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Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate David Costello Urges Support for Tribal Sovereignty for Maine’s Four Indigenous Tribes


June 26, 2023


Brunswick – Democratic Senate Candidate David Costello today released a statement urging support for tribal sovereignty for Maine’s four indigenous tribes.  Costello stated, “unlike the Nation’s other 570 federally recognized tribes, Maine’s Penobscot, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, and Passamaquoddy tribes are unnecessarily and detrimentally excluded from automatically receiving a range of federal health care, economic development, environmental protection, emergency response assistance and other benefits.”


Costello noted that a recent Harvard University study concluded that tribal self-determination and government has contributed to significant economic growth and other benefits for the vast majority of other indigenous tribes in the United States.  Additionally, and importantly for many rural towns and villages in Maine, the study also concluded that there were considerable spill-over benefits for neighboring non-tribal communities. 


Costello added that the study found: 

“Unique to Maine, the federal Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980 (MICSA) empowers the state government to block the applicability of federal Indian policy in Maine. As a result, the development of the Wabanaki Nations’ economies and governmental capacities have been stunted. Today, all four of the tribes in Maine—Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot—are stark economic underperformers relative to the other tribes in the Lower 48 states. 

The subjugation of the Wabanaki Nation’s self-governing capacities is blocking economic development to the detriment of both tribal and non-tribal citizens, alike. For the tribal citizens of Maine held down by MICSA’s restrictions, loosening or removing those restrictions offers them little in the way of downside risks and but much in the way of upside payoffs. 

Importantly, we find in this study that “nowhere to go but up” also applies to the Maine state government and Maine’s non-tribal citizens. From case after case, the pattern that has emerged under federal policies of tribal self-determination through self-government is one in which tribal economic development spills over positively into neighboring non-tribal communities and improves the abilities of state and local governments to serve their citizens.”


Costello concluded, “As the study emphasizes, there is ‘nowhere to go but up’ for Maine and Maine communities and thus there is unlikely to be any downside to granting tribal sovereignty to Maine’s four tribes.  Moreover, granting sovereignty to Maine's tribes is long overdue and is the right thing to do both morally and ethically.”  


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