, which replaced the treaties in question in 1980. The Wabanaki Alliance describes the tribes in Maine as “handcuffed” by this agreement and has been stepping up its campaign to have it substantially amended.

The fine print of elements of the state constitution dating to 1876, and whether the latest proposals go too far in their attempts to remedy their removal or not far enough, are arguably less important than the mounting need for Mills to publicly articulate her position on tribal affairs and tribal sovereignty.

As the Press Herald reported Thursday, political momentum continues to build on the matter of tribal sovereignty; the hearing regarding the constitutional changes will shortly be followed by a State of the Tribes address before a joint session of the Legislature. In this climate Mills is facing down not only tribal representatives and advocates but, increasingly (and, perhaps, increasingly progressive), peers in government as well as large parts of her base.

Opposing what was a historic tribal sovereignty bill at about this time last year, Gov. Mills cited the risk of increased litigation and more division in the state. The governor has repeatedly called for a course of negotiated agreement, inviting tribal leaders to work on things item by item.


Without more detailed communication from the governor, the speculation and bewilderment, ranging from mild to extreme, can only continue. Responding in legal terms to cultural and symbolic calls sends its own message. There’s a risk that doesn’t bode well for the type of negotiations desired.


Staying with Augusta, it came as some relief Thursday to have the Maine Senate vote overwhelmingly in favor of a joint resolution in support of Ukraine.

The 27-4 vote came just two days after regrettable scenes in the House of Representatives, during which, for almost an hour, a number of Maine Republicans (53 of whom out of 67 would go on to oppose it) recycled positions on the conflict that have been tried and tested by “Ukraine fatigue” counterparts on the national stage.

The contributions betrayed a loose understanding of reality and history. Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham called the modestly worded resolution “dangerously close to war propaganda.” Critical of what he dismissed as “virtue-signaling,” Rep. John Andrews, misreading global rankings and pulling the debate off course in any event, called Ukraine “one of the most corrupt countries on the planet.”

Let’s be clear, here. What the United States is doing for Ukraine is not a lot.


The mounting opposition to American support of Ukraine, in Maine as elsewhere, is sometimes cast as being based on concerns about the risk of World War III. The focus is conveniently taken off Ukraine, an invaded sovereign country that has been devastated by an aggressor.

Russia has so far killed more than 8,000 Ukrainian civilians, a number that includes more than 400 children.

Despite the complete horror it has endured under attack, representatives like Faulkingham and Andrews argue Ukraine is unworthy of our support. That the backing isn’t justified.

Rep. Rebecca Millett, who sponsored the resolution in the House, summed it up simply.

“Nothing justifies the extinguishing of a culture, a nation, a people,” Millett said on Tuesday. “Nothing.”

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