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Virtual Rally Shows Support For Maine Tribal Rights Bill

Supporters of tribal sovereignty held a virtual rally and press conference in Augusta on Wednesday in favor of a bill that would grant Maine's Indian tribes rights similar to other recognized tribes in the U.S.

Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Dana says Maine has taken recent positive steps toward tribal-state relations, such as banning Indian mascots in public schools and universities and changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day.

"Now we're at a point if we don't take the next meaningful step, those initial gestures might feel empty," she says.

The bill, LD 1626, would implement recommendations from a task force that examined the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. That law was passed to resolve land claims, but it gave the state significant authority over Indian affairs and spurred decades of litigation.

Abbie Bradford of Maine Conservation Voters says LD 1626 is an important step toward both healing the state's relationship with tribes and protecting the environment.

"Restoring the Wabanaki tribes' full rights to manage their lands, waters and resources is crucial to restore biodiversity in those places and to make them more resilient to the compounding effects of climate change and environmental degradation," she says.

A public hearing on the tribal sovereignty bill is scheduled before the Judiciary Committee next Tuesday.