June 21, 2024

Youth organizers and others held a gathering outside the State Democratic Convention in Bangor Saturday morning to stand for Tribal sovereignty in the wake of stalled action on LD 1626, “An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act”. Youth activists, representing a number of environmental and social justice organizations, handed out their statement to convention participants as they entered.

Though the Maine legislature passed two significant bills impacting the >Wabanaki Tribes, the legislation that would have comprehensively addressed Maine’s outlier restrictions on Tribal sovereignty through its interpretations of the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act was left on the Appropriations table by the Senate. Governor Mills had made clear she would veto LD 1626 if it came to her desk. Without enough votes in the House for a veto override, and no sentiment to change that course, Senators balked at pushing the issue or the bill to the Governor’s desk.

The youth statement read in part: ‘“LD 1626, An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act, was an opportunity to elevate the Wabanaki Nations to having the same status and rights as the other 570 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. The bill was the product of four years of negotiations between the state and the Wabanaki Nations, and had popular, bipartisan support. However, Governor Janet Mills made it clear that she opposes Tribal sovereignty…The Democrats had the power to see this bill through, but Mills did everything in her power to ensure that LD 1626 did not reach her desk, and many legislative leaders fell in line…”

“…Furthermore, the Democratic Party betrayed Indigenous people while choosing to ignore their own party platform, which states: “We believe we must honor and uphold our sacred obligation to the Native Americans who first inhabited this land and that the sovereignty and self-determination of all indigenous tribes in Maine should be recognized and respected.” LDs 906 and 585, while important steps toward justice for the Tribes, were neither designed nor accepted as replacements for the recognition of Tribal Sovereignty. We will watch to ensure that Tribal Sovereignty not only remains on the party platform, but that they begin honoring their sacred obligation through action. We hope that, moving forward, you will join us in solidarity with Wabanaki leadership, and use your voice and networks to see this historic effort through.”

The full Youth Collective Statement on Tribal Sovereignty can be read here.

A rally sign which points out the discrepancies between the Maine Democratic Party’s 
actions and the party’s stated platform when it comes to recognizing inherent Tribal 
Sovereignty. (Photo by Nickie Sekera for Sunlight Media Collective)