Clarissa Sabattis, Chief of the Houlton Band of Maliseets, foreground, and other leaders of Maine's tribes are welcomed by lawmakers into the House Chamber, Wednesday, March 16, 2023. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty

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In mid-March,  study results were presented to the Maine Legislature by Joseph Kalt, co-director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, about the economic status of Maine Wabanaki Nations compared with tribes across the U.S. The data show Wabanaki lagging behind other tribes in the U.S. Maine tribes are the only ones not formally recognized as sovereign and the study concludes this impairs their development and prosperity. While other U.S. tribes have experienced, on average, 61% per capita income growth in the last 30 years, Maine tribes have only seen 9% income growth.

A few days later, the chiefs of Maine’s tribes addressed the Maine Legislature for the second time in history. They requested Maine formally recognize and support their self determination and sovereignty and enter into equal partnerships with them. The study makes a strong case that Maine taking this step will help tribes reduce their poverty, improve tribal-state relations, and support economic growth of not just the tribes but all of Maine and its citizens.

People can watch Kalt summarize the results of the Harvard study in this webinar: They can also see the Wabanaki chiefs’ statements to the Maine Legislature here:

I hope others will join me in thanking U.S. Rep. Jared Golden for his support of Wabanaki sovereignty. I’m not familiar with Sen. Susan Collins’ position, but please write to Gov. Janet Mills and Sen. Angus King asking them to reconsider their opposition on this crucial issue.

Medea Steinman