Wabanaki Legal News, 2010
The year 2010 has already brought a lot of changes to the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission. The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians has become a full member of the Commission. The Band is represented by Linda Raymond and Brian Reynolds.
At the July meeting the members unanimously elected a new Chairperson, Jamie Bissonette. Bissonette brings a wealth of experience to MITSC. Jamie is Missisquoi Abenaki. Among her accomplishments, she coordinates the Healing Justice Program for the American Friends Service Committee in New England and staffs both the Sipayik Criminal Justice Commission for the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Wabanaki Tribal Advisory Group to the Maine Department of Corrections. Over the past 30 years, Bissonette has worked with tribal communities in the ancestral region of her people, southern Canada and New England focusing on criminal justice and emerging tribal justice issues. She has also worked internationally, both in Mexico with native migrant farm workers as well as in South Africa.
An attorney from our Native American Unit, Paul Thibeault, has been appointed by Governor Baldacci as a State member of the Commission. Thibeault has more than 20 years of experience working as a legal advocate in Indian Country in Maine, Minnesota and North Dakota. He has worked closely with MITSC on several projects in recent years. When contacted by the WLN, Thibeault said:
“It is an honor to serve on the Commission with so many talented and dedicated people from both the State and the Tribes. I believe that the next couple of years are critical for MITSC and for tribal-state relations in Maine. In my opinion, we have made a very good start by selecting Jamie Bissonnette as Chairperson. And we are very fortunate that John Dieffenbacher-Krall is staying on as Executive Director. In my view, Paul Bisulca did an outstanding job as MITSC Chairperson. He took a broad view of the mission of MITSC, and I agree with that approach. Most importantly, I want to see economic and social progress for people living in poverty on and near the Indian reservations in northern and eastern Maine. For the Settlement to work, MITSC has to work. But I am optimistic. I believe that with a positive approach by the State and the Tribes, the tribal communities can become engines of economic and social success for Indians and non-Indians in rural Maine.”
The Commission is currently trying to deal with several important issues, including:
- Implementation of Governor Baldacci's Executive Order 13175 that directs state agencies to develop and implement policies to consult with the Wabanaki Tribes before developing legislation, rules, and policies that affect them. (See related article on page 4.)
- A dispute between the Penobscot Nation and the State concerning licensing of duck hunters on the Penobscot River. The current dispute arises from the fact that both the State and the Nation claim sole ownership of the Penobscot riverbed.
- Examination of the potential impact in Maine if the United States government signs the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Offensive high school nicknames, especially the continued use of the nickname “redskins” by two Maine high schools. (See related article on page 5.)
The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled for August 17 at 9:30 AM at the Fish & Wildlife Building at the Dorothea Dix Complex (formerly BMHI), 650 State Street in Bangor. The meetings are open to the public. MITSC developments can also be followed at the Commission's website: www.mitsc.org.