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, at the State House in Augusta, Maine. Rena Newell, Chief of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik, Edward Peter Paul, Chief of the Aroostook Band of Mi'kmaqs, Kirk Francis, Chief of the Penobscot Nation, and William Nicholas, Chief of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkomikuk, follow behind. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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Listening to the Judiciary Committee’s work session LD 2004, I appreciated its civility and respect. Major disagreement involved whether bill language was specific enough to address individual issues, complexity, and possible unintended consequences.

Missing was the potential role of Maine Indian Tribal State Commission (MITSC, established in the Settlement Act for Wabanaki tribes and the state to collaborate as equal partners working out unsettled specifics and future issues, as in LD 2004. I believe tribes never yielded their sovereignty and anticipated this process would involve partnership.

Attention to details is important. Historically, such caution didn’t hinder the state from centuries of acting unilaterally or reneging on negotiated expectations. Is it now a double standard to expect everything should be worked out before agreement? Congressional legislation excluding Maine tribes from federal programs was enacted without regard for specifics or unintended consequences we now face.

Legislators face a dilemma between constituent responses to agreeing to unresolved LD 2004 details or to perpetuating past inequities and unintended consequences in Tribal-state relations; as they confront a “logjam” of Rep. Jared Golden’s legislation to restore Maine tribes to status of most other tribes, Sen. Angus King’s resistance to congressional action on perceived state issues, Gov. Janet Mills’ apparent preference to negotiate or litigate one tribal issue at a time, non-governmental commercial interests, and what tribes agreed to before the Settlement Act and expected within MITSC.

I urge legislative and executive branches and MITSC members to unjam this, in the spirit of Maine loggers and the majority of Mainers.

Mark Rains