Law | Opinion

Janet Mills: Penobscot Nation started fight over river ownership

The Penobscot River runs through the Penobscot Nation in Maine. Photo by Cheryl Daigle

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills criticizes the Penobscot Nation for initiating litigation over the ownership of the Penobscot River even as she opposes the exercise of tribal jurisdiction in a number of matters -- including protecting Native women from violence:
Public access to Maine’s magnificent rivers and Great Ponds has always been protected by law. When the federal government, the tribes and the State of Maine negotiated the 1980 Settlement Acts, no one ever suggested the state would not continue to hold the river in trust for the benefit of all people.

After more than two years of litigation and thousands of pages of court filings, Judge Singal last month agreed with the state that the statutes unambiguously state the Penobscot reservation does not include the waters of the Penobscot River.

Singal also ruled that Penobscot tribal members have a right of individual sustenance fishing in the Penobscot River under a separate provision of law.

The tribe has said the lawsuit was all about sustenance fishing rights, though the state has never prevented a tribal member from engaging in sustenance fishing. The tribe therefore should be pleased with the outcome, and we should put this litigation behind us.

Get the Story:
Janet Mills: After lawsuit, it’s time to move on, keep working for healthy Penobscot River (The Bangor Daily News 1/19)

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