Editorial: Tribal sovereignty far from absolute

"By declining to consider appeals from two Maine Indian tribes last week, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals that tribal sovereignty in Maine is far from being absolute when it rubs up against state law.

At issue were claims by the Aroos-took Band of Micmacs and the Houlton Band of Maliseets that they are not subject to state employment laws or Maine’s Human Rights Act. In both instances, the court proceedings grew out of complaints brought before the Maine Human Rights Commission by aggrieved tribal employees.

In the case involving the Micmacs, U.S. Magistrate Margaret Kravchuk ruled that the tribe was not subject to the state laws, but her ruling was overturned by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. In the case involving the Maliseets, both the U.S. District Court and the appeals court ruled against the tribe.

Underlying both cases is the way courts have interpreted the Indian land claims settlement with the Maliseets, the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe approved by Congress and the Maine Legislature in 1980. Under that settlement, the tribes relinquished their claim on 12 million acres of Maine land. They received federal recognition and were granted $81.5 million in cash, from which they could purchase up to 300,000 acres of land. In exchange for federal recognition, the tribes agreed to some state jurisdiction on their reservations."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Tribal Sovereignty (The Ellsworth American 12/6)

Relevant Documents:
Supreme Court Order List (November 26, 2007)

1st Circuit Decision:
Aroostook Band v. Ryan (April 17, 2007)

Earlier Decisions:
Aroostook Band v. Ryan (December 5, 2005) | Aroostook Band v. Maine (April 13, 2005)

Relevant Laws:
Maine Tribal Settlement Acts

Relevant Links:
NARF-NCAI Tribal Supreme Court Project - http://www.narf.org/sct/index.html
Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission - http://www.mitsc.org

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