As the Wednesday legislative session came to an abrupt close, Native Americans sang and beat drums to plead for the governor and lawmakers to give them full sovereignty.
Before being saved by the Legislature, two of the three bills relating to tribal sovereignty were in danger.
“Never give up. It’s worth every minute spent fighting for your inherent rights,” stated Ernie Neptune (vice chief of the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Pleasant Point).
The Wabanaki Alliance and its allies rallied at the State House Wednesday with tribal rights at stake. This was the second rally in as little as two weeks.
Already, the Legislature had passed a bill giving the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Pleasant Point control over Pleasant Point’s drinking water. This would allow for greater sovereignty rights. Later modifications were made to the language to get the governor’s blessing.
Two other bills were still pending further action in Senate. These bills were added to the appropriations table with other bills that required further review before being voted on.
The most comprehensive of these measures would be to amend the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act (80) to ensure that tribal members in the state enjoy the same rights and protections as other tribes.
A bill sponsored by the governor would channel money from mobile gambling to the tribes.
Darrell Newell is the vice chief of Passamaquoddy Tribe in Indian Township. He said that it was time to restore the rights granted under the 1980 settlement. This treatied reservations as municipalities and not sovereign nations.
Newell stated that it was a grave mistake that was made 40-years ago and that they have been working to correct it since then.
Senator Rick Bennett, R.Oxford, asked lawmakers and governors to not repeat history as in years past, when native rights were violated.
“Let’s consider now our place in history. What will our grandchildren think about this moment, this decade, and this opportunity to do right? He said, “Will we stand the test of time?”