The Passamaquoddy Indians For several hundred years people have sought answers to the Indian problems, who are the Indians, and what rights do they have? These questions may seem simple, but the answers themselves present a difficult number of further questions and answers. State and Federal governments have tried to provide some order with a number of laws and policies, sometimes resulting in state and federal conflicts. The Federal Government’s attempt to deal with Indian tribes can be easily understood by following the history of Federal Indian Policy. Indians all over the United States fought policies which threatened to destroy their familial bonds and traditions. The Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe of Maine, resisted no less than these other tribes, however, thereby also suffering a hostile anti-Indian environment from the Federal Government and their own State, Maine. But because the Passamaquoddy Tribe was located in such a remote area, they escaped many federal Indian policies.
In order to make more eastern land available for settlement, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. This enabled the President of the United States to have power physically to move eastern Indian tribes to land west of the Mississippi River. Indian Title did not grant the Indians the power to sell their own lands. The result of which was that, the Indians went uncompensated for their lands and the Original Indian Title was forsaken. Although more than 70,000 Indians had been forcibly removed in a ten-year journey westward, a trip that became known as the Trail of Tears, the Passamaquoddy Indians remained in the northeast.
This was possibly due to their remoteness and harsh winters of the North Atlantic coast. Between 1821 and 1839 the state of Maine allowed timber havesting of the Passamaquoddy land in direct violation of the 1794 treaty and later sold more of their lands without compensation (Brooks 3). The 1774 treaty was signed between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Passamaquoddy Tribe. The treaty stipulated that the tribe would surrender all claims to land in Massachusetts in exchange for 23,000 acres at Indian Township and ten acres at Pleasant Point. Indian Township is located just above Princeton, Maine, and Pleasant Point is located between Eastport and Perry, Maine. This treaty was signed after the enactment of the Trade and Intercourse Acts, which held that no treaties could be made with the Indians, except with federal approval. There was no federal approval with this treaty (Brooks 3).
The State of Maine’s courts in 1842 described Indians as charity cases and imbeciles, subject to paternal control by the state. After years of being forcibly removed or displaced by white settlers, the Passamaquoddy were reduced to living a meager existence form hunting, fishing, trapping, and craft making (Brooks 3). The General Allotment Act of 1887 was passed with the concept that if Indians were given individual plots of land, they would farm that land and assimilate into the white culture. Allotted parcels of land were given to families, and the excess lands were sold off. This resulted in a disastrous loss of Indian Land, from 138 million acres in 1887 to 48 million in 1834, 20 million of which was desert (Brooks 4).
In 1924, Congress passed a law giving U.S. citizenship to all Indians born in the U.S., but individual states could still prohibit the Indians from voting. The state of Maine, in 1892, decided that the Passamaquoddy Tribe no longer existed. This meant that the tribe was subject to all state laws. In the education of the Indians, the goal was to eliminate all traces of Indianness in the children (Baussenron 38).
The Great Depression in the 1930’s made fewer jobs available for the Passamaquoddy. Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, based on the concept that the Allotment Act had been a complete failure (Baussenron 38). This new act helped the tribe in self-government and protected the land base of the tribes. It ended the Allotment Act and restored the surplus lands to the Indians. This land only included the land that had not already been sold off.
The Act also encouraged tribes to adopt constitutions. However, this self-government still had to be approved by the federal government. Congress terminated a number of tribes. This meant the Indians no longer existed as a tribe. They were subject to state laws and their lands were sold off. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) encouraged Indians to leave their reservations under its Relocation Program.
BIA offered grants to those Indians who moved to urban areas because there was a high unemployment rate on the reservations. Maine was the last state to allow the Indians to vote, although they did not receive full franchise to vote until 1967, they did have the right to vote in 1954. The 50’s and 60’s brought hard times for the Passamaquoddy; unemployment, dependence on state aid, poor living conditions and overcrowding on the reservations. These misfortunes only made the Passamaquoddies families stronger. When the television came to the reservations, the Passamaquoddy were able to see the civil rights activity in the South. This caused a number of questions among the tribe regarding what their own rights were .
Also in the 1960’s the tribe found out that they were entitled to federal money because its people were so poor. The tribe received federal aid from then on (Brook 4). A group of men and woman of the Passamaqouddy tribe had a sit-in at the site of a non-Indian who was building a cabin on Passamaquoddy land in 1964. The Passamaquoddy were arrested and Don Gellen, the attorney representing them, prepared to file suit by the Passamauoddy against the state of Maine for payment of land taken without compensation in violation of the1794 treat. The Pasaamaquoddy were required to file against the state of Massachusetts instead of Maine because of certain procedural laws. Three days after the filing, Gellen was arrested for possession of marijuana and the case did not make it to court (Brooks 5).
Later in the 1960’s, the Georgia Pacific limber company began cutting timber form Passamaquoddy land with state approval, but without tribal consent. The Passamaquoddy Tribe appealed to the company and to its crews, but they were not successful. Some of the Passamaquoddy dressed up in traditional war attire and staged an attack on the crews. The cutting crew ran away in fear, leaving thousands of dollars in cutting equipment behind. The Tribe confiscated the equipment and Georgia Pacific was forced into negotiations.
The result of this surprising confrontation was a resurgence of tribal self-respect and pride. Congress passed the Indian Civil Right Act in 1968. This act gave Indians the same rights that non-Indian Americans had under the Bill of Rights. In 1970, President Nixon issued a statement that allowed tribes to manage their own affairs with the greatest degree of self government possible. The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 allowed tribes to administer federal Indian programs themselves.
The state of Maine cut off aid for the Passamaquoddy Tribe in 196 …