Chief Maggie Dana of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point, right, listens to Tribal Rep. Rena Newell following the passage of a bill at the State House in Augusta, Maine, that allows the tribes to regulate their own drinking water and other water-related issues on Tuesday, April 12, 2022. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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Cyril Francis is a Passamaquoddy tribal citizen and life-long resident of Sipayik.

Frustrated, hopeless, sick and tired.

These are the feelings I experience whenever I watch and listen to the state of Maine Judiciary public hearings and work sessions in Augusta. Specifically, the hearings that affect the Indigenous people of Maine. Those bills are: LD 1626, LD 906, and LD 585. Each and every time there are votes on these bills, some representatives and senators vote in the negative.

I can’t think of any other explanation of why this is other than racism.

People are not born being racist. Racism is learned. So, I say they had some damn good teachers. It’s too bad they were never taught about equity and equality.

I’m disappointed that these lawmakers have not been educated nor do they appear interested in learning about us — the first peoples in this country and state. I remain baffled by these people in power.

I’ve listened to some of the excuses for why legislators voted against these bills. They talk about not wanting to take away from other people in the state. What about us? History shows the people in this state have continuously taken from my people and still do.

For example, every time our tribes wanted to open a casino, the people of Maine voted it down. Every time! But yet, Hollywood Slots and Oxford Casino opened. These casinos now oppose the bill to allow tribes to participate in mobile sports betting. How is that fair?

Many people in the Legislature, determining our fate, don’t realize that when our tribes are lucky enough to have extra money in our pockets, our neighbors benefit too. We shop in your stores.

Deepest gratitude and appreciation to the chairs of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Anne Carney and Rep. Thom Harnett, who supported our bills and strongly advocated on our behalf. They have done their homework to better know our people and our history. They get it!

I would be remiss to not extend the same sentiments to bills sponsors, Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross and Rep. Rena Newell, and to Penobscot Ambassador Maulian Dana. I am also very grateful for the other committee members who voted yes in support of the above-mentioned bills.