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Maine Repatriation of Human Remains [archive]

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Press Release: February 18, 2002
Passamaquoddy Representative Donald Soctomah discusses LD 1940
An Act Regarding the Repatriation of Native American Human Remains

Representative Donald Soctomah, Passamaquoddy Tribal Representative to the 120th Session of the Maine Legislature, announced an important development toward passage of LD 1940, An Act Regarding the Repatriation of Native American Human Remains.

Earlier in February the Maine Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary voted 12 to 1 to recommend to the full legislature that the legislation be passed and signed into law by Governor Angus S. King Jr. "Passage of my legislation is an important step to ensure that should any Native human remains be discovered, the sacred remains be turned over to the Inter-tribal Repatriation Committee, the appropriate organization of the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, MicMac and Maliseet Tribes to ensure the remains be properly buried and provided all of the respect they deserve," said Rep. Soctomah, the Passamaquoddy Tribal Representative since 1998. "It is important that if an ancestors remains are discovered, they be returned so that the remains may forever rest at peace."

Soctomah said he was pleased with the Judiciary Committee's support and he pledged to vigorously work toward passage of the bill when it is considered in the House of Representatives and the Maine Senate.

Soctomah also announced he and senior members of Tribal leadership are in discussions with Domtar Industries regarding a plan to protect an Island in Big Lake, owned by Domtar. "In the 1800's, many Tribal members were sent to the Island because they had contracted smallpox. Because no treatment was available for the Tribal people in the 1800's, essentially they were sent to the Island to protect the rest of the Tribe from the outbreak. Here on the Island they died because of the lack of immunity and lack of medical treatment. Our surviving ancestors went back to the Island to bury the dead, their fathers, mothers and children, hundreds of people died. The Island is a very sacred spot to our Tribe and it is important to my people and me that we set proper steps to preserve and protect those burial grounds. Each year the Tribal church conducts mass on the Island and blesses the grounds and the Tribe also conducts other ceremonies to honor our ancestors."

"We have spoken to members of Domtar's Mill management team in Baileyville and found them willing to work with the Tribe to ensure that our concerns be fully addressed," said Soctomah. He said the Tribe expects to continue discussions with Domtar into the spring to fully develop a plan of protection and preservation for the Island.

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