NASA, Bowdoin Dems advocate for Maine tribal sovereignty

A student writes a letter to a Maine legislator demanding tribal sovereignty for Wabanaki people. On Wednesday, the Bowdoin Democrats and Native American Students Association (NASA) held space for students to reach out to Maine officials regarding tribal sovereignty laws. The sovereignty of Maine’s indigenous tribes hangs in the balance, and Bowdoin students have mobilized. On Wednesday, the Bowdoin Democrats collaborated with the Native American Student Association (NASA) to raise awareness about tribal sovereignty laws in Maine and write letters to state legislators demanding justice for Wabanaki people.

At present, Maine’s federally recognized tribes, including the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Houlton Band of Maliseet and the Mi’kmaq Nation, are granted fewer legal protections than most indigenous tribes in the United States. Since 1980, the Maine Indians Claims Settlement Act has deprived the Wabanaki people of their sovereignty in exchange for their ancestral and culturally significant land. The law also restricts Wabanaki access to government resources including the rights to declare a state of emergency during natural disasters and prosecute non-natives for violence against tribal citizens.

While Governor Janet Mills has taken some recent action to increase access to drinking water and further economic opportunities for the Wabanaki community, the central issue of sovereignty remains unresolved. In 2018, Janet Mills campaigned for advancing indigenous sovereignty. In 2022, however, she threatened to veto L.D. 1626, a bipartisan law that would have reversed the 1980 restrictions on sovereignty. Federal efforts aiming to afford tribes in Maine the same protections as tribes in […]

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