In 2011, Gov. Paul LePage signed the mandate for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, along with the tribal chiefs from each of the four Maine Indian tribes. The recognition of the need to investigate, clarify, and document the taking of Indian children from their homes over several generations is both historic and profound. Maine’s TRC, created collaboratively between tribes and state government, is the first one of its kind in the U.S. It offers so much hope for healing.
In August of 2011, the governor issued an Order Recognizing the Special Relationship Between the State of Maine and the Sovereign Native American Tribes of Maine. The order outlined a process for engagement of government-to-government relations between Maine and Wabanakis on an equal basis. But, in April of this year, the governor rescinded the 2011 executive order. He claims the efforts to improve relations have “proved to be unproductive because the state of Maine’s interests have not been respected.” Respect and agreement are not the same thing. The new order also declares all tribal members and their government structures, lands and natural resources subject to the laws of the state. This is not sovereignty, and is in direct conflict with federal law and the Maine Land Claims Act of 1980.
Whatever differences exist between equals requires more careful listening and discussion, not an abrupt ending of the relationship by one party. I urge the governor to return to a constructive process of engagement with Maine tribes.