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Statement from Maine Youth for Climate Justice in support of L.D. 1626, the Tribal Sovereignty bill, by Julia St.Clair. MYCJ members Andrew Blunt, Cassie Cain, Becca Ferguson, Audrey Hufnagel, and Ezra Sassaman contributed to this piece.


Maine Youth for Climate Justice (MYCJ) stands in solidarity with the Wabanaki Tribes in support of L.D. 1626 “An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act.” We are a coalition of 400 youth from across the state who are fighting for bold climate action and a just transition to a livable future in Maine. Supporting tribal sovereignty is an integral part of our work to center and uplift the voices of folks who have been historically excluded from narratives around environmental activism and climate change.


At the core of MYCJ’s work is climate justice; we acknowledge that the climate crisis is caused by systemic failures and forms of oppression, and disproportionately impacts marginalized communities. Colonialism is at the root of climate change, so when combatting the climate crisis, we need to simultaneously address colonial structures and the environmental injustices they have caused.


The place now called Maine is the homeland of the Wabanaki people and they have stewarded this land since time immemorial. However, when it comes to the decisions that impact their lands, waters, and livelihoods, the Wabanaki community has been denied an equal seat at the table and often excluded from decision-making processes altogether.


The State of Maine has continually prevented Wabanaki Tribes from exercising their sovereign right to regulate their lands and waters, resulting in many forms of environmental injustice, including a lack of clean drinking water on the Passamaquoddy reservation at Sipayik (Pleasant Point). Additionally, paper mills, chemical companies, and the state-owned Juniper Ridge landfill all pollute the Penobscot River, which has made it impossible for the Penobscot Nation to exercise their sustenance fishing rights. Restoring tribal sovereignty and self-determination over land use and natural resources is an essential step in beginning to address these harms perpetuated for generations against the Wabanaki Tribes.


Alongside these environmental injustices, the Wabanaki Tribes face a challenging and imminent climate reality. They are on the frontlines of the climate crisis as climate change disproportionately affects Indigenous peoples, people of color, and low-income communities. For example, increasingly erratic flooding and warming waters are already fundamentally altering waterways that the Wabanaki community has historically relied on for food and travel. Additionally, the emerald ash borer, an invasive species of beetle whose population has increased with a warming climate, is threatening the growth of ash trees which are used in Wabanaki basket weaving and other culturally significant practices. In facing the challenges of the climate crisis, it is absolutely essential that the Wabanaki people and all Indigenous peoples have full sovereignty, access to resources, discretion, and decision-making power to adapt to and address these impending changes.


L.D. 1626 would restore tribes’ sovereign rights to regulate hunting, fishing, natural resources, and land use on tribal lands in Maine. The State has withheld these rights from the Wabanaki people since the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement and Implementing Act passed in 1980.


Within the constrictive terms of this Act, the State of Maine treats tribes as municipalities rather than sovereign nations and acts as an intermediary between them and the federal government. Maine is the only state in the U.S. to subject federally-recognized tribes within its borders to this form of paternalism, obstructing the nation-to-nation relationship with the federal government that the 570 other federally recognized tribes have.


Public pressure for tribal sovereignty is at its peak. Thousands of Mainers of all backgrounds and dozens of organizations across the state submitted testimony in support of L.D. 1626. This legislation has now passed the Maine House and Maine State Senate with impassioned testimony in support from legislators. L.D. 1626 is the result of years of work and it is well past time for the Implementing Act to be amended and for tribal sovereignty to be restored. Legislators have heard their constituents and this bill will soon make its way to the Governor’s desk.


We call on Governor Janet Mills to reconsider her ongoing opposition to this measure and instead stand in solidarity with the tribes. The Governor must recognize, restore, and respect the Wabanaki Tribes’ inherent sovereignty. If Governor Mills will not do this, we ask our legislators to summon the morality to override Mills’s veto and recognize and restore sovereignty to the tribes in Maine. No more compromises, no more waiting, sovereignty is not up for negotiation.


This is an issue of fairness, equity, and justice. As a coalition of youth fighting for climate justice, we must advocate for a future where the inherent rights of Wabanaki Tribes are respected. We stand in solidarity with the Wabanaki Tribes and urge Governor Mills to support L.D. 1626.



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Updated: Apr 15

A day to reflect on the state of Youth Climate Justice Demands from 2019 and where we go from here.


Augusta, Maine 4/13/22 – Across the globe, young people are leading the fight for bold climate action and climate justice. On April 13th, 2022, Maine Youth for Climate Justice, Maine Environmental Education Association Changemakers, Maine Youth Action, Maine Youth Power, and JustME for JustUS, with support from Maine Climate Action Now and the Nature Based Education Consortium, hosted a Youth Day of Action at the Statehouse in Augusta. The purpose of this event was to mobilize and reflect on the state of the Maine Youth for Climate Justice Demands from 2019 and to continue advocating for current youth priorities.


The Day of Action was attended by 95 youth from across the state, in addition to adult allies and legislators. It included a rally, press conference, lobbying, and other opportunities for youth to engage in advocacy and network. Educators also attended with their students, incorporating the Youth Day of Action into their curriculum and experiential learning. In addition, there was an option to participate virtually and take action from home, with youth, adults, educators, and students tuning into the rally livestream and contacting their legislators and other decision makers virtually.


During the rally, youth speakers reflected on Maine Youth for Climate Justice’s demands from three years ago, delivered during a similar Youth Day of Action in April 2019. They spoke about the progress made since those climate justice demands were made, the changes that still need to occur to achieve a just and livable future, and how youth and adult allies can continue to advocate for these demands in the current legislative session, to the Maine Climate Council, and to other decision makers like Governor Mills.


When speaking to the first Demand, that legislators, corporate leaders, and all people in positions of power commit to taking the necessary action to mitigate and adapt to climate change on the time scale that science and justice require, Anna Siegel (she/her), 16 years old, with Maine Youth Action and Maine Youth for Climate Justice, spoke to the implementation of LD 99, the 2021 fossil fuel divestment bil


“Becoming the first state to mandate fossil fuel divestment through legislation is not the end. We must hold the state and the Maine Public Employees Retirement System accountable and ensure that they implement LD 99 and fully divest the $1.3 billion by 2026, along with providing yearly reports on their progress.”

Audrey Hufnagel (she/her), 16 years old, with Maine Youth for Climate Justice and Maine Youth Action, addressed the second Demand, asking that legislators in Maine publicly recognize that climate change is an issue that is currently happening and exacerbating existing inequalities, both globally and locally. She spoke about the Pine Tree Amendment.


"I have seen so much energy from my fellow young people around the Pine Tree Amendment. As we continue this fight, I would encourage even more young people to get involved. This bill is about protecting our future. We will be the ones who will be inheriting the planet and we cannot wait until we are adults to take action to protect it. Together, we will keep fighting for a clean and healthy environment and for a future where we all can thrive.”

Lokotah Sanborn (they/them), Penobscot community organizer and board member of Bomazeen Land Trust, spoke to the third demand, that legislators listen to and lift up marginalized and youth voices in the decision-making process, especially where the future is concerned. Lokotah spoke about LD 1626, An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act, and LD 906, An Act To Provide Passamaquoddy Tribal Members Access to Clean Drinking Water.


“The state of Maine has held steadfast to racism and paternalism, in attempting to dictate to our independent nations what we can and cannot do, claiming somehow that our sovereign nations fall under Maine jurisdiction, a boot heel that has crushed down on our communities for too long. Indigenous and tribal sovereignty is not something that can be granted to the Wabanaki people by the state of Maine. We have always been sovereign, our sovereignty was granted to us by our creator and passed down through our ancestors since time immemorial. Our sovereignty is tied to the relationship we have with the land as well as our responsibility and role as protectors within the rest of creation. The state of Maine since its incorporation in 1820 has sought to erase and undermine this fact time and time again through a series of court cases, legal battles, policy adoptions, and the theft of Indigenous land, land that we view as our relative.”

Lokotah ended their speech by urging Governor Mills to not veto LD 1626 and LD 906.



Kosi Ifeji (they/them), 17 years old, with JustME for JustUS and the Nature Based Education Consortium, addressed the fourth Demand, that there is comprehensive climate education in Maine schools. Kosi spoke to their work supporting LD 1902, Resolve, To Establish a Pilot Program To Encourage Climate Education in Maine Public Schools.


“I understand that my time in the Maine public education system is almost over, and I won’t get to experience this bill come to fruition, but my hope is that all students across the state are equipped with the knowledge needed to deal with one of the biggest issues facing our generation today.”


Amara Ifeji, (she/her) 20 years old, with the Maine Environmental Education Association, and Deb Paredes (she/they), the Climate Action Resident through The Nature Conservancy and Changemakers Residency program, spoke to the fifth Demand, which supports a Green New Deal that prioritizes climate, social, racial, and economic justice, includes enforcement mechanisms, and paves the way to a sustainable society. Amara and Deb called for implementation of the Recommendations of the Maine Climate Council’s Equity Subcommittee.


“As a way to begin to address centuries of harm, it is imperative that the state adopts these recommendations and creates the policies that ensure a more just and livable future. Let us have today be the day where these wrongs are rewritten.”


Lastly, Cole Cochrane (he/him), with Maine Youth Action, and Emily Rochford (she/her), Unity College student, with Maine Youth for Climate Justice and Our Power Maine, addressed the sixth Demand, that called for a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030. They spoke in support of LD 1634, An Act To Create the Maine Generation Authority, and Amendment B of LD 1959: An Act To Ensure Transmission and Distribution Utility Accountability. Emily stated:

“Our future depends on the action we take today and that action must be bold, just and effective in addressing both the energy needs of our communities and our right to a healthy planet and livable future. There are two concrete and effective means to meet these needs today in our legislature: LD 1634, and Amendment B of LD 1959. We have seen the victory in the house passing LD 1634 and we should absolutely celebrate that victory, but we cannot be satisfied. Our electric utilities are the backbone of the energy sector and without their total commitment and accountability, we cannot achieve a future of renewable energy.”

Senator Chloe Maxmin showed her support from inside the State House, sending a message uplifting the importance of youth voices.


“I’m so excited that you are all here. It’s so important that the folks making decisions inside this building are hearing from you because you have the moral clarity that we need here. It’s such an honor to fight alongside all of you, and I can’t wait to see all that we’ll accomplish. Thank you for all you do!”


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Maine Youth for Climate Justice is a coalition of 400 youth from all over Maine who fight for bold climate action, a just transition, and a livable future. Our goal is to create a space for youth who are concerned about the climate crisis to connect, be in community, and make change. Acknowledging that the climate crisis is rooted in systemic forms of oppression, and disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, MYCJ aims to center the voices of folks who have been historically excluded from narratives around climate activism, in addition to the political conversation.


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Maine Youth for Climate Justice (MYCJ) endorses the “Yes on 1” campaign as the CMP corridor or New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) is not the climate justice solution that it has been marketed as.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


PLEASE CONTACT:

Julia St. Clair | Energy Campaigns Lead | Maine Youth for Climate Justice | jstclair96@gmail.com

Or

Cassie Cain | Core Member, Maine Youth for Climate Justice and Youth Engagement Coordinator, 350 Maine | cassie@350maine.org


October 25, 2021 -- Maine Youth for Climate Justice (MYCJ) announces their endorsement of ‘Yes on 1’ to reject the Central Maine Power (CMP) corridor, also known as the New England Clean Energy Connect Project. MYCJ urges members and adult allies to vote Yes on referendum question 1 on November 2nd.

MYCJ has been vocal in their opposition to the corridor, writing letters to the editor for local papers, submitting letters to the Army Corps of Engineers calling for an EIS, supporting legislation to halt the project, hosting an educational webinar about the corridor and hydropower, and just this week, testifying at the DEP hearing on the corridor license for the use of public land. In alignment with this opposition to the corridor, MYCJ has officially endorsed ‘Yes on 1’.

Speaking about the CMP corridor on a webinar with Natural Resources Council of Maine, 15-year-old MYCJ member Audrey Hufnagel said: “What made me really passionate about opposing this project was learning about the destruction that hydropower causes to the lands and homes of Indigenous people. The dams aren’t even clean energy! They produce methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to the climate crisis. For all of these reasons, the CMP corridor goes against all the principles of climate justice that I believe in.” She called on adult allies to Vote Yes on 1.

MYCJ member and lead for the MYCJ Energy Campaigns team, Julia St.Clair, says that “Hydropower may be renewable energy but it is not clean energy, and CMP doesn't care about climate change or the people of Maine, they are a profit-driven corporation, they stand to make millions on this project while the rest of us lose out. Young people in this state care deeply about our future, but we believe that climate justice must be at the forefront of everything we do. The CMP corridor does not help us accomplish our goals or attain the clean energy future we imagine and deserve”

In a statement released with their endorsement of ‘Yes on 1’, MYCJ outlines their concerns with the corridor, stating “with local and just solutions on the horizon, we are hopeful for our collective future. We are calling upon our leaders, lawmakers, and adult allies to heed our concerns and take the necessary steps to stop this project and future projects like this one. Maine has great potential for local power generation and needs to transition to clean and just energy sources that benefit local communities right now. We must reframe the way we think about and understand renewable energy by assessing new projects with an equity and justice lens and thinking about long term impacts. We hope you will join us in this fight.”

For more information:

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Maine Youth for Climate Justice (MYCJ) is a coalition of over 300 youth from across Maine who are fighting for bold climate action, a just transition, and a livable future. MYCJ’s goal is to create a space for youth who are concerned about the climate crisis to connect, be in community, and make change. Acknowledging that the climate crisis is rooted in systemic forms of oppression, and disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, MYCJ aims to center the voices of folks who have been historically excluded from political conversations and narratives around climate activism.


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