Thursday, April 23, 2015

Maine: Gov. LePage slams door on cooperation with tribes

In yesterday's Portland Press Herald I have the news that Maine Gov. Paul LePage has revoked his own 2011 executive order directing state agencies and departments to work toward better cooperation and communication with the state's four federally-recognized Indian tribes.

Reaction has been one-sidedly negative. Here's Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis in the story:

“I don’t understand the value of the governor of the state taking the time to revoke such an order,” said Kirk Francis, chief of the Penobscot Nation, whose reservation is north of Old Town. “It does nothing but fuel an already volatile relationship.

“It seems like what they are saying at the end of the day is that we will respect your sovereignty as long as you do what we tell you. That’s not how sovereign relationships work.”

The governor's office has nothing further to say. They didn't respond to requests for comment, and simply read the Associated Press part of the preamble of the governor's written revocation order.

The Penobscot Nation is involved in a dispute between the federal government and the state over water pollution in the Penobscot River, while both tribes have a long history of conflict with the state over the meaning of the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Acts, described briefly here as part of my 31-part series "Unsettled." (The latter available as an ebook here.) LePage has expressed anger over the federal government having effectively backed the Penobscot point of view in regards to water pollution, calling an Environmental Protection Agency decision to that effect "outrageous."

The AP and MPBN both picked up the story, and the Press Herald's editorial board ran this editorial on the issue today.

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