RadioActive 12/17/15

Producer/Host: Meredith DeFrancesco
Issue: Environmental and Social Justice

Program Topic: Penobscot Nation v Mills : Decision at US District Court

Key Discussion Points:

1) Yesterday, US District Court Judge George Singal ruled that the Penosbcot Nation’s reservation does not include the river waters flowing through it.
2) While Judge Singal affirmed the right of individual tribal members to sustenance fishing in the main stem of the Penosbcot River, he sided with the State of Maine in ruling that the Penobscot flowing through tribal territory is not part of the reservation. He based his decision on the State’s interpretation of the controversial Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act,saying if the Act did not explicitly mention the water as part of the territory, then the water is not included. The Tribe holds if they did not explicitly give up their rights to the waterway in the Settlement Act, they did not give it up.
3) In the landmark case, Penobscot Nation v Maine Attornay General Janet Mills, The Penobscot Nation opposed the Maine Attorney General’s Office 2012 opinion that the Penobscot Indian reservation, which includes more than 200 islands in the Penobscot River, does not include any portion of the water. The Penobscot Nation has argued this amounts to a territorial taking by the state and erases their inherent, treaty reserved sustenance fishing rights.

In October, Judge Singal heard oral arguments from Penobscot Nation counsel, counsel for the US Dept of Justice, intervening in the case on behalf of the Penobscot Nation, the Attorney General’s Office’s, and Pierce Atwood counsel which is representing a consortium of pollution dischargers intervening on behalf of the state.

Guest: Sherri Mitchell, member of the Penobscot Tribe, indigenous rights attorney