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Maine tribes assert sovereignty and sever relationship with state

Tribal leaders hold a press conference on Indian Island to reassert their sovereignty. Photo by David Simpson / Twitter

Tribal leaders in Maine severed ties with the state government in a show of sovereignty on Wednesday.

Leaders of the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe (Pleasant Point and Indian Township) signed a declaration of independence at a press conference on Indian Island. They said they were tired of trying to work with the state only to be rebuffed on fishing, water, jurisdiction, gaming and other matters.

"We do not recognize the authority of the State of Maine, its Governor, Legislature or Courts to define our sovereignty or culture or to interfere with our self-governing rights,” the declaration reads.

The move came a day after the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe withdrew their representatives from the state Legislature. They saw bill after bill fail to gain any traction amid rising tensions with Gov. Paul LePage (R), who recently signed an executive order that rescinded a tribal consultation and tribal liaison policy.

But dispute stretches back much further, to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. The state has repeatedly cited the law in an attempt to assert control over activities in Indian Country.

The tribes are now calling on the federal government to investigate the state's compliance with the law. They also want Congress to look into the dispute.

The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians did not sign the declaration. The tribe is also maintaining its representative in the Legislature.

Get the Story:
Three Tribes Officially Sever Relationship with State (Maine Public Broadcasting Network 5/27)
Maine tribes will no longer recognize authority of state officials (The Portland Press Herald 5/28)
Maine tribal leaders assert sovereignty, call for probe of state’s actions (The Bangor Daily News 5/28)

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