A new political organization advocating for tribal sovereignty in Maine, the Wabanaki Alliance, has released its first legislative scorecard on their priority bills.
The scorecard lists 13 policymakers, including Democratic House and Senate leaders Sara Gideon and Troy Jackson, and two Republicans as “tribal champions.” It highlights six legislators, including two Democrats as “tribal adversaries.”
A major legislative priority for the Alliance is the omnibus bill LD 2094, which would implement the state law changes recommended by the Maine Indian Claims Task Force, released in January.
The tribes say that the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Act has been interpreted by the state in a way that has stifled the tribes economically and put the Wabanaki in a category separate from other federally-recognized tribes throughout the country in regard to their sovereignty and the applicability of federal legislation.
The omnibus bill was not voted on before the legislative session ended early in March at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the legislature recessed, state Rep. Barbara Cardone (D-Bangor), a member of the Judiciary Committee which held public hearings on the omnibus bill, requested that LD 2094 be broken up into three separate pieces of legislation.
In addition to evaluating support for the omnibus bill, lawmakers were scored on their votes on bills to enact the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial and Ethnic Populations (LD 777), change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day (LD 179), ban Native American mascots in public schools (LD 944), update classifications for certain waters based on water quality data (LD 1742) and create a new designation of “sustenance fishing” under Maine’s water quality classification system (LD 1775), allow tribes in Maine to conduct sports betting (LD 553, which was vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills), and recognize the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe’s authority to exercise jurisdiction under the Federal Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the Federal Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (LD 776).
Based on their commitment to these priorities, the Alliance ranked the following lawmakers as their tribal champions:
Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash)
Speaker of the House Sara Gideon (D-Freeport)
Sen. Shenna Bellows (D-Manchester)
Sen. Michael Carpenter (D-Houlton)
Sen. Marianne Moore (R-Calais)
Rep. Donna Bailey (D-Saco)
Rep. Ben Collings (D-Portland)
Rep. John DeVeau, (R-Caribou)
Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos (I-Friendship)
Rep. Thom Harnett (D-Gardiner)
Rep. Anne Perry (D-Calais)
Rep. Lois Reckitt (D-South Portland)
Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland)
Tribal adversaries, or legislators “who displayed a complete disinterest in working collaboratively with the tribes; fought to protect large corporate interests at the expense of tribal fairness; showed outright hostility towards the tribes and their allies; and/or scored a zero percent on the Wabanaki Alliance Legislative Scorecard,” are the following:
Rep. Chris Babbidge (D-Kennebunk)
Rep. Barbara Cardone (D-Bangor)
Sen. Lisa Keim (R-Dixfield)
Rep. Larry Lockman (R-Bradley)
Rep. Roger Reed (R-Carmel)
Rep. Trey Stewart (R-Presque Isle)
Democratic Judiciary Committee members Babbidge and Cardone voted against the separate provisions of the omnibus tribal sovereignty bills in committee.
The Wabanaki Alliance, a 501(c)(4) social welfare group that can partake in some advocacy and lobbying, was launched in July to build political power and advocate for full recognition of tribal sovereignty.
“Many legislators have been extremely supportive of efforts at the legislature. We have been appreciative of the Republicans, Democrats and Independent legislators who have stood with the tribes,” said Alliance president Maulian Dana, the Penobscot Nation Ambassador. We look forward to continuing to work with legislators next session to achieve fairness, equity, and justice for the tribes in Maine.”
Photo: Ian Sane, Creative Commons via flickr