Augusta, ME – The Maine House of Representatives has voted 84-57 to sustain Gov. Janet Mills’ veto of LD 2004, An Act to Restore Access to Federal Laws Beneficial to the Wabanaki Nations.

Regarding Democrats and Republicans who switched their initial votes in support of LD 2004 to back the Governor, Passamaquoddy Tribal Rep. Aaron Dana said, “I am thankful to my Democratic and Republican colleagues who had the courage to vote their conscience and not succumb to the incessant calls by the Governor and her staff to strong-arm them into voting against what they know is good policy for Maine.”

“Thank you to those Republicans, Democrats, and Independents who voted to begin the process of placing the tribes in Maine on the same footing as the other 570 federally recognized tribes across the country. It’s extremely disappointing that the Governor insists on keeping her thumb on the tribes and the legislature. She clearly will not be deterred from using any authority she has to oppress the tribes.” declared Chief Rena Newell of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik.

“Tribal issues becoming law are not a matter of if, but when. We now have bipartisan support in both chambers to build off for the future. We came up just shy today but we’re not going away. Governor Mills is out of step with Mainers on tribal issues. If the Settlement Act doesn’t change while she’s Governor, we’re confident the next Chief Executive will be with us,” stated Chief Clarissa Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians.

“This legislation was merely one step forward. Yet, the Governor won’t come to the table to make small progress on the Settlement Act. The Governor is out of touch. Her hardline stance in opposition to the tribes is something of a bygone era, though apparently just effective enough today. Though today was a loss on the floor of the House, we’re confident moving forward we will only gain greater support,” said Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation.

“In the last 43 years, there has not been a Democrat, Republican, or Independent Governor who has supported the tribes. But for the first time in over four decades, we had Republicans, Democrats, and Independents vote to change the Settlement Act and place legislation on a Governor’s desk. Unfortunately, we were not able to override the Governor. For thousands of years, we have been here. For hundreds of years, we have fought for our survival and identity. And we will continue to do so. Patience and determination are nothing new to us. Waiting a few more years for a new Governor is what we will do if we must. We were here long before Governor Mills and we will be here long after she leaves office,” said Ambassador Maulian Bryant of the Penobscot Nation and President of the Wabanaki Alliance board of directors.


More about LD 2004

LD 2004 is a bipartisan bill that would have amended the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs Settlement Act so that the Wabanaki tribes could benefit from most existing and future federal laws that apply to the other 570 federally recognized tribes.  Under the Settlement Acts, when Congress passes federal legislation for tribes nationwide, the tribes in Maine must be explicitly written into the legislation. The Wabanaki Nations are the only federally recognized tribes to be treated in this way. LD 2004 would have modernized the Settlement Acts, ensuring that the tribes in Maine are not excluded when Congress passes federal legislation for tribes nationwide as they have been at least 151 times in the past 40 years, according to a 2019 report by the Suffolk University Law School. This would have benefitted not only the Wabanaki Nations, but also rural Maine, according to a 2022 analysis by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. The bill excluded environmental laws and federal tribal gaming laws, stipulating that the Wabanaki Nations would be subject to state laws in those areas. Prosecution of certain serious crimes would have also continued to fall under state jurisdiction. The legislation also allowed for full repeal if a court found it to be ineffective. The bill was otherwise similar to HR 6707, sponsored last year by Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine. That legislation passed the U.S. House with bipartisan support but failed in the Senate. Unlike Golden’s bill, LD 2004 would have also applied retroactively to already enacted federal legislation that excluded tribes in Maine, ensuring that they gain the full benefit of federal Indian policy in the U.S. that has supported tribal self-determination through tribal self-government for more than 40 years. The bill passed the House and Senate by wide margins and with broad partisan support, but Gov. Mills vetoed it anyway. A two-thirds majority vote was needed in each chamber to override the governor’s veto.


Media Coverage

Maine lawmakers flip to uphold Janet Mills tribal-rights veto, Bangor Daily News, July 6, 2023

Maine lawmakers fail to override governor’s veto of tribal bill, Portland Press Herald, July 6, 2023

Lawmakers uphold Gov. Mills’ veto of Wabanaki rights legislation, Maine Public, July 6, 2023

Despite broad support, Maine House fails to override veto of crucial tribal rights bill, Maine Beacon, July 6, 2023

Maine House fails to override Mills’ veto of tribal rights bill, Spectrum News, July 6, 2023

Tribal sovereignty bill falters as Maine lawmakers fail to override governor’s veto, Associated Press, July 6, 2023

Maine lawmakers fail to override the governor’s veto on a tribal sovereignty bill, WABI-TV, July 6, 2023

Lawmakers fail to override Governor’s veto for federal laws beneficial to Wabanaki Tribes, WFVX-TV, July 6, 2023

‘It’s really disappointing:’ Lawmakers fail to override Gov. Mills’ veto of tribal sovereignty bill, WGME-TV, July 6, 2023