Column: Maine takes arrogant attitude with tribes

"So anyway, do you know who holds the deed to the Penobscots’ land? If you said the Indians you’re as wrong as if you went swimming in the Penobscot River thinking it was safe. No, the United States Department of the Interior holds it in trust for the Indians. They negotiate treaties with the Indians for the use of the land.

Well — and now I’m quoting a very smart guy from the Penobscot tribe named John Banks, the director of the Penobscots’ Department of Natural Resources — part of this trust is "the sacred duty to protect our land which we’ve lived on for 10,000 years." That’s a long time.

And for all those thousands of years, the Penobscots have carefully and painstakingly looked out for each other and protected the river.

So you can imagine the surprised looks on some of the tribal faces this week when an article came out in Indian Country Today, a national periodical dealing with Indian issues, bearing the headline "Maine denies tribe has sustenance fishing rights," explaining a recent federal court ruling that the Penobscots no longer had jurisdiction over their 200 islands in the Penobscot River.

The Indians knew about the ruling, they didn’t know about the state’s arrogant attitude.

Indian Country Today quoted Andrew Fisk, DEP’s director of the Bureau of Land and Water Quality, as saying that because of an Aug. 9 ruling by a federal court giving Maine jurisdiction over tribal waters — for the first time in 10,000 years — the Indians’ sustenance fishing rights now fall under Maine guidelines. Fisk said the state will now take care of Penobscot Indian waters."

Get the Story:
Pat LaMarche: State oversight of tribal waters doesn't bode well (The Bangor Daily News 9/12)

Court Decision:
Maine v. EPA (August 8, 2007)

Relevant Documents:
EPA Federal Register Notice | PDF version

Relevant Links:
Penobscot Nation -

Related Stories:
Penobscot Nation blames paper mill for water bloom (08/28)
Opinion: Maine waters need tribal protections (08/17)
Maine tribes disappointed by defeat in court (8/10)
Sovereignty limits on Maine tribes upheld (8/10)
EPA allows state jurisdiction over Maine tribal lands (12/3)