I have lived in Maine my entire life, except for a few years spent away to determine if there is any reason to live somewhere else (there is not). One of my favorite things about our state is our strong tradition of pragmatism. Climate change threatens our fisheries? We commit to 100% renewable energy. Typical voting rules clash with our ability to vote independently? We write new ones. Little Round Top must be held at all costs? Bayonet charge. It is a characteristic we can all be proud of.

How odd, then, that our usually pragmatic Sen. Angus King has chosen to abandon pragmatism on an issue unique to Maine. The senator’s recent statement on the Advancing Equality for Wabanaki Nations Act reads as if it was written by a lawyer from away, not our beloved former governor and senator who has always chosen what will benefit Mainers.

The facts of Wabanaki sovereignty are clear. A recent study from Economic Policy Institute shows that tribal self-governance means economic growth for Indian nations. The resulting growth benefits not only those nations but neighboring communities. But King refers to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, which has kept Wabanaki nations and neighboring communities from accessing those benefits, as if it were some sacred contract that must be upheld. His statement suggests that the agreement is written in stone; a done deal. It is a bad deal for the Wabanaki and a bad deal for Maine. The Advancing Equality for Wabanaki Nations Act would have meant economic growth and the start of a cleaner conscience for Maine. The pragmatic choice is clear: it is Wabanaki sovereignty.

I hope my fellow Mainers will join me in asking King to return to his pragmatic roots and support Wabanaki self-governance.

Jeff Bates