The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP)
Last year, MITSC began to consider how UNDRIP might affect the Maine Indian Land Claim Settlements. After several months of work, the Commission presented a letter to James Anaya, UN Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That letter was signed by all of the state and tribal MITSC members and was presented to Mr. Anaya during a meeting at the United Nations in New York in May. The letter says that the settlement statutes have created conditions that rise to the level of human rights violations. The letter requests an investigation into the negative impact of the Maine Settlements. The letter also says that the settlement statutes do not conform to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both in the process leading up to their enactment, and in the ways they have been implemented.
Over the next few months, MITSC will be following up on the request for an investigation. Additional evidence will be collected and provided to Mr. Anaya. MITSC’s goal is to show that the federal government has failed to meet its responsibility under UNDRIP to address the many ways in which the Settlements have not only failed to improve the social and economic conditions of the tribal communities, but have actually made things worse for indigenous people in Maine. More information about the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be found at: unsr.jamesanaya.org.
Indian Nicknames and Mascots
MITSC has continued to provide leadership in ending the use of offensive Indian nicknames and mascots. Last year, Wiscasset High School gave up its “Redskins” nickname, and became “The Wolverines.” That left only one high school in Maine that was still using the “Redskins” nickname. A community review process had already begun in Sanford. MITSC supported and strengthened that process. Community meetings were held, all opinions were heard, and then the School Board voted to replace “Redskins” with a positive nickname that the whole Sanford community could support. The students were allowed to suggest new nicknames, and then an election was held. The students chose “Spartans” as the new nickname and mascot that will be used starting in the fall of this year. The community process in Sanford was very positive and respectful to people with differing views. The Sanford community can be very proud of how it handled an issue that is still very divisive in many places around the country.
The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission
In the Spring 2012 Issue of this newsletter, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was described in an article by Esther Attean. She is a Passamaquoddy tribal member and the lead staff person for the TRC. In her article, Ms. Attean described the goals of the Commission:
- To find out and write down what happened to Wabanaki people in the Maine child welfare system;
- To give Wabanaki people a place to share their stories and have a voice;
- To give the Maine child welfare system suggestions on how it can work better with Wabanaki people.
MITSC has played a critical role in supporting the creation of the TRC. MITSC has worked closely in partnership with the TRC Convening Group. This is the first time that a State and Tribes have come together to create such a process of learning and healing concerning state child welfare practices. Over the past few months, the process of creating the Commission has moved forward. A major milestone was reached on June 29 when the Tribal Chiefs and the Governor of Maine met in Augusta to sign the Mandate that marks the official start of the TRC process. The Convening Group and MITSC will soon be hiring an Interim Executive Director to provide staff assistance to the Selection Panel that will choose the members of the Commission. Within the next year, Commissioners will be selected and seated and will begin hearing testimony from those who have been harmed as well as those who have worked in the system. The TRC will draft a report with recommendations to make the Maine child welfare system work better for Wabanaki people.
Micmac Membership in MITSC
At present, the Tribal-State Commission includes the State of Maine, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Penobscot Nation, and the Passamaquoddy Tribe. The Aroostook Band of Micmacs was not a party to the 1980 Settlement and has never belonged to MITSC. Congress enacted a separate Settlement Act for the Aroostook Band of Micmacs in 1991. However, in 2007 the federal Court of Appeals made a decision that said that the 1980 Settlement applied state laws to all tribes in Maine, including the Micmacs, even though the Micmacs were not mentioned in that legislation. That court decision was a very negative blow to the Micmacs. But their new leadership is looking for ways to move forward. One of the things they are considering is joining MITSC. They have started sending one of their Tribal Council members, Richard Silliboy, to MITSC meetings as an observer. State legislation and approval from all the other tribes would be needed to make the Micmacs a member of MITSC. With the Micmacs in MITSC, all of the Wabanaki Tribes and the State of Maine would belong to a single inter-governmental organization. The Micmacs would strengthen MITSC. Hopefully it would be beneficial for the Micmacs, and strengthen the voices of all the Maine Tribes in their dealings with the State of Maine.