Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Passamaquoddy elder challenges leaders, gets led away in handcuffs, recalled from office

Readers of "Unsettled" -- my 31-part series on Maine's Passamaquoddy tribe -- learned about the legal vacuum that exists on Maine's easternmost reservations, where there is no tribal constitution and the conduct of elections and anything else that can be categorized an "internal tribal matter" is beyond the judicial review of the tribe's own courts, better yet state or federal ones.

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram I write about what can happen in such an atmosphere. Here's an excerpt:

Mary Creighton decided to take on tribal officials she thought were mismanaging affairs. She found herself handcuffed in the back of a tribal police van bound for the Machias jail.

Creighton, 72, was subsequently ousted from the tribe’s governing council in a recall election after a hearing presided over by the very official she herself had been trying to recall. Someone tore down the sign of the gift store she runs from an addition to her home on the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy reservation, located between Eastport and Perry in easternmost Maine. She faces criminal charges of aggravated forgery...

Welcome to the rough and tumble world of Passamaquoddy tribal politics, where politicians operate within an elections system without judicial review, on reservations that lack a constitution, and where almost everyone is connected by blood or business, marriage or divorce. Here a candidate for chief can be bounced from the ballot days before an election, defeated governors can order subordinates to dole out a $40,000 “severance payment,” and a tribal elder with a recall petition can quickly be recalled from office.
If you missed the story Sunday, it may have been because it was initially given The Most Boring Headline in the Universe -- "Recall effort backfires under tribal law on Maine reservation" -- which it is cursed to carry in Facebook and Google's metadata for the rest of time.

[Update, 8/10/15: Charges were dropped against Creighton, as reported in this update.]

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