Donna Loring: Being Native in Maine means living with racism

Donna Loring. Photo by Jane Peasley / Wikipedia

Donna Loring, an elder from the Penobscot Nation, explores the history of tribal-state relations in Maine:
Being Indian in the State of Maine is like living on an iceberg of racism—a raceburg.

Maine is the whitest State in America and it has been very white for at least the last two hundred years. Of course, it had to clear the land and get rid of those Indians who were blocking progress. It failed to exterminate us by outright killing through biological warfare and burning villages. But it has never stopped trying.

Moving into the 21st century the state continues to try to exterminate us in various ways that are just as harmful. What really puzzles and shocks me is they are getting away with it. When other minorities rally and complain they get attention and usually manage to change things. Not so in Maine.

Maine has kept the tribes in isolation from the rest of Indian Country ever since it became a state. It has done this by treating our tribal governments and us as though we do not exist. The State of Maine policy making body -- the state legislature -- together with the executive, judicial, and attorney general’s office have all teamed up to keep us isolated, poor and dependent. That’s the way of colonialism. We have fought them for almost two centuries. We are still here.

We negotiated a settlement—the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act (MICSA)—which we thought would take us out from under the heavy hand of the state but the Act turned into a club that was used to beat us down and keep us isolated and poor.

I always thought that once the true intent of this state's actions were shown and people could see what they were doing to us, the good common people of Maine and the rest of the country would step in and stop it. It didn't happen.

Get the Story:
Donna Loring: The State of Maine Hates Natives, and Doesn't Try to Hide It (Indian Country Today 4/21)

Also Today:
Maine Governor Affirms and Rejects Tribal Sovereignty in New Executive Order (Indian Country Today 4/20)

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