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Beyond Borders: A Wabanaki Perspective

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What is not questioned, it seems, in either the 18th century, or the late 20th and early 21st centuries, is the overall structures of these debates. In the 18th century, the religious and racialized supremacy laid out in the Doctrine of Discovery was just becoming structured enough so that Indian deeds and title were only recognized as making it possible for European settlers—and European settlers only—to have full title to land, even though they had to keep fighting over which European’s claims were to win the day. In the modern era, we face similar discriminatory frameworks. For Wabanaki Nations, the Federal government is surely a better bet than the State, but it is no less beholden by its own sense of superiority and changing dictates, especially considering the Supreme Court decisions recognizing tribal jurisdiction in Oklahoma over criminal acts in Tribal territory in 2020 and removing this authority over non-Indians in 2022.

As the Wabanaki Tribal Nations in what is now Maine fought for sovereignty and self-determination in 2021-22, equal to the Tribes in Oklahoma and across the Nation, with the unpassed legislation LD 1626, we must recognize that this “equal-to” other Tribes across the United States is limited. It is not self-determination or sovereignty on our own terms, even with the recognized fact that our Nations pre-date the creation all the European nations and the United States. As Loron wrote in 1725, with the help of a French Jesuit priest, “Here lies my distinction—my Indian distinction. God hath willed that I have no Kind, and I be master of my lands in common.” This remains our distinction, and our responsibility as Wabanaki people—to care for our lands in common just as our ancestors did—freely, and without masters.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Blaakman, Michael Albert. Speculation Nation: Land and Mania in the Revolutionary American Republic, 1776-1803. New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2016.

Brooks, Lisa. Our Beloved Kin a New History of King Philip's War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018.

Alexandra L. Montgomery, “Projecting Power in the Dawnland: Weaponizing Settlement in the Gulf of Maine World, 1710-1800” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2020).

Saxine, Ian. Properties of Empire: Indians, Colonists, and Land Speculators on the New England Frontier. New York: New York University Press, 2019.

Taylor, Alan. Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier, 1760-1820. The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.