The Passamaquoddy Indians

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.

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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 …

The Passamaquoddy Indians

.. 9. The Passamaquoddy retaliated by blocking off Route One through Indian Township and charging fees for cars and trucks to pass by. The blockade ended when state aid was restored to the Passamaquoddy. By the 1970’s, only a few hundred of the Passamaquoddy’s 2,300 member tribe remained on the Pleasant Point reservation, a 400 acre peninsula on the Bay of Fundy.

A few hundred more inhabited the tribe’s other reservation, Indian Township (Waldman 1). After Gellers’ representation of the tribe ended, the tribe hired attorney Tom Turner, who was fresh out of law school. Turner believed that the 1794 treaty was null and void. He wanted to base the tribe’s claim on the 1790 Trade and Intercourse Act of Congress. This stipulated that no sale of Indian land was valid without authority of the federal government. In 1975, Justice Grignours decided the matter in Federal District Court. He said the Passamaquoddy were entitled to protection under the Trade and Intercourse Act and the federal government would have to sue the state of Maine for taking Passamaquoddy land.

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This caused quite an uproar. Maine politicians publicly fostered a hostile anti-Indian sentiment. The state of Maine claimed that it had jurisdiction over Maine Indians, and they were not entitled to any federal Indian benefits. The Carter administration entered the scene as mediator (Baussenron 39). A settlement was reached in 1980, which stipulated that the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s claims of original Indian title to 12.5 million acres of land in Maine be extinguished in return for $81.5 million for Maine Indians. The Passamaquoddy Tribe received $26.8 to buy 150,000 acres of land in Maine and $13.5 million to be held in trust by the federal government with its interest distributed to each member.

In addition, the Passamaquoddy Indians would be eligible for all federal Indian benefits, and the tribe had the right to govern itself. The Maine tribes built into the settlement the right to buy 300,000 acres of timberland and crafted a diversified investment strategy. Their goal was to use the land-claims money to solve unemployment, create more wealth, and raise their status in the community, said Thomas N. Tureen. In 1982 the Passamaquoddy bought one of the state’s largest blueberry farms and two radio stations, and in 1983 the Dragon Cement Plant, which at the time was losing money.

Under the tribe’s ownership it not only became profitable but also originated a patented pollution-control system that could help resolve the acid-rain crisis (Waldman 1). The tribe sold the cement plant five years later for more than triple the purchase price. This gave the tribe almost $30 million in cash and $23 million to be paid off in installments over 20 years. The tribe used some of the money for social welfare programs, built a Community Center at Indian Township and distributed the rest to individual tribe members. Each Passamaquoddy received about $2,000 a year over about five years until the entire lump sum profit was gone.

The Passamaquoddy kept ownership of the scrubber technology, which uses waste products to convert acidic emissions into salable by-products and could have become the tribe’s next big money-maker. The Department of Energy and the Spanish buyers of the plant have since agreed to fund the construction of a $9.6 million prototype scrubber at the Maine plant (Cohen 1). Of the Passamaquoddy’s other investment, the radio station was sold at a loss, and only Northeastern Blueberry and the trunk-liner factory remain in tribal hands (Waldman 2). The Passamaquoddy Indians were the first tribe to go shopping for investments, and this made them a symbol for other Indian tribes. Dozens of the nation’s 500 federally reorganized Indian tribes have, in recent years sharpened their business skills and begun to aggressively persue the kinds of deals and joint ventures with corporations, new factories to be built on reservations, and control the mining and drilling on their lands. The Mississippi Choctaws’ five auto-parts factories and one greeting-card operation not only have raised tribal employment to more than 80 percent, it has also made the tribe one of the state’s fifteen largest employers of workers.

Other tribes, such as the Salt-River Pima Maricopa, of Arizona, New Mexico’s Jicarilla, Apache, and the Devils Lake Sioux, of North Dakota, have likewise built well-managed tribal enterprises (Coben 2). Through a combination of bad advice, bad judgement and bad luck, the Passamaquoddy and the Penobscot investment never made enough money to lift the tribes out of poverty and create a large numbers of jobs. Today on the Passamaquoddy reservation, the most vivid legacy of the 1980 victory is dubbed Land Claim Day, an event each December when the 2,500 tribe members line up in alphabetical order to pick up a check for about $200, their annual dividend from the tribe’s investments. Some things have improved at Pleasant Point since the mid-1970s, when many of the remaining Passamaquoddy lived in wood shacks with bare floors and outhouses in the back. The reservation’s streets today are lined with government built ranch houses and capes. Brick faced or cedar, they are crammed onto the land helter-skelter, some with a view of the ocean, others with decks overlooking the sewage treatment plant.

Inside they are warm and clean, with all the appliances of any modern suburban household. Outside things are not as tidy. Built by the low bidder, these homes have no garages to hide the firewood, tricycles and junked cars that, left on front lawns, can make a neighborhood look cluttered. In the middle of the day, adults walk along the roads and stop for sundaes or cigarettes at the tribe’s Wabanaki Mall on Route 1. This is a Texaco mini-mart partitioned to make room for a convenience store, a luncheonette and a video rental business. At Pleasant Point, half of the 386 working age adults are unemployed, said Rick Doyle, the tribe’s director of planning.

Some can’t find jobs in these remote, economically depressed regions of the state. Others have persistent alcohol and drug problems and simply can’t hold on to their jobs (Ballen 2). In 1993, the Passamaquoddy asked the Maine Legislature for permission to build a casino in the town of Calacis, a depressed Canadian border city almost exactly halfway between the reservation at Pleasant Point and Indian Township. Unlike the Pequot or the Mohegan Indian tribes in Connecticut, the Passamaquoddy tribe cannot build casinos, without legislative approval because they signed away their rights under future federal laws as part of their land claims settlements. The federal law that allowed Indian gambling was passed by Congress eight years after the Maine land claims case.

In mid April of 1994. The Passamaquoddy’s casino plan was rejected by the Maine Legislature. Due to the remoteness of the Passamaquody reservation in Washington County, Maine, the tribe was able to escape many destructive federal Indian policies. In all reality, though, the tribe’s biggest threat has not traditionally been the federal government, but rather the state of Maine’s hostile anti-Indian administration. History.


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