Indigenous Issues and the Newly-Elected Maine Governor, Janet Mills

I am sharing this essay written by Dawn Neptune Adams, as part of her work as Racial and Social Justice Consultant at the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine.  Please note the action items included!

(It was falsely reported to FB as “abusive” and is now a censored link. I am copying it here as one more way to amplify Indigenous voices on issues that are vitally important to everyone.)

Moving Forward:

Indigenous Issues and the Newly-Elected Governor, Janet Mills

By Dawn Neptune Adams, November, 2018

Congratulations! We all survived the midterm elections. Now, where do we go from here? Newly-elected Governor Janet Mills is known for her work in opposition to Indigenous issues during her time as Attorney General. Three of the most pressing issues are presented in the following essay, along with steps in moving forward:

1. VAWA

Native Womxn are three times more likely to suffer from violent crimes than any other group of womxn. According to statistics, 80% of these crimes are committed by non-Native men. Mills fought to keep Wabanaki Womxn from protections under the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, stating that our communities are not sovereign but are municipalities and therefore not eligible for the additional safeguards put in place by the Federal Government, for every Federally-recognized tribe in the Nation but those in Maine and Alaska.

Moving forward, an updated version of Legislative bill LD 268 “An Act regarding Penobscot Nation’s and Passamaquoddy Tribes’ Authority to exercise Jurisdiction under Federal Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the Federal Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013” must be introduced and passed. Any attempt on the part of Governor Mills to veto the bill should be met with resistance.

A comment was requested from Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Dana, who answered: “We are committed to working out the kinks in the potential jurisdictional issues that have been barriers in the past. This may mean looking at how the [Maine Indian Land Claims] Settlement Act is being interpreted and used not in the best interest of tribal sovereignty. It is on the radar of the new Governor and we are hopeful we can reach some deeper understanding.”

2. Penobscot Nation vs. Attorney General Janet Mills

Kirk FrancisThe Penobscot River has always been home to the People of the Penobscot Nation. As the Attorney General listed in the lawsuit Penobscot Nation vs. AG Janet Mills, Mills has vociferously defended the State’s opinion that the Water flowing in the Penobscot River surrounding the 200+ islands that make up the Penobscot Nation, was not part of Penobscot Territory. This contradicts Treaties and past interpretations of the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act (MILCSA). The State of Maine and a consortium of 17 Industrial and municipal intervenors, represented by the lobbying firm Pierce Atwood, opposed Penobscot stewardship of the main stem of the River in a manner said by the Federal Government to be in violation of Federal Indian law, and tantamount to an “unlawful territorial taking” of 61 miles of River.

In December of 2015, the U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine, reaffirmed the Tribe’s Treaty-reserved sustenance fishing rights, but decided in favor of the State in redefining the definition of “Tribal Waters.” In the First Circuit Court of Appeals, one of three judges issued a dissenting opinion. Judge Juan Torruella wrote an argument reaffirming the Penobscot territory to include both the land and the water, in which he cited the Treaties of 1796, 1818, and 1833; and legal precedents set in previous agreements which support Tribal stewardship of the River.

Moving forward, the Penobscot Nation has one more level of appeals called an “en banc review” in which the case is heard by a large panel of judges and is usually reserved for complicated or unusual cases. This option is currently being discussed by Tribal leaders. We will need the support of all of our friends and coalitions to keep Industrial interests from framing the narrative in a way that suggests the Penobscot People are trying to exclude anyone from using the River; the Penobscot Nation is simply defending itself against territorial theft and a termination attempt. The River is our Relative and we are determined to protect her health for future generations of ALL the people of Wabanaki Territory.

*Update* January 5, 2019 thanks to Community Water Justice “Jerry Reid was just appointed by Gov Janet Mills to serve as the next Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Anti-water protector. Oppressor of Native people.

Mr. Reid fought in court against the Penobscot Nation to their inherent fishing rights and claimed that the Penobscot River was not part of their reservation. He sided with the water-polluting corporations in the Penobscot Nation vs Mills case. He also absurdly claimed in court that the Penobscots only ever fished from the shoreline and not from the water, as though he had never heard of fishing from a canoe or watercraft.

This appointment tells us clearly where Gov. Mills stands with indigenous people. We who stand for the protection of our water and the Wabanaki demand better in state leadership for the people of Maine.

This appointment will first need approval from the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and if approved there, will move forward for approval by the Senate. Please email members of the Committee (below) AND your Senator to ‘ought not approve’ Mr Reid’s appointment:

Ralph Tucker (D) – (Chair) Ralph.Tucker@legislature.maine.gov

Brownie Carson (D) – Brownie.Carson@legislature.maine.gov

Justin Chenette (D) – Justin.Chenette@legislature.maine.gov

Robert Foley – (R) – Robert.Foley@legislature.maine.gov

Mick Devin (D) – Michael.Devin@legislature.maine.gov

Jessica Fay (D) – Jessica.Fay@legislature.maine.gov

Stanley Paige Ziegler Jr (D) – StanleyPaige.Zeigler@legislature.maine.gov

Lori Gramlich (D) – Lori.Gramlich@legislature.maine.gov

Daniel Hobbs (D) – Daniel.Hobbs@legislature.maine.gov

Richard Campbell (R) – Richard.Campbell@legislature.maine.gov

Peter Lyford (R) – Peter.Lyford@legislature.maine.gov

Thomas Skolfield (R) – Thomas.Skolfield@legislature.maine.gov

Chris Johansen (R) – Chris.Johansen@legislature.maine.gov

Search by town to find your State Senator here:

https://legislature.maine.gov/senat…/find-your-state-senator

#WaterIsLife #ProtectOurWater #HonorTheTreaties #ProtectNativeSovereignty #RespectEachOther #Maine #BeBetter

3. Maine vs. the EPA

Clean water and fish on the dinner table should be a right for all of the people in Wabanaki Territory, now called Maine. In 2014, the State of Maine’s DEP tried unsuccessfully to set water standards so low as to allow only 1.4 ounces of fish from Tribal Waters per day. This equals a portion the size of almost one-half of a deck of playing cards; not even close to the definition of sustenance. The EPA refused these standards, fulfilling the Federal Government’s trust responsibility to uphold Treaty-reserved sustenance fishing rights, and in 2016, insisted on water standards in Tribal Waters that would allow for safe consumption of 10 ounces of fish per day. This resulted in the lawsuit Maine vs. the EPA, in which AG Mills stood with Industrial interests and Gov. LePage in opposition to clean water for all of us. Later, Mills petitioned Trump’s former EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, to withdraw the standards set by his predecessor. The EPA is now poised to rollback these Water quality standards.

At the current time, Scientists from the Penobscot Nation Dept. of Natural Resources recommend NO freshwater fish consumption for Womxn who are pregnant, nursing, or planning to become pregnant; nor for any child under the age of eight. For anyone else, recommended consumption of fish from the Penobscot River is 10 ounces per month.

Moving forward, resistance to this regression in water quality standards is of the utmost importance. Because Penobscot people eat more fish than surrounding populations, the cancer rate is five times higher in our communities than in the communities of our neighbors. Our cultural connection to the River includes eating fish, just as our Ancestors have done since time began here in this beautiful place we now call Maine. Clean water is in the best interest of ALL the people of Maine, and we must make sure that Industrial interests and Trump’s EPA no longer have an ally in the Blaine House nor in the Attorney General’s office, as they did while LePage was Governor.

In all of the issues outlined above, the recurring theme is the question of sovereignty and misinterpretation of the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. The Act was signed with the understanding that any ambiguities should favor of the Tribe and that the MILCSA never abrogated our Treaty rights. I look forward to standing with you in the protection of our Relatives.

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New Year Beauty

New Year Sunset with Margy

Margy and I watched the New Year sunset at Kettle Cove. It is one of the few beaches we know of on the east coast of Maine, where you can watch the sun set over the water, in winter.  (This is because the beach at that point faces southward, and the sun is setting further to the south than in summer–a perfect alignment.) In 2019, I intend to visit the ocean more often.  It is so close to us, and yet it is so easy to forget to drive 30 minutes to experience this beauty.

Despite all the hard things that are plaguing our beloved world, may we remember to seek out beauty and joy each day.  May we remember color and light and shade and darkness and shine and curve and flow and rhythm.

So much beauty

Snow sun beauty

When the sun rises on the day after a snow storm, there is so much beauty everywhere.  The light, the lines of branches highlighted in white and gold, the patterns… and the songs of birds, which don’t show up in a photo but fill the air with more beauty as I walk along the city streets. I don’t usually like to post more than one photo but I can’t resist today.  After my walk, I arrived home to find a flock of robins in the maple tree next door.  Those berries in the photo are Asian Bittersweet–the invasive vines Margy is working to get rid of–but they do serve as a food source for birds in winter.  The robins were singing too.  How can anyone fail to appreciate such beauty as this morning’s sunrise brought to our world?

Robins

One Man Can Do So Much Harm

Yesterday, the governor of Maine vetoed the compromise solar energy bill that the legislature worked so hard to pass.  I feel so angry.  This one man is destroying thousands of potential new solar installations, all the jobs that go with it, and ultimately, adding to thousands of tons of carbon emissions because of his attack on renewable energy. I read today that even the utility companies supported this compromise bill. It certainly wasn’t a great bill.  A great bill would have added incentives and support for increasing our shift to renewable energy.  But it did provide a modest way forward.

But one man can veto it all.  It makes my blood boil.

Tomorrow there is a rally at the state house, and I know that many people are writing to their legislators to attempt to gain nine more votes from Republicans who previously have voted against the bill.  My state rep and state senator were both in favor, and I wrote to thank them. And I am writing this post, because sometimes we just have to rail against the powers of destruction and hope that the fire in our voices will turn the wind.

Signing the contract for our own solar panels has made this political side of the struggle very personal to me.  I was just realizing today that it has been almost nine months since we began this journey, our search for greener housing. The length of a human pregnancy: and it has felt like being pregnant.  The sheer magnitude of doing it all required a focus and energy that limited the other work I could do for the transformation of our society toward earth community. But now we are here, and the solar panels are about to be installed, and the baby is almost born, and I feel like a mama bear about it. I know that solar panels are not the be-all and end-all of the work we must do.  But they have become a sign and symbol of it for me.

I have to remember the vows I took when I gathered with other earth lovers at the Work that Reconnects with Joanna Macy last summer.  They give me strength on days like today.

  • I vow to myself and to each of you:
  • To commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings.
  • To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products, and energy I consume.
  • To draw strength and guidance from the living Earth, the ancestors, the future beings, and my siblings of all species.
  • To support others in their work for the world and to ask for help when I feel the need.
  • To pursue a daily practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart, and supports me in observing these vows.

I have to remember that we will not complete the work, but neither can we abandon it.  This is the next part of this spiritual journey. Whatever the outcome, to be fierce like a mama bear about this earth we love.  To be connected to the real Mama Bear, the Earth herself.  We are part of a larger Life, larger than one destructive man, larger than the destructive forces that threaten everything we hold dear.  I have to remember to lift up my voice and my arms in life and hope with all the green living things who are waking up in this season of new life.

Lifting branches

 

Endings/Next Chapter

Tomorrow we are closing on the sale of our house in North Yarmouth!  Margy is there cleaning up tonight, and I took a last carload of stuff home tonight after work.  Lots of feelings: relief, weariness, glad to have us finally all in one place, sad to leave the trees, glad to have seen the daffodils bloom.

Meanwhile, I’ve been plotting the next chapter in Portland.  I’ve arranged for replacement of our roof shingles, which were nearing the end of their useful life.  That should happen next week.  And, I’ve been researching solar options with a couple of installation companies.  It has been more confusing that I thought it would be.  Lots of options, and the companies didn’t make exactly parallel proposals, so it has been hard to compare.

Meanwhile, state legislators this very day were debating the future of solar energy in Maine.  Our governor has been an opponent, claiming–I believe falsely–that ratepayers are subsidizing those who are using solar.  Right now we have net-metering, where consumers who have solar panels can send extra power generated by solar panels to the grid (for example on sunny summer days), and get a credit for watts that they can use later when they need power in winter.  This benefits the grid because summer is the time of highest demand.  It is what we hope to do.  But the current plan is scheduled for some sort of change after this year, because we’ve reached 1% of energy generated.

It is so crazy, because we all need to keep expanding renewal energy as much as possible, if we are going to have a planet for our future generations.  I wrote emails to my new state representative and state senator, and they are supportive–but there needs to be more support to override a veto by the governor.  He is doing so much damage.  No one in the opposition talks about the subsidies that oil and gas industries still get.  I wonder who is planning for a future  going up to 50% solar?  And then, how do we imagine a fully renewable energy grid?   Meanwhile, despite the political uncertainty, despite the opposition, Margy and I are going forward with our own plans for solar, casting our vote for the future.Bridge to the Sun

Another Reason I Love Maine

Our appraiser rescues injured birds!

As part of our search for greener housing, we are applying for financing with our local bank, based on our equity in our current house.  That way, we don’t have to exactly synchronize the buying of a new house with the selling of our current house. Yesterday, an appraiser came to our house, as part of that process. We had de-cluttered the house and tidied and cleaned before she arrived.

Window MJ DSC00331But what I love about Maine is that people don’t stay on topic or on task. She noticed the striping we had put on some windows to help prevent birds from crashing into them, and we got talking about birds. It turns out she cares for injured and orphaned birds. She has been doing this for many many years, in conjunction with a local vets office. She spoke about her robin that can’t fly, but hops around on the enclosed porch, and sometimes releases the earthworms instead of eating them. She has cared for bluejays who could speak words, and a crow who liked to wait for the fax machine in her office to get an incoming fax so he could tear it apart. When possible, the birds were released after they had grown up or healed, but a few she kept on.

She described each bird by name and I love how much she appreciates their intelligence and their unique personalities. I love that she searches for the perfect beach to release young seagulls who are now able to make it on their own. I love her story of the crow barking like a dog because he had been raised around her dogs.

You never know what little delights a day will bring, and I love that in Maine, folks don’t stay on task, and you can discover kindred spirits when you least expect it.