Maine Indian Claims Act (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: Beginning in the 1960's, tribes in the eastern United States alleged that state governments had illegally taken their lands; the Maine Indian Claims Act prompted a number of eastern tribes to settle similar claims rather than go through the courts.
In 1964, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, recognized by the state of Maine but not the federal government, sought protection from what it determined were illegal incursions on their lands. Both state and federal governments refused to assist the tribe. The Passamaquoddy, joined by the Penobscots, initiated a lawsuit in which they asserted protection under the Trade and Intercourse Act of 1790, which prevented tribes from selling lands unless approved by Congress. The basis of the lawsuit was that their land transfers never received such approval. The tribes won a series of lower court cases, and so the United States was obliged to bring suit against Maine for illegal purchase of Indian land. The court decisions left 1.25 million acres, two-thirds of Maine, under clouded land titles. The Maliseet Tribe also joined the lawsuit. Maine agreed to settle out of court rather than face complicated, expensive legal negotiations. The settlement extinguished all Indian claims to land. In return, the United States provided $27 million in a trust fund for the tribes, and another $54.5 million was set aside for the tribes to purchase land. The tribes also received federal recognition.
(The entire section is 225 words.)
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