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Penobscot Nation v. Mills

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20241
Nos. 1:12-cv-254-GZS, (D. Me., 12/16/2015) (Singal, J.)

A district court granted in part and denied in part cross-motions for summary judgment in a dispute between a Native American tribe and the state of Maine concerning the tribe's regulatory jurisdiction and fishing rights along the main stem of the Penobscot River. The court agreed with the tribe that its sustenance fishing rights extend for the entirety of the main stem section of the river. Although the applicable regulation is ambiguous, the undisputed record shows a long history of sustenance fishing along the entirety of the main stem and an intention on the part of the Maine Legislature, Congress, and the tribe to maintain this status quo with the passage of the Maine Implementing Act and the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. But the court rejected the tribe's argument that the reservation included water as well as land. The plain language of the Maine Implementing Act and the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act clearly define the reservation to include the delineated islands of the main stem, but do not suggest that any of the waters of the main stem fall within the reservation.