Golden bill would benefit Wabanaki Nations tribes   

ELLSWORTH — Maine tribes of the Wabanaki Nations would be granted equal treatment with Indigenous tribes in America under a bill that U.S. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) recently introduced to Congress. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) co-sponsored the bill. 

H.R. 6707, the Advancing Equality for Wabanaki Nations Act, would amend the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. The result would be the federal government fully recognizing their sovereignty, as it does for American indigenous tribes outside of Maine. 

“This bill will cut through unnecessary red tape and bureaucratic efforts to block the Wabanaki tribes from benefiting from federal laws passed for their benefit and create future opportunities for improved standards of living and economic growth,” Golden said in a March 31 press release. 

As the 1980 act stands, for Maine tribes to be covered by new laws for the U.S.’s Indian Country, Maine had to be specifically mentioned every time a law was enacted. Therefore, Maine tribes are excluded from policy developments affecting Indian Country, like the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 and the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. Maine indigenous tribes include Micmacs, Maliseets, Passamaquoddy and those of the Penobscot Nation. 

“H.R. 6707 is a narrow but critical reform of the Maine Indian Land Claim Settlement Act [which has been] a significant impediment to self-determination for 40 years now,” Passamaquoddy Tribe Chief William J. Nicholas Jr. testified to the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States on March 31. 

All four chiefs of Maine Wabanaki tribes testified in favor of the proposed bill before the House subcommittee, with Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation noting, “We lost out on millions of dollars that would have strengthened our tribal court and public safety efforts.” 

If approved by Congress, Maine tribes would have access to future beneficial federal laws as most federally recognized tribes have had for decades. 

“It’s long overdue,” Pingree stated. “Quite simply, it’s a matter of fairness. I’m proud to work alongside Congressman Jared Golden on this important effort to finally fix a 40-year-old disparity in the law.” 

The next step is for the bill to be discussed, possibly amended, and then voted on by the House. If it passes by a majority vote, the bill will then move on to the Senate. 

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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