For over forty years the Wabanaki people of Maine have had their sovereignty diminished as a result of the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act (MICSA), an arrangement with the state and federal government unlike any other tribal sovereignty arrangement in the Unites States. The MICSA was born from a decades-long debate over land rights and resource rights in Maine, culminating in a “compromise” that avoided political conflict at the expense of Wabanaki sovereignty. Under the MICSA, the Wabanaki do not have sovereign status, instead only holding sovereign control over those matters the state deems “internal tribal matters.” Among the many aspects of self-governance affected by this lack of sovereignty is an inability to exert full autonomous control over natural resources on Wabanaki lands and waters. Renewable energy is an example of one such resource that could provide immense benefits to the Wabanaki people by allowing increased independence from the state and a source of additional income. Through a review and re-interpretation of the MICSA’s history and case law, this Comment seeks to redefine the definition of internal tribal matters to encompass the development of renewable energy projects contained within Wabanaki lands if created with the intent of directly supporting Wabanaki communities. This new test for determining internal tribal matters is then applied to hypothetical utility scale and small-scale renewable projects to determine when the Wabanaki could proceed with development as sovereigns without oversight from the state. This Comment will conclude with a brief discussion of the broader issues inherent in the current status of the Wabanaki under the MICSA with an eye towards a more comprehensive solution and grant of full sovereignty.

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