Denial of tribal sovereignty is an ‘archaic remnant of a racist past’

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Below is testimony that Sherri Mitchell, Penobscot Nation member, Indigenous rights activist and attorney, gave on February 19, 2020 before the Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee in favor of LD 2094. The committee is scheduled to meet again on March 4 for a work session on the bill. 

My name is Sherri Mitchell and I am from the Penobscot Nation.

I have three things that I would like to address in my comments today. One, the history that has brought us to the place we find ourselves in today; Two, the misinformation that is leading to concerns surrounding the Maine Violence Against Women Act, and; Three, the mounting inequities that have resulted from the Maine Settlement Act.

In his book the “Colonizer and the Colonized,” Albert Memmi wrote: “Racism is social not natural, it is general not personal, and it is tragically effective.”

He goes on to say that “the structure of racism has four ‘moments’: the insistence on difference; the negative valuation imposed on those who differ; the generalizing of this negative valuation to an entire group; and the use of generalization to legitimize hostility.”

The history of relations between the state of Maine and the Wabanaki Nations has been built upon such moments. And, they continue to be defined by them today. It is these very same racist attitudes that allow many within the Maine government to look individual Wabanaki people in the eye and say, it’s not you that I distrust personally, it is just the general idea of Indian sovereignty as a whole that worries me.