We have before us a historic opportunity to right 40 years of wrongs done to Wabanaki tribal communities. The terms in the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, enacted in 1980, have proven disastrous for the tribes, and there is a bill, L.D. 2094, designed to make amends.

Did you know that tribes in Maine have been prevented by the Settlement Act from benefiting from 40 years of federal laws designed to assist and support tribal health, safety, well-being and sovereignty? As a result, tribes in Maine suffer a disadvantage not found in any other state. Not only have tribal efforts at economic development been stymied, the rural areas surrounding tribal communities have suffered. When the tribes are prosperous, towns around them are prosperous, as has been shown in other states across the country.

Tribes in Maine are not asking for special privileges — they only want to be treated as tribes are in other states, which abide by federal Indian law. The proposed bill specifically preserves the portion of the original settlement that resolved the land claims, therefore land claims are emphatically not at issue.

A United Nations observer who once visited our state noted the damaging impact of the Settlement Act on tribes in Maine, and stated that the situation rose to the level of human rights violations.

I urge all Mainers of good conscience to contact their legislators and ask them to support L.D. 2094. You may also testify on behalf of this bill on Friday, Feb. 14, at 9 a.m. in Room 228 of the State House. We have a chance to rectify the tragedy that is the Settlement Act for the benefit of the tribes and for all of Maine. It’s time for the state of Maine to allow the tribes to prosper.

Shirley Hager

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