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Maine won't let tribal treaty promises be printed in constitution

Leaders of the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe met in May to reassert their sovereignty and serve ties with the state. Photo by David Simpson / Twitter

Maine's governing document represents an ongoing reminder of its less than honorable dealings with tribes.

Article X, Section 5 of the Maine Constitution does not appear in any of the printed versions of the document. The provision explains that the state must comply with pre-existing "duties and obligations" to tribes.

Rep. Henry John Bear, the sole remaining tribal representative in the Maine Legislature, introduced a measure to repeal the constitutional amendment that forced the redaction of Article X, Section 5. But he dropped that request after facing opposition to the costs of putting the issue on an upcoming ballot, The Portland Press Herald reported.

Instead, L.D.893 urges state officials to make the redacted portion "more prominently available to educators and to the inquiring public." The new version of the bill received final approval on Wednesday.

Article X, Section 5 was included in the constitution in order to ensure that Maine carried out promises made under a 1794 treaty between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Passamaquoddy Tribe (Pleasant Point and Indian Township). Maine was formed out of a portion of Massachusetts in 1820.

"The new state shall, as soon as the necessary arrangements can be be made for that purpose, assume and perform all the duties and obligations of this commonwealth, towards the Indians within said district of Maine, whether the same arise from treaties, or otherwise," the section states.

Maine, however, never complied with a requirement to set aside land for the Passamaquoddy, the Press Herald reported. Massachusetts gave $30,000 to Maine for that purpose, an amount that would have resulted in a vast acquisition due to land prices at the time.

The state also stole a pre-existing trust fund set up by Massachusetts for the Passamaquoddy people, the Press Herald reported. Its value was estimated at $150 million when a lawsuit was filed in 1968, the paper said.

The state eventually reached an $81.5 million settlement with the Passamaquoddy Tribe, as well as the Penobscot Nation and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. But disputes surrounding the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act have contributed to an erosion in the tribal-state relationship. The Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation have since withdrawn from the state Legislature as a result of those disputes.

The state considers Article X, Section 5 to remain in force despite its omission from the constitution. It reads in full:
Fifth. The new state shall, as soon as the necessary arrangements can be be made for that purpose, assume and perform all the duties and obligations of this commonwealth, towards the Indians within said district of Maine, whether the same arise from treaties, or otherwise; and for this purpose shall obtain the assent of said Indians, and their release to this commonwealth of claims and stipulations arising under the treaty at present existing between the said commonwealth and said Indians; and as an indemnification to such new state, therefor, this commonwealth when such arrangements shall be completed, and the said duties and obligations assumed, shall pay to said new state, the value of thirty thousand dollars, in manner following, viz: the said commissioners shall set off by metes and bounds, so much of any part of the land within the said district, falling to this commonwealth, in the division of the public lands, hereinafter provided for, as in their estimation shall be of the value of thirty thousand dollars; and this commonwealth shall, thereupon, assign the same to the said new state, or in lieu thereof, may pay the sum of thirty thousand dollars at its election; which election of the said commonwealth, shall be made within one year from the time that notice of the doings of the commissioners, on this subject, shall be made known to the governor and council; and if not made within that time, the election shall be with the new state.

Get the Story:
Potential cost kills referendum on redacted parts of Maine Constitution (The Portland Press Herald 6/19)
Tribes assert sovereignty, call for review of state’s actions (The Quoddy Tides 6/12)

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