Monday, March 2, 2015

Gov. LePage calls EPA decision on Maine tribal waters "outrageous"

In today's Portland Press Herald, I wrote about the latest flashpoint between Maine's Indian tribes and the state's government who are at odds on many fronts over sovereignty issues.

The latest news is that Governor Paul LePage has sent a fiery and defiant letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, calling a recent order to improve water quality in tribal waters "outrageous" and charging it with vindictive behavior toward the state. It's also revealed that the tribes -- already at odds with the state over saltwater fishing, the applicaibility of the federal Violence Against Women Act to their territories, and other issues -- have called on Congress to intervene.

Here's a taste:

“Ultimately this is not about the water quality; this is just a platform to try to undermine the settlement acts,” said Manahan, a partner at Pierce Atwood who has been tangling with the Penobscots for 25 years on behalf of paper companies, dam owners and others. “I don’t think the tribes frankly care if there are job losses to municipalities and industries in Maine, and I don’t think EPA does either.”

Manahan described potentially dire economic consequences in the Penobscot River valley if more stringent standards are adopted to meet the EPA’s order: municipalities shelling out millions to improve wastewater treatment and having to raise property taxes to pay for it, and industrial users having to scale back production or buy new equipment. “For companies, this could result in job layoffs or cost increases that might cause them to make decisions to move elsewhere,” he said.

But the EPA says that’s not true, and that municipalities and most industrial dischargers on the river will almost certainly be unaffected by the tighter standards. “Based on the discharge information we’ve seen for these facilities, the vast majority won’t have to be concerned about most of these standards,” said Ken Moraff, director of ecosystem protection at EPA’s New England office in Boston. “We are not aware of any dischargers that are fundamentally in conflict with the sustenance fishing use.”
For additional background on the history of Maine's tribal-state relations, consider "Unsettled", the 31-part Press Herald series on the Passamaquoddy, which appeared in the paper last summer. (It's also available as an e-book here.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Maine tribes want to prosecute domestic violence cases, state says no.

In yesterday's Portland Press Herald, I have a story on (yet another) jurisdictional conflict between the State of Maine and Maine's Indian tribes.

In the latest development, the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy tribe have asked legislators to approve a law that would give them jurisdiction to prosecute certain domestic violence cases involving non-Indians who abuse women, spouses, or partners on their reservations. The action is in accord with the federal Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2013, but the state Attorney General tells me her office contends the act does not apply to Maine tribes.

The Penobscot Nation is also involved in a dispute between the federal government and the state over water pollution in the Penobscot River, while both tribes have a long history of conflict with the state over the meaning of the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Acts, described briefly here as part of my 31-part series "Unsettled." (The latter available as an ebook here.)

[UPDATE, 2/28/15: Several readers asked if I could share the full written statement from the state attorney general's office. For those interested, here it is:

"Whether a Maine tribe may summons a nontribal member for violating a tribal ordinance is an issue in the pending lawsuit brought by the Penobscot Indian Nation against the State of Maine seeking exclusive jurisdiction over 60 miles of the Penobscot River.
 
Beyond that, VAWA's extension to tribal courts was meant to address a serious problem in certain states where federal officials have prosecuted nontribal offenders and where access to justice for tribal members is difficult. See Congressional Research Service report attached. In Maine, state courts hear criminal charges and protection from abuse complaints brought against nontribal members. 
 
There are serious questions about what LD 268 proposes to do. Among other things: the bill presupposes jurisdiction which VAWA accords to the western tribes but not to the tribes in Maine; the bill is inconsistent with the Maine Criminal Code in major respects and is fundamentally nonspecific in other respects; it proposes to bootstrap certain provisions of federal law into state law without providing vital notice about what acts it would make criminal;  and the bill fails to address the basic constitutional rights of the accused, including the right to a public jury trial, the right of appeal and postconviction review to state and federal courts, double jeopardy, etc." ]

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Population figures for the American Nations

For those with an interest in the regional model set forth in my most recent book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, here are population figures for the U.S. portions of each of the nations as per the 2010 census.

From most populous to least populous:

Greater Appalachia         56.56 million
Yankeedom                      55.06 million
Deep South                      41.36 million
Midlands                          37.05 million
El Norte                           31.54 million
Far West                           27.81 million
New Netherland               18.07 million
Left Coast                        16.96 million
Tidewater                         11.93 million
New France                        2.76 million
First Nation                        0.06 million

Also, for those keeping count: the Spanish Caribbean section of south Florida has a population of 4.85 million; Hawaii (Greater Polynesia) has 1.36 million people. (Thanks to Nicollette Staton of the Miami University of Ohio's geography department for the calculations.)

If you're unfamiliar with the American Nations map, start with this Washington Post article and, if for a deeper and better explanation, this Washington Monthly feature.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Why Maine and New England are passionate about (tiny) strong town governments


In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram I explain why New Englanders in general and Mainers in specific are such passionate defenders of their strong town government system, where hundreds of hamlets with just a few hundred or few thousand people function as small republics unto themselves, with broad powers of self-government. Like so many things hereabouts, it all goes back to the early Puritans.

Here's a taste:

"Believing themselves on a religious errand to build a more godly society in the American wilderness, the Puritans expected townspeople to work together toward the common good, governing themselves without the interference of bishops, kings or even county officials. Citizens came together in town meetings to act as miniature parliaments, giving direction to elected selectmen.
New Englanders didn’t fear their government because, in a very real sense, they were the government. 

Efforts to centralize power by royal officials – in the late 1680s and again in the mid-1770s – ran into intractable opposition including, in the latter instance, armed resistance by municipally organized and controlled militia units."
These issues are in the news again because of renewed efforts by Gov. Paul LePage to encourage municipalities to share and consolidate services and powers on the theory that this will save money -- an effort pursued by immediate past Democratic and Independent governors as well. As the essay notes, consolidation can indeed save money and allow for more intelligent planning, but it can also wind up being a costly boondoggle. The devil is in the details and in who gets to decide who cooperates with whom and over what.

For more on these issues in Maine, consider delving into my cultural history of our state, The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier; on the Puritans, the New England way, and its effect on regional politics and social norms, try American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

That is all.

[Update 2/21/15: My colleagues at the Press Herald opinion department took the essay to heart in this editorial.]



Friday, February 6, 2015

In victory for tribes, feds step in to overrule Maine water quality rules

In today's Portland Press Herald I reported on a potentially game changing ruling by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in regards to Maine's jurisdiction over Indian lands.

Since the historic 1980 Maine Indian Settlement Acts, the state has asserted broad jurisdiction over the tribes including environmental rules and the federal government has generally stood aside. But earlier this week the EPA ruled that Maine's proposed water quality standards violate the Settlement Acts by not ensuring that fish on the reservations are safe to eat in quantity.

The Penobscot Nation says the decision is "historic" as it suggests the federal government may take a more active role as the tribes' trustee. The Passamaquoddy did not respond by press time yesterday, but released a press release today expressing satisfaction with the ruling.

Last year I wrote a 31-part series in the Press Herald on the Passamaquoddy and their fraught relationship with Maine and their own leaders. It's also available as an ebook (free, even, for subscribers.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Republic of Pirates, now in Chinese


I'm pleased to report that my third book, The Republic of Pirates, is now available in a Taiwanese Mandarin translation from Taipei's Cite/Business Weekly group. I particularly like the cover.

The publisher's web page for the title is here. It's the second of my books to be translated into Chinese, the first being Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas, which was released in the People's Republic of China by Yiwen Shanghai in 2002. 

Republic of Pirates is also available in U.K, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Hungarian, Polish, and audiobook editions and is the inspiration for the NBC series "Crossbones" which is currently airing in Poland and Germany.






Monday, January 26, 2015

Republic of Pirates, now in Hungarian


I'm especially pleased to announce the Hungarian language edition of my third book, The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and The Man Who Brought Them Down, as I called Budapest home for nearly five years between 1989 and 1995.

The new edition, Kalózköztársaság, is from Könyvmolyképző Kiadó in that most paprika-worthy of cities, Szeged. At this writing it's even on sale at their website -- just HUF 2764. I gather the official release date is February 24, but it seems to be available now.

Republic of Pirates, the inspiration for the NBC drama "Crossbones", is also available in US, UK, Spanish, Portugeuse, Polish, Danish, and, shortly, Taiwan Chinese editions.