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Unsettled: Free speech costs dearly at Passamaquoddy Tribe

A view of the Passamaquoddy Reservation at Pleasant Point in Maine. Photo by Ken Gallagher / Wikipedia

The Portland Press Herald continues its Unsettled series with Chapter 25 about accountability and law issues within the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point and at Indian Township:
In the continued absence of a constitution to ensure government accountability, an atmosphere of fear and intimidation took hold on the Indian Township reservation.

Numerous present and former tribal leaders say the atmosphere – which endures today – is unlike anything experienced by the tribe since the 1960s, when state Indian agents held the power of life and death over many of their dependent charges, and crimes by outsiders against Indians were rarely prosecuted.

“The tribal leaders are doing the same thing as the priests and paper companies used to do,” says Allen Sockabasin, who was Indian Township’s governor in the 1970s, when the salary for the position was $300 a year; today it’s $102,500. “They’ve become our oppressors.”

Free discourse – the lifeblood of democracy – is becoming impossible, says the tribe’s current representative to the state Legislature, Madonna Soctomah. “People aren’t free to talk about the issues, because their employment comes from agencies that are controlled by people they might be criticizing,” she says. “Elections are bought because of this dependency.”

“You see what happens if you oppose someone in power,” adds Brian Altvater, who was lieutenant governor at Pleasant Point in the 1990s. “You speak your mind, you get targeted. Next thing you know, you don’t have a job.”

Ira Gilbert, an unemployed tribal member at Indian Township, puts it succinctly: “There’s a big law problem here: There is none.”

Get the Story:
Unsettled Chapter 25: Tribe reels as its own leaders ‘become our oppressors’ (The Portland Press Herald 7/23)

Related Stories:
Unsettled: Questions linger on Passamaquoddy leadership (7/22)
Unsettled Ch. 23: Passamaquoddy leader indicted for stealing (7/21)
Unsettled Ch. 20: Passamaquoddy Tribe still lacks constitution (7/18)
Unsettled Ch. 19: Passamaquoddy Tribe restricts right to vote (7/17)
Report faults Maine over dealings with Passamaquoddy Tribe (7/16)

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