To the Editor:
I am writing concerning the Islander’s June 4 editorial on tribal sovereignty in Maine. I feel there needs to be some clarification.
First of all, the tribes are not trying to be sovereign nations. They are sovereign nations going back tens of thousands of years and therefore need treaties to be able to have a fair working arrangement with the state and the U.S. government.
Second, the editorial assumes that the tribes are going to cause conflict between themselves and U.S. citizens. That is not so but is always assumed by those who broker conflict instead of diplomacy. The conflict is between the tribes and Governor Paul LePage’s administration. It became toxic when the governor rescinded an agreement promoting state cooperation in discussing laws and policies affecting the tribes.
There is some assumption that this was in retaliation (not an unusual move by our governor) in part for the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes asserting fishing rights and the right to clean water.
As reported in the Portland Press Herald, Kirk Francis, chief of the Penobscot Nation, said, “I don’t understand the value of the governor of the state taking the time to revoke such an order.” That tribe’s reservation is north of Old Town. “It does nothing but fuel an already volatile relationship,” he continued. “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 Islander reasserted the tired old phrase of “special” rights. This can hardly be taken seriously when applied to a race of people who endured genocide and continue to endure in many cases today racism, environmental and economic degradation and land grabbing by corporations like the uranium mining on Navajo land along with fracking and tar sands on other tribal properties.
The Penobscots would like to make sure that the Penobscot River is clean enough so that we can eat the fish. Clean water is not just a tribal issue, it affects everybody.
Tribal sovereignty doesn’t hurt anybody unless you’re a corporation looking at tribal property with dollar signs in your eyes. Tribal sovereignty does not mean special rights. It means equal rights.
The only way that an ancient culture can continue is to have safeguards against unfair encroachment. With battles on so many fronts, I wonder what our “open for business” governor is really up to?
Let’s not fall for the separation myth anymore. It may well be that the rights of the tribes are all people everywhere have left to stand on when it comes to a total globalized takeover.