AUGUSTA — Today, state lawmakers convened for a Joint Convention of the Maine Legislature to hear from leaders of the five Wabanaki tribes — the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Mi’kmaq Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkomikuk, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik, and the Penobscot Nation — on the state of the Tribes.
Senate President Troy Jackson and Speaker of the House Rachel Talbot Ross called for the Joint Convention to provide Tribal Chiefs with the opportunity to speak directly to Maine Senators and Representatives. It is a part of ongoing legislative work to strengthen the relationship between Maine and its Tribal neighbors.
Senate President Troy Jackson issued the following statement:
“Symbolic gestures do not right decades, if not centuries, of wrong. They do not erase the ugly and deeply painful history regarding the state’s treatment of the Wabanaki Tribes, nor do they make up for the legacy of empty promises and their consequences. But this historic State of the Tribes is important, and it can be more than symbolic so long as it foreshadows where the relationship between our governments is headed. Convening for this purpose was about respect, reconciliation, and a commitment on the part of the Maine Legislature to do better. The health, well-being and future of the place we all call home and the people who live here depend on it.
“I want to thank Chief Sabattis, Chief Newell, Chief Francis, Chief Peter Paul and Chief Nicholas for graciously accepting the invitation to address a Joint Convention of the Maine Legislature and for sharing their powerful words with us today. The way we forge a stronger, more resilient relationship between our governments starts with listening, and that is something the state has certainly not done enough of throughout our 200-year history. The fact that these Tribal leaders were even willing to partake in the State of a Tribes is a testament to their leadership, character and commitment to getting the state of Maine to recognize and respect their inherent sovereignty as Tribal Nations. It is an honor to have the opportunity to listen to, work with and stand in solidarity with the Wabanaki Tribes.”
Speaker of the House Rachel Talbot Ross issued the following statement:
“Today was more than a joint convention, it was a powerful and historical moment when Wabanaki leadership presented Maine lawmakers with a compelling look both at our past and our future. I am grateful that Chief Sabattis, Chief Newell, Chief Francis, Chief Peter Paul and Chief Nicholas shared their time, their words and their history of resilience. By no means does the State of the Tribes Address forgive a shameful history of pain and tragedy, discrimination and injustice. However, it can signify an enduring commitment to perform the critical work of reflection, understanding, and collaboration in order to continue to heal past wrongs and work towards a more just and equitable future.”