Once again, as it has for the past four years, the Maine Legislature is taking on the question of whether our state will more fully acknowledge the sovereignty of the Indigenous nations within our borders. This latest push started in 2019, when a bipartisan Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act met over a six-month period, holding meetings that were open to the public. The result was overwhelming agreement on 22 recommendations to amend the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act.

From 2020 to 2023, as these recommendations were translated into various legislative proposals, passage failed for a variety of reasons, including a lack of support by Gov. Janet Mills. Last year, the sovereignty bill passed both Houses, only to be vetoed by the governor.

Due to restrictions imposed by the Settlement Act, the Wabanaki Nations have been kept from achieving the significant economic growth experienced over the past 40 years by the other 570 federal tribes who’ve had full access to federal policies of self-determination. Removing those obstacles would help the Wabanaki Nations take advantage of federal self-determination policies, programs and funding that elsewhere in Indian Country led to the creation of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in goods and services produced by Native businesses.

I ask that you contact your state representatives and the governor, and urge them to support L.D. 2007, “An Act to Advance Self-Determination for Wabanaki Nations.”

Wayne Cobb

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