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Tribal sovereignty
Written by Tom Bulger
from Sun Journal
I agree with the editorial about a level playing field for the Wabanaki (Sun Journal, March 8) with one exception. In what way is Maine acknowledging tribal sovereignty if it sticks its nose into their business? Thomas Jefferson's "The government is best which governs least" was never truer than when the aforesaid government is not tribal government, chosen by tribal members, but instead an external government.

The legitimacy of any government is consent of the governed. If we are true Americans, we respect that. When Mexico tells us our business, we are taken aback. Let's not embarrass ourselves by showing the same arrogance toward the first peoples of this land.

Whenever a bipartisan working group of Mainers makes a unanimous recommendation, expect there is something to it. And this is the same recommendation reached by the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission back in 2002.

My uncle tells me he was beaten while in the Marine Corps for being Indian. His poor drill sergeant must have broken a lot of knuckles. My uncle is 91, and still living large. Bet that broken knuckled bigot is six feet under. Tribes have rolled with all kinds of punches, but if laws are passed that undermine their economic development, that's a cheap shot hard to take.

The Penobscot Nation invited Maine legislators, including Rep. Thomas Saviello, to assess the resources, ability, and experience of the tribe. I was impressed, and believe Rep. Saviello was as well. As a scientist, he asked many intelligent questions and seemed satisfied with the answers.

Penobscot lawyer Mark Chavaree explains sovereignty in Wabanaki Legal News:

"In his Handbook of Federal Indian Law, Felix Cohen explains tribal sovereignty as follows: 'As a consequence of the tribe's relationship with the federal government, tribal powers of self-government are limited by federal statutes, by the terms of the treaties with the federal government, and by restraints implicit in the protectorate relationship itself. In all other respects the tribes remain independent and self-governing political communities.

"Implicit in this principle is that only the federal government has the authority to change tribal powers, not the states. Another principle of federal Indian law is that tribes keep all rights and powers that they have not expressly given up.'"

Everyone in business understands confidentiality is vital to staying in business. If plans are publicly available to competitors, industrial piracy becomes redundant.

The tribes must be allowed to keep their business their business.

I am a big fan of open government, but that is in regard to Washington, and matters we have a right to be informed of. Why don't we try to accomplish that and let the Penobscot Nation worry about the Penobscot Nation.
Tom Bulger, Avon
Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission (MITSC)
13 Commissary Point Road, Trescott Township, ME 04652
Office: 207-733-2222
Paul Thibeault, Managing Director: 207-271-7762

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