April 1, 2013

What does confiscating a young Native woman’s net achieve?

 Vera Francis, Passamaquoddy

The Passamaquoddy want full access to saltwater fishing. It’s not the free-for-all that state officials would like most to believe on the Tribe’s part, but based on the state’s own show of force last night its looking more and more like one.

The Tribe has a fisheries management plan based on a reasonable quota, Maine issues an unlimited access for elvers. Last night Maine’s Department of Marine Resources (DMR) commissioner Patrick Keilher himself led a raid at the Pennamaquan River (Pembroke, Maine), which resulted in three fyke nets being confiscated followed by several members being targeted for random traffic stops by the state police.

Why do you think there are 500 or more people willing to stand up and say we want to fish, we want to take care of our resources, and we want to grow a traditional economy? Put your fears aside, and ask yourselves this question. Ours is a community response saying enough is enough. Is the relationship between the state and the tribe healthy? No. For the Tribe, it’s about the health of the people and we don’t need anyone’s permission to acquire good health and to lead productive lives. A traditional economy is one that supports the people, and Passamaquoddy people want to step into growing and strengthening theirs.

The state claims that the Passamaquoddy are out of compliance; the Passamaquoddy are still here, we’re not static, we’re intact, and we’re not out of compliance because we are Passamaquoddy who have never stopped fishing. The Tribe’s fisheries management plan is the foundation of a more comprehensive fishery, which incorporates a traditional economy. Not everyone is going out to fish, but everyone is welcome to participate and to do their part. The practice of a traditional economy is not new to the Passamaquoddy, but it is also where the world’s populations are themselves moving toward, a model of sharing, cooperation, and respect. To achieve this, the Passamaquoddy require full access to their inherent right to fish, and their inherent responsibilities associated with co-managing the fishery.

Focusing on threatening those socially and economically stressed takes the focus off the real issue; the issue is the Tribe’s authority and jurisdiction. If the state takes issue with that, deal government-to-government and help shift the present dynamic between the tribe and the state. Tell Maine’s DMR commissioner to stop molesting and harassing the tribal membership who are merely trying to eek out a moderate livelihood within an economically distressed county.


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