Original Indian tribes

Legislature will seat first Maliseet Indian (January 2, 2012)

AUGUSTA — History will be made when Maine lawmakers return to the Statehouse for their legislative session.

David Slagger will be seated in the House, becoming Maine’s first Maliseet Indian legislator. The University of Maine doctoral candidate will be sworn in by Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday.

Two of Maine’s four tribes - the Penobscots and Passamaquoddies - are already represented in the Legislature; the Micmacs are not. The Houlton Band of Maliseets was authorized to send a representative to the Legislature in 2010.

Maine is unique among the states in having Indian tribal representatives, according to Maine Indian historian Glenn Starbird. The earliest record of Indian representation dates to 1823, three years after Maine became a state, when the Penobscots sent a member.

“As a native person, I want to be a representative that does substantial things that affect our people’s lives in a positive way,” said Mr. Slagger, whose first name is an Anglicized version of his native-language name, pronounced “TAP-it.”

Indian representatives are selected internally by their tribes. They are allowed to submit bills, participate in legislative committee sessions and speak on the floor of the House, but they cannot vote. Their districts are also represented by voting legislators.

The 800-member Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians is part of the larger Maliseet Nation of New Brunswick, and is led by a tribal chief, Brenda Commander. Graydon Nicholas, New Brunswick’s lieutenant governor and a member of the Maliseet Tribe, plans to attend Mr. Slagger’s swearing-in ceremony.