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Tribes in Maine face opposition to jurisdiction over non-Indians

A sign at the Pleasant Point Reservation in Maine. Photo from Facebook

The Violence Against Women Act of 2013 recognizes tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders but Maine Attorney General Janet Mills contends the landmark law doesn't apply to Indian Country in the state.

According to Mills, Congress failed to mention Maine when it enacted S.47, the reauthorization of the law. So she says tribes in the state can't take advantage of the provisions.

Her interpretation is based on the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. In addition to authorizing state criminal and civil jurisdiction in Indian Country, Section 1725 states that any other federal Indian law that "affects or preempts the civil, criminal, or regulatory jurisdiction of the state of Maine" shall not apply unless Congress specifically mentions Maine.

For that reason, Mills also claims the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 does not apply in Maine. The law's major provision allows tribes to impose longer sentences on Indian criminal defendants.

The Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point and the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township are seeking to assert their rights under both laws. Their leaders are questioning the opposition from Mills -- Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis pointed out that 80 percent of the domestic violence cases on the reservation involve non-Indian defendants.

“Currently the tribe has no ability to comprehensively deal with this from a family wellness perspective.” Francis told The Portland Press Herald.

Get the Story:
Maine tribes seek authority to try domestic violence cases (The Portland Press Herald 2/23)

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