Tribe’s Business Record Raises Doubts on Casino
By Chris Burrell, Globe Correspondent
January 5, 2003
AQUINNAH – They want to run the state’s first casino somewhere in Southeastern Massachusetts and rake in millions for themselves and the state, but back home on Martha’s Vineyard, members of the Wampanoag tribe have tried running a delicatessen, a general store, and a shellfish hatchery – all of them money-losers.
The small businesses have buried the state’s only federally recognized tribe in red ink. The fiscal mess became so bad this year that tribal leaders took drastic action, selling off a tribe-owned camp on Chappaquiddick Island for $225,000 and liquidating $1.2 million of the tribe’s stock.
Money is only part of the problem. The Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah, formerly known as Gay Head, is also fighting legal battles on two fronts, both aimed at solidifying the tribe’s claim to sovereignty – demanding the right to staff its own police force and to build on tribal lands without obtaining a town building permit, which would give it sweeping powers if it won the right to operate a casino.
And tribal leaders are fighting amongst themselves, blaming each other for mismanagement and mistruths.
Now, with the state giving its most serious consideration in years to expanding gambling, some tribe members are worried: How can the Wampanoag leadership get into a large-scale casino operation when it can’t turn a profit selling coffee, sodas, and sandwiches on the island?
”That is a grave concern. When you look at our track record so far, what have we done? We just do not have the business acumen to get into a multimillion-dollar business,” said June Manning, a tribal member and former bookkeeper at the Wampanoag headquarters.
Other tribe members are hoping that the state overlooks the tribe’s failures on the island and focuses on the fact that it has financial backing from another Indian tribe, the casino-rich Tunica-Biloxis in Louisiana.
According to Boston-area developer David Nunes, the Wampanoags’ casino project manager and lobbyist for gaming interests, the tribe’s poor track record in small business management won’t matter much when it comes to putting up a $480 million casino.
”That’s why you hire management companies and why you have partners in these deals,” said Nunes.
With the state facing a budget gap of as much as $3 billion next year, state leaders are considering a range of options regarding gambling, including allowing slot machines at racetracks and granting licenses for several stand-alone casinos. Governor Mitt Romney has not yet stated his position on gambling, but has indicated that he may support gambling proposals if they could generate $200 million or more for the state budget.
But some state legislators say that, in the aftermath of congressional hearings on the financial operations of Indian casinos, they will scrutinize the business track record and political infighting of any tribe that wants to run a casino in the state.
”Incoming legislators will take a close look at who’s calling the shots with the tribes,” said state Representative Barbara L’Italien, an Andover Democrat beginning her first term.
Even the Wampanoags themselves acknowledge that business success has eluded the tribe. Last spring, four years after taking over operation of the historic Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury, the Wampanoags bailed out of the business, later admitting that ”operational mismanagement” had caused them to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.
”We’re a young government. We make mistakes. We have to own up to our mistakes,” said tribal chairwoman Beverly Wright. ”When we don’t properly manage businesses … then we have to look at other funding within the tribe to cover our debts.”
Back Alley’s delicatessen, a prime commercial space located right behind the general store, sat empty for more than 18 months before the tribe was able to land a tenant. And the shellfish hatchery, located in Aquinnah, still isn’t open more than two years after construction began.
The first sign of trouble at the tribe-run Alley’s surfaced in 2001 when the tribe fired popular store manager Jack MacKay. In protest, assistant manager Spencer Booker, a tribal member, walked away from Alley’s for another job.
The firing of MacKay, who had worked at Alley’s for eight years, sparked a boycott of the store. It was never clear how widespread the boycott was, but tribal leaders have privately acknowledged that MacKay’s departure marked the beginning of hard times at the store.
Such missteps and the attempts to stanch the money losses have fueled criticism from within the tribe.
”There’s a complete absence of credibility reinforced by the failures at Alley’s and Back Alley’s and the failure to get the hatchery up and running,” said Donald Widdiss, former tribal chairman.
”We fought for years to get land back for the tribe, and they sold a piece of land [on Chappaquiddick] that was donated to the tribe to pay off debts,” Widdiss added. ”People are frustrated and disgusted.”
The frustration seems to have expressed itself in political squabbles. The Wampanoag’s top administrator accused Wright last month of skewing the tribe’s financial status as a way to boost her husband’s November bid for tribal council treasurer.
”The administration is troubled and embarrassed by tribal chairperson Beverly Wright’s lack of comprehension regarding fiscal affairs,” tribal administrator Laurie Perry wrote in a statement to the Vineyard Gazette.
Perry and other tribal leaders say the bottom line is in good shape, pointing to a $4.4 million budget last year fueled by federal grants of $3.3 million.
But Wright gave the Justice Department a different picture, saying the tribe couldn’t afford to pay its share of a federal matching grant, because the tribe-owned delicatessen and general store had lost as much as $750,000.
And the Wampanoags’ new shellfish hatchery, she told the agency, has already lost $150,000 and is projected to lose another $240,000 before turning a profit.
Perry insists the hatchery will turn a profit soon on the 1 million oysters currently growing there. Construction is stalled by a legal battle with the town over the Wampanoags’ right to build a shed without a building permit.
To lawyers on both sides of the hatchery dispute, the upcoming court case will have a significant bearing on whether the tribe can win a casino.
”If the tribe were successful, the implication would be that it wouldn’t have to adhere to town or state land-use requirements,” said Aquinnah selectman Karl Burgess.
A tribal win could also set a precedent that might allow it to avoid local zoning elsewhere in the state to build a casino.
Booker, who returned to Alley’s General Store when the Wampanoags gave it back to Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, which owns the building, is hoping his tribe has learned from its mistakes. When the tribe ran the general store, he said, it had no guidance from any business experts.
”With any new business, there’s always concern about success, but the tribe is going to handle [a casino] a lot differently,” he said. ”We have a financial backer with experience.”
But MacKay, who has also returned to the general store, said the Wampanoags still have some convincing to do.
”If the Wampanoags are smart, they’ll pay attention to past experience, step back, and delegate,” he said. ”They’re in a tight spot because they have to prove to the Commonwealth and their backers that they’re able to do this in a responsible way. That’s tricky because of their track record.”
This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 1/5/2003.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.
Maine Voters Say No to Casinos
By Associated Press
June 12, 2002
ELIOT, Maine (AP) Voters in six York County towns sent a clear message Tuesday about how they feel about casinos: No thanks.
Voters in Kittery, Eliot, Kennebunk, North Berwick, Ogunquit and Wells said they either did not want casino gambling in their towns, near their towns or in the state at all.
The votes were held in response to a proposal that has been floated for the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indian tribes to build a Foxwoods-style casino resort in southern Maine.
Because casino gambling is illegal in Maine, the tribes need permission from the Legislature before starting.
Tom Tureen, a lawyer and advocate for the tribes, said the tribes will continue to pursue plans to build a $400 million to $600 million casino in southern Maine, but not in the towns that voted to ban casino gambling within their borders.
”We made no efforts in those towns. We think they acted prematurely, but that was their prerogative,” Tureen said.
Voters in southern Maine made clear they don’t want a casino.
Seventy-five percent of voters in Wells and 76 percent of voters in Kittery said they wanted their towns to ban casino gambling.
In Eliot, 85 percent of voters turned down a referendum question asking if they wanted casino gambling in town.
In Ogunquit, 83 percent of the 200 voters said they did not want a casino anywhere in southern Maine. Seventy-one percent of 2,846 voters in Kennebunk opposed having a casino in their town.
And in North Berwick, 72 percent of voters opposed casino gambling in southern Maine, and 60 percent opposed it in the state as a whole.
Voters in York and Berwick previously voted that they didn’t want casino gambling within their borders, but Berwick voters said they were not opposed to a casino elsewhere in the state.
Results from an election in the Lincoln County town of Wiscasset were not immediately available.
Indian Hiring Rule Threatens Jobs of Five
January 23, 2002
PLEASANT POINT — A move to enforce an Indian-preference hiring policy that essentially has been ignored for 23 years means up to five longtime non-Passamaquoddy employees could lose their jobs.
Proponents of the policy say that by enforcing Indian preference hiring, young tribal members who now must leave the area to obtain good jobs would be able to find employment on the reservation in Washington County.
Opponents of the move maintain that the policy should not be enforced because it would be unfair to long-term employees.
Gov. Rick Doyle declined to comment Tuesday, saying the issue is an internal personnel matter. But Doyle and tribal council members are expected to deal with the issue sometime next month. The question of enforcing the policy was raised at a tribal council meeting last month by some tribal members.
As the issue has prompted debate on the reservation, somebody early Jan. 16 painted the word “racist” on the front and back entry doors as well as the doors that lead to the social services offices at the tribal headquarters building on Route 190.
Pleasant Point Police Chief Joseph Barnes said his department is investigating the vandalism.
At issue is a provision in the Passamaquoddy tribal personnel policy that allows the tribe to give preference to tribal members in hiring. “The tribe will adhere to an Indian Preference Policy in the recruitment and selection process. The purpose of Indian preference is to increase Indian employment for the tribe in order to further Indian self-determination,” the policy says. The policy says the jobs of non-Indian employees can be posted after three years.
The policy says all non-Indian employees will be informed of the three-year provision. After three years, the tribe has the option to advertise the job and replace the employee with a qualified tribal member.
The policy includes a provision that nontribal employees who support a tribal member would not be subject to dismissal after three years’ employment. It is up to the tribal council to decide how to determine whether a nontribal member is “supporting” a tribal member. The council also must decide whether some long-term employees should be exempt from the policy.
As written, the policy could affect five of the reservation’s 120 employees. But, although the provision has been on the books since 1978, it apparently has not been enforced.
Apparently, five jobs are affected by the debate, although the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday learned the identities of only two of the five employees.
One, Mary Lou Barnes, has worked in the social services department for the past two decades. She declined to comment Tuesday. Ginny Altvater, who has served as administrative assistant to various tribal governors, did not return a telephone call Tuesday.
The issue is not unique to the Passamaquoddy Tribe.
In 1999, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that the firing of an employee by the Penobscot Nation who had worked for the tribe as a nurse for 1½ years was an “internal tribal matter” and not subject to the employment protections offered by the Maine Human Rights Act.
Tribal Lt. Gov. Edward Bassett said he wanted to avoid misinformation about the issue. “I have a hard time discussing this with you, because it is an internal tribal matter,” he said. “But because other people might be sending the wrong message out there, I want to clarify that we have not targeted any individuals personally. We are trying to set policy around Indian preference,” he said.
He said the tribe should remove the preference provision from the personnel policy — if it is not going to be enforced.
But, Bassett added, by ignoring the policy, the tribe is losing some of its best-trained tribal members.
“Over the years we have noticed a trend of tribal members who come home after going to school and find there are no jobs,” Bassett said. “They have to look for jobs elsewhere, even off reservation. So we are educating and exporting our own tribal members off reservation in order for them to survive.
“As a result they lose their connection with the tribe,” Bassett said, “and that creates the problem of eroding our cultural base. So we are trying to preserve some of our cultural integrity in our community by trying to make jobs for tribal members. If we don’t look out for ourselves, who will?”
Supreme Court Declines to Hear Maine Tribal Dispute with Paper Companies
By Ann S. Kim, Associated Press
September 13, 2001
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court declined Tuesday to intervene in a dispute between two Maine Indian tribes and paper companies.
The Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe asked the Supreme Court to reverse a state court ruling requiring them to turn over documents about water quality regulation to the paper companies. The Supreme Court, without comment, refused to take the case.
“We are disappointed, but not surprised,” Passamaquoddy Gov. Richard Doyle said in a statement. “It is very hard to get a case before the Supreme Court. But we will be patient. We have faith that our rights as self-governing Indian tribes will, in the long run, prevail.”
Penobscot Chief Barry Dana said the Supreme Court’s decision was “just one step on a very long path.” He said the tribes’ next move could involve the Legislature, but it was not immediately clear what the tribes’ plans might be.
Matthew D. Manahan, the lawyer for those seeking the documents, said he was not surprised that the high court declined to hear the case. He pointed out that there was no disagreement among the lower courts and said that the case only had ramifications for Maine.
“There really was very little likelihood that the Supreme Court would get involved,” Manahan said.
A state judge found tribal leaders to be in contempt of court for failing to turn over documents in the high-profile legal battle that involved access to documents, water quality regulation and claims of tribal sovereignty.
Asserting that the dispute is at the heart of the tribes’ claim to be autonomous, sovereign governments, their leaders had expressed willingness to go to jail rather than relinquish the records.
The underlying dispute is rooted in a bid by the state to become the sole overseer of wastewater discharges into Maine water.
The tribes want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to maintain its authority. The tribes contend that paper companies have too much influence with state officials.
Great Northern Paper Inc., Georgia Pacific Corp. and Champion International Corp. were part of a coalition that sought the documents last year under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act in preparation for a lawsuit against the EPA. In refusing to hand over the papers, the tribes said they were sovereign nations not subject to the state law.
The tribes lost their appeals to the state supreme court as well as in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court let stand the state supreme court decision last May.
In that ruling, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state’s Freedom of Access Law applies to the tribes when they exercise authority as municipal governments. The tribes were ordered to turn over communications with the state and federal governments concerning regulation of water quality, but not minutes, agendas or notes regarding tribal council meetings.
Justice Robert Crowley granted a stay in his contempt ruling in Cumberland County Superior Court pending the outcome of the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Smith had maintained that the stay was warranted to give the tribes a chance at having the nation’s highest court weigh in on what the state supreme court has characterized as an “unsettled, murky and complex” relationship between the state and the tribes following the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act.
International Paper Corp., which bought Champion last year, withdrew from the case after Maine assumed authority of the lower Penobscot River, Manahan said.
The coalition also includes 23 municipalities or municipal entities, such as wastewater treatment plants, and three energy companies.
The Fight to Bear Arms
Wampanoags, Town at Odds Over Funding for Tribe Police
By Chris Burrell, Globe Correspondent
March 5, 2001
QUINNAH – They cut an intimidating figure, the two Wampanoag rangers carrying new 9mm Glock pistols by the clam shacks and T-shirt shops that line the path to Gay Head Cliffs.
That was last summer, before the Wampanoags won a quarter-million-dollar grant from the Justice Department to create a tribal police force with all the trappings – semiautomatic pistols, bulletproof vests, an all-terrain vehicle, a 4-wheel-drive truck, and a Boston Whaler patrol boat.
It’s a lot of policing for the town of Aquinnah, a village on the southwestern tip of Martha’s Vineyard with a year-round population of 360, especially since the town already has a police department, whose four members had to deal with only two assaults in the past year.
”We get EMS calls, traffic enforcement, and we essentially herd tourists,” said Doug Fortes, the town’s police chief.
Fortes and a selectman have been at odds with the Wampanoags ever since the tribe got a $274,436 federal grant intended for tribes ”affected by high rates of crime and violence.”
In Aquinnah, known until 1998 as Gay Head, news of the grant has added fuel to a controversy over whether the tribe should arm its rangers at all. And it highlights the difficult question of how the island’s civic institutions are supposed to coexist with the Wampanoags, who in 1987 became the first federally recognized Indian tribe in Massachusetts, acquiring a set of rights open to legal interpretation.
Wampanoag settlements on the island date back some 4,000 years. Wampanoag Chief Massasoit signed treaties with the Pilgrims and Miles Standish himself. More recently the tribe won federal recognition from Congress and tried in vain through the 1990s to win approval for plans to build a casino in New Bedford.
Today the Wampanoags control about 400 acres spread across several parcels, most of them in Aquinnah. About 100 members live on that land, and the latest tribal census counts 992 members, living both on and off Martha’s Vineyard.
Wampanoag leaders contend that as a federally recognized tribe, they have the right to establish their own law enforcement and judicial system.
But Selectman Karl Burgess said the agreement giving Wampanoags federal recognition granted only limited powers. ”It’s hard,” he said, ”because the tribe feels very strongly. But the fact of the matter is that the settlement precludes a lot of these things.”
Beverly Wright, tribal council chairwoman, says the goal is to police only Wampanoags on tribal lands. But on its application to the Justice Department, the tribe used population and area figures that corresponded to the entire island of Martha’s Vineyard – 20 square miles, with a population of 15,000 in winter and 111,000 in summer.
”We respond to island things like search and rescue and hurricanes,” explained Laurie Perry, tribal administrator. ”We want to be networking.”
The Aquinnah police chief, who is a member of the Wampanoag tribe himself, sees a well-armed tribal police force as an invitation to trouble. Fortes said tribal lands are not contiguous, which means armed tribal police on patrol would have to travel on town roads.
”I don’t believe they really think it through,” he said. ”If somebody flags them down, and they’re standing on the town macadam with no power of arrest and a gun strapped to their side, how crazy is that?”
The tribe first appointed rangers back in 1994 to patrol the beach and keep visitors from climbing the fragile Gay Head Cliffs. Later the rangers began collaborating with Aquinnah police as special officers in the summertime, dispensing information and helping keep tourists in line.
That cooperative arrangement seemed to symbolize good relations between town and tribe – until the guns arrived, brought back by rangers from a trip to the Oneida Indian Nation in New York in the fall of 1999.
By last summer, the two tribal rangers, who were previously issued only pepper spray and a baton, had refused to patrol the beaches as special officers unless Fortes allowed them to carry guns. Then in late July, Fortes spotted rangers wearing guns while they were eating lunch near Gay Head Cliffs. He alerted the tribal council, who disarmed the rangers.
”They just got the idea they could wear full defensive equipment,” said Perry, the tribal administrator. ”It was a bad idea on their part.”
On Nov. 15, 2000, the tribal council voted to allow their rangers to carry firearms on tribal lands during the Wampanoag hunting season. That season ended this week.
And the tribe doesn’t have its federal money yet; it still needs to raise about $144,000 in matching funds to qualify. Wright, the tribal chairwoman, appears confident that they can meet that goal, but officials on both sides of the issue say they are anxious to mend fences and avoid a standoff.
”Sooner or later, we will implement the grant,” said Wright, who is sitting down with selectmen to patch up the relationship. ”But we want our neighbors to be comfortable with what we’re doing in the town of Aquinnah.”
Some neighbors don’t mind. Michael Hebert, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said flatly that the police grant is ”the tribe’s own business” and that he is far more concerned with healing the rift between the town and tribe over rangers wearing guns.
But Fortes is standing firm. ”It’s important that I follow through on my convictions about this,” he said. ”This is not some isolated tribe in the middle of the Dakotas or Oklahoma. These are lands in trust in the midst of tony Martha’s Vineyard and liberal Massachusetts, and people care very much about what goes on here.”
This story ran on page 01 of the Boston Globe on 3/5/2001.
Tribal Leaders Appeal Ruling in Maine Case
By Murray Carpenter, Globe Correspondent
November 15, 2000
AUBURN, Maine – After a closed weekend council, three tribal governors found in contempt of court last week opted to appeal the ruling instead of going to jail.
Speaking on the steps of Androscoggin County courthouse Monday morning before a crowd of supporters, Penobscot Governor Barry Dana and Passamaquoddy governors Richard Doyle and Richard Stevens announced that they were taking their case to Maine’s Supreme Court.
Their decision prolongs an increasingly tense and complicated legal standoff over water-quality regulation and tribal sovereignty in Maine. The Penobscots and the Passamaquoddys claim authority to regulate river pollution on their reservations; the state of Maine, along with the companies who emit wastewater into the river, dispute that right.
The prospect of jail arose when the tribes refused a request to turn water-quality documents over to three paper companies that requested them, claiming that internal tribal matters are not subject to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.
It would be ”extraordinary and unprecedented” for companies to be allowed to ”rifle through” tribal files, said Attorney Kaighn Smith, representing the tribes.
Last Thursday Superior Court Justice Robert Crowley disagreed. He ordered the governors to turn over the papers, file an appeal, or report to jail Monday and pay a $1,000-per-day fine.
The tribes were faced with a quandary: to appeal could mean they accepted the state’s jurisdiction, which is a contentious issue in their broader case. Not to appeal would mean jail time.
On Monday, the governors were greeted at the courthouse by more than 60 Indians from all across Maine, who waved flags and placards in support.
Displaying a bottle of Penobscot River water, Dana said, ”We have a responsibility to right the wrongs of the past. To have a say in what goes into the river.”
Smith said the tribes are appealing not Judge Crowley’s decision, but rather his right to rule on the matter at all.
This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 11/15/2000.
Maine Court Raises The Stakes in Fight Over Tribal Rights
By Pamela Ferdinand, Special to The Washington Post
November 11, 2000
BOSTON –– In an unexpectedly aggressive move, a Maine Superior Court judge has ordered three Indian tribal leaders jailed for refusing to turn over documents related to a dispute over who has the authority to regulate water quality in the state.
The jail sentence–pronounced during National American Indian Heritage Month–was delayed until Monday to give the leaders time to deliver the documents or file an appeal in the original case.
For months, the dispute over an otherwise arcane issue–wastewater discharge–has been filled with rancor because all parties involved feel that tribal sovereignty is also at stake.
Members of the two federally recognized tribes fear the resurrection of Maine’s colonial past, while others view the controversy as an attempt by a new generation of tribal leaders to undermine the 20-year-old Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act and challenge state rights.
“We’re really in the throes of a crisis,” said Kaighn Smith Jr., an attorney for the three tribal leaders. “It feels extraordinary.”
None of the leaders was available for comment. The court sentenced two Passamaquoddy Tribe governors–Richard Stevens and Richard Doyle–and Barry Dana, a recently inaugurated Penobscot Indian Nation chief who was once listed as one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.”
The dispute stems from the Environmental Protection Agency’s pending decision over whether to delegate administration of the Clean Water Act to Maine, one of the few states in the nation that have not assumed responsibility for the program. The federal agency is expected to make its determination within several weeks, said Evan Richert, director of Maine state planning. But it previously delayed the decision on four different occasions, and positions on both sides have long since hardened.
On one side of the dispute are several dozen towns and companies, including paper mills, that discharge wastewater and are licensed by both federal and state authorities–a duplicative requirement they claim is unnecessary and burdensome. In addition, they do not want the EPA to carve out separate Indian territory that would allow tribes jurisdiction over water resources and could allow tribes to impose their own permitting requirements.
On the other side are the Indian tribes, with nearly 6,000 members in Maine, that have opposed the state’s attempt to gain authority over the Clean Water Act. They want the federal government to exercise its trust responsibility to the tribes and continue regulating water quality near their reservations. They believe Maine does not do an adequate job of enforcing environmental regulations.
In other states where the EPA delegated authority for the act, the federal government retained jurisdiction over what they consider Indian territory. And the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees Indian affairs, has sided with the Maine tribes.
But state officials here contend Maine’s 1980 Claims Settlement Act adds a unique twist to the situation. The act, which gave tribes money and federal recognition in exchange for extinguishing their claims to two-thirds of Maine lands, gave the state more power to regulate its tribes. Unlike those in other states, Maine tribes are governed by the state as if they are municipalities, except for internal tribal matters such as elections and finances.
Maine officials assert that water quality is not an internal tribal matter. In support of the state’s gaining full regulatory control, three paper companies filed a request under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act to receive all tribal documents related to the water issue.
The tribes refused to provide the materials, saying that it would violate tribal law and that the state had no authority to order them to turn over internal tribal documents. Tribal leaders also said that they did not want to provide the information because the companies had litigation pending against them concerning the use of water resources within or near their territory.
In September, Superior Court Judge Robert Crowley ruled against the tribes, saying the Claims Settlement Act did not confer upon them the “the status of an independent nation.” And on Thursday, to the astonishment of dozens of onlookers, he found their leaders guilty of contempt for refusing to comply with his order and sentenced them to jail.
“Whether tribal law is in conflict with state law is not relevant to or a defense to the motion for contempt,” Crowley said, according to the Bangor Daily News. “It is not an option for any person to defy the law with impunity.”
Dana urged supporters to remain calm, according to the newspaper. “I don’t want you to go away feeling that we are at war with the state, at war with the judicial system,” he said. “We can’t leave with so much anger that it stands in the way of our judgment.”
Attorneys for the paper companies, who had requested that the tribes be fined to compel them to turn over the documents, said they had no choice but to take action.
“My clients don’t want to threaten the tribe’s culture, but on the other hand, they also want to make sure that state sovereignty is upheld and that the Claims Settlement Act is complied with,” said lawyer Matthew D. Manahan. “It can be rancorous, but we need to try to make our best efforts on a legal as opposed to a cultural plane.”
Manahan and others suggested the tribes are contesting the state’s right to regulate water quality to sabotage the Claims Settlement Act as a whole. In recent years, Maine tribes have suffered setbacks on issues ranging from fishing rights to gambling, and there appears to be a growing dissatisfaction with the compromises reached by their leaders decades ago.
“They have soured on the act and believe [it’s] no longer adequate to protect their rights or what they see as their rights,” said Richert, a Maine Indian tribal state commission member. “The state and tribes have worked well together on other issues. It’s when we hit these issues of sovereignty, we hit walls.”
At least on that point, both sides can agree.
“It’s sort of a sad state of affairs that we have to struggle to iron out these fundamental questions of jurisdiction 20 years after the Indian Claims Settlement Act,” said Smith, the tribal leaders’ attorney. “The tribes very much wish they could move to be who they are as they have understood themselves to be for many centuries. They are not municipalities of the state of Maine.”
Maine Might Purge Squaw Names
By Glenn Adams, Associated Press Writer
BIG SQUAW TOWNSHIP, Maine (AP) – In Maine’s rugged hill country lies frozen Squaw Pond. There’s also Big Squaw Mountain, Squaw Bay, and Big and Little Squaw townships.
The names, once known primarily to hunters, fishermen and hikers, are now attracting attention from the Legislature, as a group of lawmakers who say “squaw” denigrates women push to purge it from the state map.
“I can say with 99 percent certainty, if you are a native woman and live on a reservation, you have heard the word and felt the sting and pain,” said Donna Loring, the Penobscot Nation’s representative to the Legislature.
Lawmakers in Minnesota and Montana already have adopted similar laws removing “squaw” from public site names. In Colorado, even the endangered squawfish was targeted by Indian activists and renamed the Colorado pikeminnow.
Maine lawmakers are expected to vote soon on the bill to expunge “squaw” from all public land features and geographic locations on the advice of a nine-member commission on Indian affairs. Private properties, such as the Squaw Mountain Ski Resort, would be exempt.
Rep. Donald Soctomah, the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s representative and sponsor of the bill, is confident it will pass. It has already won a committee endorsement and could come up for floor debate this week, he said.
But folks who live in Big Squaw Township, a scenic area just off Moosehead Lake, are wondering why there is so much fuss over a simple name, and why it’s stirring up people in the State House, 100 miles south in Augusta.
“What’s exasperating to a lot of people is that it’s an issue at all,” said Everett Parker, executive director of the Moosehead Historical Society.
He said he has done his own research on the origins of the word “squaw,” and he doesn’t have a problem with it.
“I have one-sixteenth Passamaquoddy blood myself, and I have never found anything derogatory about the word,” Parker said. “If there is, or was, a negative connotation, why wasn’t it brought out before?”
At a hearing in Augusta last month, local opponents handed lawmakers petitions signed by 300 people from the Moosehead area who want to keep the squaw names. Some opponents contend that changing names long associated with the region could confuse tourists, whose dollars fuel the local economy.
“A lot of people say, ‘After all these years why is somebody putting up a stink?’ Just leave it alone,” Sandy Lyford said as she worked behind the counter in Jamo’s Pizza.
Loring said the issue is just now being raised because Indians felt in the past that their complaints would be ignored.
“For many, many years, natives have felt they don’t have the power to speak (about it) and if they did, no one would listen,” she said.
If the bill passes, about two-dozen places would have to be renamed.
Such action is not new in Maine. About 10 of the state’s brooks, islands and hills in incorporated a derogatory word for blacks until the Legislature banned the use on geographic locations in 1977.
If nothing else, the latest proposal has sparked a dialogue between Indians and non-Indians, while prompting discussions across Maine about an issue of importance to Indians, said Soctomah.
“Lots of people didn’t know (squaw) was derogatory until all this came out in the press,” said Kirk Hamilton, a ski patrol member at Big Squaw Mountain.
Squaw is not the only word Indians are concerned about in Maine. At least one activist has targeted school mascots like the Wiscasset Redskins, the Skowhegan Indians and the Nokomis Warriors.
American Indian groups nationwide have protested sports mascots and team nicknames connected to their heritage, including the Atlanta Braves and Washington Redskins.
Madeleine “Maddy” Burnam of Greenville, who is half Indian, told the Moosehead Messenger newspaper she interprets “squaw” to mean a woman of ill repute, but she said the name Squaw Mountain is “so familiar, it seems really silly to rename it.”
“It’ll always be Big Squaw Mountain and Little Squaw Mountain to the local folks,” said Parker.