Keep Maine Indians sovereign
Written by Pat LaMarche
from Bangor Daily News
Do you ever consider where you came from? If youíre an intelligent designer, then you can go back to Adam and Eve and think about how youíre related to everybody on Earth. Thatís quite a loving notion really.
If youíre an evolutionist, then you might ponder from which clan or tribe you descended.
My last name is French so I probably spend more time discussing my French half. And I was honored to participate in a book called "Voyages," published recently by the University of Southern Maine, saluting Franco-Americans. Itís a great tribute to the French-ness that pervades so much of this country.
Writing that essay got me really thinking about my dadís ancestors, about their immigration to Canada and eventually to New England. Heck, his antecedents lived here for hundreds of years, but my grandparents still spoke French around the house.
And, of course, Monday was St. Pattyís day, which happens to be my favorite holiday.
I mustíve been the only college kid in Boston to actually leave that famously Irish city every March 17. I had to. My Irish mom was waiting for me in Bangor, and we all gathered íround her to celebrate.
My momís folks were new to the United States. I grew up listening to the brogues of my relatives, sitting on their laps while they sang songs about "shaking hands with me Uncle Mike" and "kissing the colleens."
Iím part of those two heritages. Iím part Irish immigrant who fled starvation and part tenth-plus generation French speaker who refused to melt completely.
So if some ordinary mixed heritage American like me still clings to all that ethnic identity and separation, what must it be like to be Native American?
Whatís it like to know that the reason you live on a reservation is because all kinds of French folks and Irish folks ó and every other nationality that came to North America ó scooted you further and further over to one side and gleaned their prosperity where your ancestors used to thrive?
Did I just use the verb scooted? Wow, thatís a really nice way to explain that the policy of the United States of America ó and the colonizers before ó was to murder native peoples who got in the way. Ever wonder if our predecessors hadnít massacred millions of Indians where weíd be living right now?
Suppose everything about U.S. history stayed the same, except the parts where the natives got killed. Suppose we had acquired the land peacefully and left them ó letís say ó half the territory that is now the U.S. Weíd probably have equal populations today because they significantly outnumbered us then.
Do you think if we had done that and their nations were equal to ours, weíd have to discuss tribal sovereignty? Do you think the state Legislature would have before them a law to protect tribal status as sovereign nations if weíd just treated them honorably in the beginning?
No, I donít think so either.
So letís figure out what the real story is. Iíve got to warn you: Itís pretty unpleasant.
See the whole "slaughter the Indians and take their land" thing left a few Indians here in tiny little pockets. These survivors should stand as a constant reminder that our government can be dreadfully wrong sometimes. That just being the United States of America doesnít make our policies principled. Consequently, the least we can do as a nation is respect the autonomy, independence and self-governance of the relatively few remaining native peoples.
But we forget that we donít always get it right. And we want to force one of our mistakes onto our sovereign neighbors ó the Indians.
Motivated by some of the multi-national corporations that manipulate our government, there are powerful folks who believe the tribes must answer to the state and consequently these corporate masters.
But we can stop them.
The Maine Legislature will vote soon on a bill to secure the sovereignty of the tribes. Itís LD 2221. Think about what being a Native American must and should mean. Tell your legislator to vote to preserve native sovereignty.
Weíve taken their land and the lives of nearly all their forbearers. For justice sake, preserve their right to self-govern.
Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission (MITSC)
13 Commissary Point Road, Trescott Township, ME 04652
Paul Thibeault, Managing Director: 207-271-7762