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Maine Governor Affirms and Rejects Tribal Sovereignty in New Executive Order

The Gov. of Maine has rescinded a three year-old executive order that recognized the “special relationship” between the state and Indian tribes.

The governor of Maine has rescinded a three year-old executive order that recognized the “special relationship” between the State of Maine and Indian tribes living there. The order created a consultation policy for tribal input before laws, rules and policies affecting them are passed.

Gov. Paul LePage’s new executive order on April 16, “An Order Respecting Joint Sovereignty and Interdependence,” of which ICTMN has obtained a copy, rescinds his August 2011 executive order, “Recognizing the Special Relationship Between the State of Maine and the Sovereign Native American Tribes Located Within the State of Maine.”

The new executive order begins with three “whereas” statements recognizing the sovereignty of the State of Maine and the four Wabanaki Nations—the Passamaquoddy, the Penobscot, the Maliseet and Micmac—and “the relationship between the State of Maine and the individual tribes a relationship of equals, each with its own set of responsibilities.”

The document then takes a 180-degree turn, asserting the state’s dominance over the tribes – in effect, denying the sovereignty that is affirmed in the first statements – and even over tribal lands held in trust by the federal government. “Whereas, all tribe members, Indian nations, and tribes or bands in the State of Maine and any lands or natural resources owned by them or held in trust for them are subject to the laws of the state and to the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the courts of the State to the same extent as any other persons or lands or natural resources therein.”

The final “whereas” statement blames the tribes for failed attempts at collaboration and communication with the state. Efforts by the governor to promote collaboration and communication were ”unproductive because the State of Maine’s interests were not respected in the ongoing relationship between sovereigns,” LePage wrote.

The executive order ends with a statement affirming the state’s sovereign immunity from being sued because of anything in the document.

A full report will follow when more information is available from tribal leaders and the governor’s office.