Tribal board's funding restored
Written by Aimee Dolloff
from Bangor Daily News
AUGUSTA, Maine - The governor has restored funding previously cut from the Maine Indian-Tribal State Commission, but whether the action will persuade tribes to participate in the commission is up in the air.
Funding for MITSC, which was created to help resolve disputes and recommend changes, was drastically slashed earlier this year as part of statewide budget cuts. The nearly $40,000 cut ó about 53 percent of the budget ó came after commission officials were assured the decrease in funding would be closer to $2,500.
"There was no way we were going to operate for very long at that level," MITSC Executive Director John Dieffenbacher-Krall said.
Baldacci said in an interview last week that it has been a tough year, but reinstating the funding to MITSC was a priority.
Only two entities received year-end transfer money from Baldacci. Along with MITSC, the court system received funds to pay for indigent defense lawyers.
The first round of funds sent to MITSC amounted to $15,000 from the emergency contingency fund. Four days later, on June 30, another $23,000 was transferred to make up the difference of the $38,000 that previously had been cut.
"We still have a hole in our budget, though," Dieffenbacher-Krall said. "We essentially are missing the tribal contribution."
Last year, the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Maliseet tribes each were assessed $10,000. When the state cut MITSCís budget, those tribes vowed not to give another penny to the organization until the state fulfilled its commitment.
No one from the Passamaquoddy tribe could be reached Monday for comment, but Chief Rick Phillips Doyle of the Pleasant Point reservation previously withdrew his representative to the commission.
Dieffenbacher-Krall said that, to his knowledge, the Passamaquoddys at Indian Township were still planning to participate in MITSC, although they havenít made a payment to the commission for the current session.
And although the Maliseets arenít official members of MITSC under the law that created the organization, they are considered members both by the state and the commission and their dues are paid through October. The Micmac donít participate in MITSC.
"Of course Iím really pleased that the funding is reinstated," Maliseet Chief Brenda Commander said Monday. "I believe that MITSC is so important in what they do. There needs to be a forum for the tribes and state to talk about the issues that are important to the tribe, [and] I really think they need more respect in the things that theyíre doing."
Dieffenbacher-Krall said he is hoping the other tribes will change their minds and rejoin the commission, but itís clear that the Penobscot arenít convinced.
"I donít know how that addresses any of our issues," Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis said Monday. "Weíre happy for the organization. We think that the governor should be applauded for it and that itís good for MITSC, but how that goes toward affecting the issues or affecting the problems we face, that remains to be seen."
He noted that MITSC is a state entity, created by the state not the tribes.
"They can get all the money in the world, but if it has no effect on the relationship or where weíre at today, to me, itís really not a tribal thing at this point."
The Penobscot are continuing to move forward with their intention to sever all ties with the state after a difficult legislative session for the tribe.
Dieffenbacher-Krall said the commission continues to be busy in a diplomatic initiative to get the state and tribes talking. He said those efforts arenít ready to be made public, but said that the sooner it happens, the better.
"The tribes are not going away and I donít think the state of Maine is going away anytime soon," Dieffenbacher-Krall said. "That last leg session was really rough. We canít have another one like that in 2009 or weíre going to have a really bad tribal-state relation."
Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission (MITSC)
13 Commissary Point Road, Trescott Township, ME 04652
Paul Thibeault, Managing Director: 207-271-7762