Franklin Countys First News

Politics & Other Mistakes: The C word

Al Diamon

In the complicated debate over how to correct injustices heaped upon Maine’s Indigenous People, there’s a word nobody dares to use.

No, not the former name of what’s now known as the “Washington Football Team.” (Too bad they didn’t rename it “Washington Team Football,” because then the initials would have accurately reflected that organization’s long history of racism, sexism and inept sports management.)

The term that everyone is tiptoeing around as the Legislature considers a massive revamping of the state’s relationship with its tribes isn’t one of those unacceptable epithets concerning race or sex. So why isn’t anyone courageous enough to come right out and say it?

Because it’s really about that other thing that makes folks squeamish:

Money.

Obviously, that’s not the word nobody will use. People of all ethnicities talk about money all the time. The innocuous collection of syllables that cannot be uttered in public is less about cash itself than the grubby business of how to get it.

So naturally, it’s in all the parties’ best interests to avoid the shunned word, and put the emphasis in the debate on something more principled. Unfortunately, that means other serious issues are being employed by the participants as camouflage to obscure what none of them wants to mention.

“Change must be made in our education, judicial and law enforcement institutions,” Donna Loring, a Penobscot Nation elder, wrote in a June newspaper op-ed.

Hard to dispute that.

In February, Maulian Dana, the Penobscot’s tribal ambassador, told the Portland Press Herald, “Indigenous nations are not special interests, and these are equal rights, not special rights.”

Amen to that.

According to a story in the Original Irregular, Bert Polchics, a Penobscot Nation member, told the Carrabassett Valley selectmen last month, “We need to be able to control our own destinies. … [O]ur ways are not to create harm in any way, to endanger or to destroy. We’re trying to protect and make things better.”

Everybody get on board. But before the love train leaves the station, make room in the caboose for that thing that isn’t being talked about:

The C word.

The 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act gave the tribes that were parties to it lots of land. But it also put lots of restriction on how that land could be used. Native Americans couldn’t simply decide to build a nuclear waste dump. They couldn’t unilaterally start selling recreational marijuana. And they couldn’t legalize gambling.

Which brings us – finally – to the dreaded C word. Readers whose moral principles prevent them from watching TV shows preceded by warnings that they’re for “mature audiences” should forego the remaining paragraphs. Because the C word is:

Casino.

Buried in the 22 proposed changes to Maine’s laws governing its relationship with the tribes is a section allowing gambling on all Indian land. But any clods so lacking in social graces that they’d actually bring up that point should be prepared to be buried in self-righteous indignation.

“We’re not here for casinos,” Michael-Corey Hinton, a lawyer for the Passamaquoddy Tribe told a legislative committee in February. “We are here to restore our sovereignty and our ability to self-govern.”

Then he added, “Under federal law, that would include the right to game.”

Hinton wasn’t talking about partridge.

I live in an area of western Maine almost entirely surrounded by land the Penobscots bought under the Settlement Act. If this legislation is approved, there’s a good chance I’ll have a gambling emporium for a neighbor. I’ve got no problem with that. Except for one thing.

Maine needs to revise its gaming laws not only to allow Indian casinos, but also to permit any other reasonably qualified entity willing to pay a hefty licensing fee and a ridiculous tax on profits to offer slot machines and table games. For too long, gambling policy has been set by referendums, rather than sensible regulations.

Either everybody should be able to operate a casino, or nobody should.

That’s just a matter of a phrase that also begins with C:

Common sense.

Raise the stakes by emailing me at aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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20 Responses »

  1. No thank you, I'd rather see the Abenaki recognized and awarded some of the land they were driven from returned so they can build a community in their ancestral territory. They are but one of many peoples driven away by the Englishmen who would later become the Americans who then insisted it wasn't their wrong to right because the British were in charge then.

    And the there are the Metis, the mixed blood descendants of European and Native American peoples who maintained communities here until the English decided this was unseemly. These are the folk who have been dismissed as "not Native enough" ever since they were segregated from their Native cousins.

    Oh, there's a great deal that can be done to account for these wrongs that a conversation on gaming isn't going to touch. So let's have that discussion instead, shall we?

  2. Bring on the casino and say good bye to the self initialed group that cant seem to read the " no parking " and "No Trespassing " signs that are getting posted everywhere. Ask permission, it's not that hard of a concept to get and if it says stay off then stay the hell off it.

  3. Resident, don’t worry....everybody obeys the laws and respects landowners. Haaa, not a chance. We can’t even get the current crop of 4 Wheeler knuckleheads to stay off any land. They are a nuisance, moreso if you have land that’s posted. I read in local papers where there are complaints coming from residential neighborhoods. This isn’t in the woods on twitch roads, this is where housing is clustered. The COVID refugees and their kids from Portland, and points south, don’t care what you think. The landowners should shut down the snowmobile access because it’s is where they get access and the root cause of this problem. Maybe then some pressure will be brought to bear. Wish the Indians luck, local landowners haven’t had any.

  4. Peter I agree totally about the atvs but they aren't the only group. I hear more complaints from people that have the fat bikers and walkers coming out of the woods into their yards and just cutting across the yards without a care in the world or an ounce of respect.

  5. You can see evidence of these four wheelers not respecting laws by driving across Mosher Hill Rd. The town recently graded the short dirt portion and the next day you could see where they deemed it necessary to go spin the road up no wonder people are frustrated with these people.

  6. This right here is pure hypocritical gold,

    “We’re not here for casinos,” Michael-Corey Hinton, a lawyer for the Passamaquoddy Tribe told a legislative committee in February. “We are here to restore our sovereignty and our ability to self-govern.”

    Then he added, “Under federal law, that would include the right to game.”

    He speaks of sovereignty and self governance, then cites federal law and gaming.

    In all equality and fairness, it is a common belief that people who fight the US and lose, don't deserve a place of honor and that things named after them or a likeness of once living people should be removed, the CSA comes to mind, then should not everybody who has fought against the US in defense their culture and heritage be given equal treatment, Indians included? So that would mean pretty much everything named after them or likeness should be removed, and every piece of land that was once claimed by the CSA was taken by the US, so shouldn't all Indian territory be take taken from them and reincorporated into the respective states they are contained in. The CSA is nonexistant, its members do not get to make demands of any government. That is what the left wants right? Equal treatment and equal justice...I can support that, but only if they fully understand and commit to what that those things really entail. And given the current state of civil unrest, it is abundantly clear that they do not know the meaning of equal treatment and equal justice.

  7. They should have the right to game but only among their own nation unless everyone else has that right to. As far as access to property it is disappearing in many states as property continues to be destroyed or people find ways to profit from the access. Many years ago when I started wheeling it was on a small three-wheeler with knobby tires. I could go almost any where and not leave much of a mark. Today they are the size of mini-willis jeeps with tires that rival the two or more inch picks placed on the snow mobiles of today. You come. You destroy. You leave. The question you should be asking yourself is why would any sane person want you on their property. If some self-regulation doesnt happen in this direction in these past times many people are just going to quietly say "NO THANKS". Dont believe it? Just look at some of the rock piles on the trails of today. Yes you can bring in heavy equipment and yes it does help but it can never replace a little common sense.

  8. Last thing I'll say is that if we're serious about undoing the wrongs done by those who oppressed the Indigenous and Metis we can begin by teaching the true story of colonization in our schools. That means removing the names of the well connected, like Columbus, who made their way here after unknown fishermen from Europe had already made contact and established trade. It means recognizing the fact that Saint Lawrence River Iroquois and French were wed near Quebec in 1535 as part of a French effort to secure an alliance. And that this and the alliance formed between Mi'kmaw and French did more to affect life here in Maine until the mid 1700's than anything that took place in Massachusetts did. As we do let us not forget to explain how the Native peoples of Maine were driven away in an effort which lasted more than 100 years and involved many atrocities. These conflicts had such an impact on all they created a nomansland where few dared venture after the original inhabitants of Western Maine left for Quebec. The French refer to this exodus and the expulsions that follow as "Le Grand Derangement" or "The Great Upheaval". My own ancestors traveled as far as the Northwest Territories in an attempt to avoid conflict during this time only to find themselves fighting alongside the Yellowknife and other First Nations. The English had in essence herded Native and Metis from one side of the continent to the other.

    Until the truth is widely understood we won't understand each other. I tell this story from the perspective of a mixed blood descendant Iroquois, Mi'kmaw, French, and English. As such I'm sure to lack the perspective of my full blood cousins from whom I'd be happy to learn more, as I expect others would be. They could tell you what it was like to live through the events I described above as a full blood.

  9. Jay,
    A little bit of historical insight.

    The settlers in what we know as Portland were attacked by Indians and their position was overrun. The women raped and the men killed. The settlement was wiped out and the survivors decamped back to Mass. They wanted payback. When they regrouped and armed up, they returned. They weren’t taking any prisoners, all business. You see the nice guy liberal socialist model didn’t work well then, much the same as it doesn’t work today. In battle, you defeat your enemy deciseably or you die trying. Our ancestors knew this well and the indians eventually figured it out. If you attack Americans your days are numbered. When you capitulate, you get to live, that’s it, no special deals. See the Germans and Japanese for details. It’s called unconditional surrender for a good reason.

    Bureau of Land mismanagement is the source for all the free money flowing to the “tribes”. Housing, medical care, education and all manner of free stuff has been lavished on these guys for how long? Despite preferential status in college admissions few advance. Need more evidence, head out on a road trip to an indian reservation, note the unemployed, the level of substance abuse and the wantonly destroyed government housing. These guys don’t care, they only want the free ride, that’s their golden ticket. Casinos are a business and as such all Americans should be able to enter the business without any special preferential treatment.

  10. The problem with your story is the word "settlers." You should have written "invaders." Or perhaps "thieves," as they were taking land and resources. Evil invading theives with no respect for the property and the lives of anyone but their own kind. That's what the settlers were.

    Now, we can't go back in time. When my kids were 8 and 5 and we were in South Dakota I drove through the Pine Ridge Indian reservation. One of the poorest places in North America. The kids were shocked at the third world conditions. "What happened to these people," the eldest asked. "They lost a war," I replied. "To who?" said the younger one. "The Americans," I deadpanned. "But that's us!"

    I explained we aren't guilty of the crimes down a century ago, but this is how history advantages some and disadvantages others. Privileges some, creates systemic racism against others. And once its in place, people will blame the victims, like you do. I want to make sure my kids never think in that disgusting and historically false manner. It's probably too late to help you.

  11. Many stories were told in an effort to hide the atrocities that were committed by those who sought to take land. There were retaliations of course. What you call history is more propaganda than it is an account of events as they occurred. That's why it's as truncated as it is. The vast majority know this so I'm unconcerned that you appear not to.

  12. Scott Erb
    August 4, 2020 • 12:29 pm
    The problem with your story is the word "settlers." You should have written "invaders." Or perhaps "thieves," as they were taking land and resources. Evil invading theives with no respect for the property and the lives of anyone but their own kind. That's what the settlers were.

    I want to make sure my kids never think in that disgusting and historically false manner. It's probably too late to help you.

    Hmm.... Scott, I believe they would be called Undocumented Settlers - Just looking for better life, opportunity and freedom. They were Dreamers you might say.

    You just cant help yourself can you? You present a nice way of explaining something terrible to a child, you could have followed that with facts to back up your version or facts to discount Peters version or just left well enough alone instead you end with an insult...

    I cant believe you truly think this is a great way to interact with the community, Just because you vehemently disagree doesn't really mean you must speak with Venom.

  13. History has given us more than a few good catch phrases. “The victors write the tale” and “ dead men tell none” . Both are applicable and well worth keeping in mind, particular given the fake news environment we Currently suffer. Maybe the cities burning, police killed, women stabbed, and destroyed businesses are really just The actions of peaceful citizens. The destruction, killings and assaults must be an illusion or it’s propaganda. Yeah, that’s it.

    I recall numerous talks with relatives that served in WWII. Their read on war was simple. Win at all costs or be prepared to live in servitude. We aren’t speaking German or Japanese and they set the world order for 60 years. There was never any guilt involved with these folks. That’s what we learned as kids and it has served me well.

    Re., Propaganda, I’ll just assume the dead men and sexual assaulted women, of what is now Portland, were just made up. Or perhaps it was universally accepted form of native community imitation. A friendly greeting maybe. That’s rich. A sharp defense attorney could possibly use this angle. Victim status isn’t going get you much when the evidence supports the crime.

  14. Thanks Peter for the history lesson. When were the settlers attacked? You call them Americans so was this after 1788? My research shows British troops helped British colonists take back Portland. At that time, the only Americans were the natives, or Indians as you mistakingly call them.
    The term Indian is ethnically wrong. The natives were not Indian and the British knew this as they were already in India and the people of India are called Indians. Please correct your posts of such innacuracies

  15. Pure the funniest thing is Scott is a “teacher” at UMF where more “teachers” are “educated” and wait for it he is now BACK ON THE SCHOOL BOARD !!! What a great bunch of folks we have to deal with in society. SMH 🤦🏽‍♂️

  16. Awww,

    Want some morning humor, try reading the many comments written by the students, who take poly sci courses at our non property tax paying college In town. Guess who warms a chair in that department? I recall sociology and psychology courses in college as well. Folks took these courses essentially to boost their flagging CPA without having to put in much (any) effort. A no-show, shoot the breeze exercise in which one could easily get a 4.0. Said comments support the allegations. Not likely the administration looks to closely at the students I put as long as they all keep getting paid.

    This is what qualifies as “essential” in the eyes of our one term governor. Keep this in mind if you’re unemployed or in a business suffering from the biased political shut down of our states economy. You get a vote my friends, make sure you use it.

  17. They are the people who were here first,at least might be. As more digging occurs in this country it seems more then a few "crime scenes" of ancient peoples that disappeared pop up. How? Nobodys talking. It was the way of the world and still is only in a more subtle way. " Native" peoples were wiping each other out long before we come on the scene as we were where we come from. Red,Black,Yellow,White, no one can make the claim they come from a place where there was no violence to their fellow man. When the first of the long hunters made their way into this continent many fit right in and led happy lives with the native peoples. Why? Because they conformed. The people that come after them brought their way of life with them and the problems began. What do I say? Stop whining and living in the past. Try to make a life for you and yours. Bend with time and the winds of change or break and leave no mark on the world.

  18. Mr. Erb Have you ever thought of your self as and 'invader' or 'thief'... Where did you come to Farmington town from and try to tell the locals how life should be and how they should live and think?

  19. @holt. I can assure you he is from away, although I don't know from which planet.

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