Two bills of great importance to the Wabanaki are passing through the state legislature quickly before the end of the session this month. Hearings have already happened on these bills and they are moving to the legislature for votes. PLEASE let your Representatives and Senators know that you support these bills. More information about them is on the Wabanaki Alliance website.
L.D. 2004, sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, and co-sponsored by six Republicans, including House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, of Winter Harbor, would allow tribes to benefit from most federal laws – past, present and future. Jurisdiction over serious crimes and gambling would remain under the state’s purview.
Currently, Congress must specifically make Maine tribes eligible for any new federal program or law that affects the state-tribal relationship, which tribal leaders say can include almost anything.
Talbot Ross’ bill seeks to flip that paradigm, forcing the state to lobby Congress to exclude tribes from any future legislation that applies to the nation’s Indigenous tribes. See the attached talking points that do not include the LD number yet.
The second bill, LD 1970, An Act to Enact the Maine Indian Child Welfare Act, is discussed in the talking points below.
Talking points for LD 1970: “An Act to Enact the Maine Indian Child Welfare Act,”sponsored by Rep. Donna Bailey, D-York.
- 1. In 1978, the U.S. Congress worked closely with American Indian and Alaska Nativeelected officials, child welfare experts and families whose children had beenunnecessarily removed from their homes to pass the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.ICWA was designed to protect Indian children and families from biased child welfarepractices and well-documented disregard for their families and culture.
- 2. In 1978, according to theNational Indian Child Welfare Association, nationwide 25% to35% of all Indigenous children were removed from their homes by state child welfareand private adoption agencies. As many as 85% of those children were placed outsideof their families and communities—even when fit and willing relatives were available.
- 3. In Maine, according to a 2015 report of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth &Reconciliation Commission, Wabanaki children were placedin foster care in similarlyhigher rates than non-Native children prior to ICWA’s enactment in 1978. For AroostookCounty in 1972, the rate of removal for Wabanaki children was 62.4 times higher thanthe statewide rate for non-Native children. The rates for Maine were the second highestin the nation at that time. (Source:Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth &Reconciliation Commissionreport, page 21)
- 4. Even after ICWA’s enactment, a disproportionately higher rate of Wabanaki children inMaine are taken into foster care than non-Native children. (Source:Maine WabanakiState Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commissionreport, page 21)
- 5. ICWA serves the best interests of Wabanaki and other Native American children bykeeping them connected to their culture, extended family and community, which areproven protective factors. (Source:“The Indian Child Welfare Act Fact Sheet”preparedby the National Indian Child Welfare Association).
- 6. ICWA has been labeled the “gold standard” in child welfare policy and practice by acoalition of 18 national child advocacy organizations. (Source:“The Indian Child WelfareAct Fact Sheet”prepared by the National Indian Child Welfare Association).
- 7. Nearly 500 tribes, hundreds of supporters, and at least 87 members of Congress supportICWA as the abiding standard in Native child welfare. Source:Partnership With NativeAmericans).
- 8. Maine’s U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree are amongthe 87 members of Congress who signed the “friends of the court” brief supporting ICWAin the pending U.S.Supreme Court review of ICWA’s constitutionality in theBrackeen vs.https://sct.nHaalandcase that is expected to be decided in June. (Source for‘friends of the court”congressional supporters: page 43-46).
- 9. Maine is one of 26 states that filed “friends of the court” briefs in 2019 supportingICWA inthe pendingBrackeen vs. Haalandcase. (Source: Native American Rights Fund,amicusbriefs tribal side.)
- 10. By enactingLD 1970, Maine would join 12 other states that have acted to codify ICWAprotections on the state level. This would protect Wabanaki children, families, cultureand sovereignty if the U.S. Supreme Court decides in June to weaken or destroyprotections that have been known as the “gold standard” of child welfare policies for 40 years. (Sources:Native Organizers Alliance Action FundandNative Americans RightsFund)
Links to sources that might be useful:
- 1.Native American Rights Fund summary of the Haalandv. Brackeen lawsuit brought byTexas and several individual plaintiffs who allege ICWA is unconstitutional.https://narf.org/cases/brackeen-v-bernhardt/
- 2.Setting the Record Straight: National Indian Child Welfare Association’s fact sheet onICWA.https://www.nicwa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Setting-the-Record-Straight2018.pdf
- “Beyond the Mandate: Continuing the Conversation.”3.2015 Report of the MaineWabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
- FinalState Amicus Brief -Brackeen v. Bernhardt4., signed by Maine and 25 other states.