8 Allegedly Anti-Sovereignty Actions Taken by Maine Attorney General’s Office
Gale Courey Toensing
In calling for an investigation of the office of Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis cited a number of actions on the part of her office that he said fly in the face of Indian sovereignty and are an attempt to undermine numerous agreements and precepts that uphold tribal rights.
“Let’s just look at the last few years,” Francis told Indian Country Today Media Network. Below, some samples of Mills’s “anti-Indian sovereignty actions,” according to the chief. Mills's office did not respond to requests for comment.
1. You’ve Been Here How Long?
“[We receive] a letter from the AG that they do not think our 10,000-year-old presence in the Penobscot River and the cultural practices associated with that exist any more and that our rights are on land only.” (This letter resulted in a lawsuit pending in federal court filed by the Nation against the attorney.)
RELATED: Feds Join Penobscot Suit Against State of Maine on Fishing Rights
2. Stafford Act Amendment: Maine Tribes Need Not Apply
“[The AG] writes language to Senator Susan Collins to exclude the tribes of Maine from the Stafford Act amendments (that allow tribes to apply directly to the federal government for disaster and emergency relief funds rather than having to go through the state).
3. Penobscot Need State Approval for Bingo Machines
“[The AG] writes an opinion that the Penobscot cannot implement bingo machines without state approval,” Francis said. “Ironically, she writes this as two out-of-state-managed casinos are operating in Maine. She writes this opinion saying the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Equal protection claim here maybe?”
4. Threatening Lawsuit Against Feds for Enforcing Water Quality Standards
“The state threatens to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for respecting tribal waters and not approving Maine’s water quality standards within our territory. Maine refused EPA's request for consultation with us.”
5. Blocking Wind Farm Memorandum of Understanding
“The AG would not allow an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the state and the Penobscot on permitting our wind farm. [She] claimed it was state authority to do it and would not acknowledge our permit. This [claim was made] a year after negotiations began with the Department of Conservation, which when [the AG’s office] stepped in.”
6. Elver Agreements Deemed Unconstitutional
“She raises constitutional concerns over elver agreements, ignoring federal Indian law and salt water rights that were never ceded.”
7. Interfering With Settlement Act Implementation
“In 2007 [she] was against almost every recommendation of the Tribal State Work Group (TSWG),” Francis said. If implemented, the recommendations “would have started to change or clarify the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. [The AG intervened] two years after the TSWG process started.”
8. Attempts to Alter Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Provisions for Maine Tribes
“[The AG] recently called the Department of Justice to get a copy of our Violence Against Women (VAWA) pilot project,” Francis said. “The AG wrote in a report to the legislature that our right to VAWA provisions was not a view [she] shared and she said the act would have to be amended for it to apply to the tribes of Maine. The VAWA specifically says that nothing in the act preempts state jurisdiction. Again, her world view.”