Youth and Education news Volume 1 February 2012
1st Maliseet Legislator for Maine Sworn In
Condensed by Native Village
Maine: Native American history was made when Maliseet tribal member, David Slagger, joined Maine's State Legislature. Slagger increased the representation of Maine's Indian tribes by 50%.
"This is such an exciting day. It's a day that's long overdue, really," said Brenda Commander, chief of the Houlton band of Maliseets. "I mean we've waited all these years to have a voice here in the State House and the legislature, and now today we finally have our representative and it's historic for us."
Slagger is joined at the State House by representatives of Maine's two biggest tribes, the Passamaquoddy and the Penobscot nation. Tribal legislators are selected by their tribes.
While Native lawmakers can propose bills, sit on committees and make speeches, they cannot vote.
Nevertheless, John Dieffenbacher-Krall is pleased. Many issues discussed by Maine's lawmakers are of special interest to the tribes. He said Maine is unique in giving its tribes this kind of political voice.
"Maine is number one," said Dieffenbacher-Krall, director of the Maine Indian Tribal States Commission. "Maine is the only state with the United States that has this position of tribal representatives to the legislature."
Slagger's initial focus is a crack down on people who sell their arts and crafts by impersonating Native Americans. While a federal Indian arts and crafts law exists, too much is passed off as tribal when it isn't. Slagger's system would require artists to validate their products through tribal ID numbers.
"You can't go out and impersonate something to make revenue - that's not the way it works. And it's offensive to the tribes, selling our name and our products," said Slagger.
Wayne Mitchell has represented the Penobscots in the legislature for four years. He welcomes the expansion of Maine's tribal delegations.
"It's important for [Native Nations] to be able to speak for themselves," he said. "Every tribe is unique, every tribe has unique cultural practices. And I think it's important for them to be able to have that voice."
Apart from the Passamaquoddy, the Penobscot and the Maliseet, Maine is home to two other tribes: the Abenaki and the Micmac. All five tribes belong to the Wabanaki Confederacy.
Village © Gina Boltz
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