The Passamaquoddy Indians: Casinos, Controversy, and Creative Apparel

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Indian enterprises often invoke images of casinos and powwows. In fact, entrepreneurial ventures and wealth among tribes are as diverse as the tribes themselves. Unlike one-source business models (i.e., casinos), for example, many indigenous activists favor a diversified economic plan, making the most of federal and state laws and grants as well as a volatile political and financial climate to best serve their people. This paper highlights the efforts of one such tribe. Leaders of Maine’s Passamaquoddy tribe have investigated several enterprise routes over the last few years, using Tribal 8A (a federally-sponsored set of policies for eligible Indian tribes, Alaska Native Corporations [ANCs] and Native Hawaiian Organizations [NHOs]) as an impetus for their development. The result is a flexible business paradigm that ranges from joint ventures in blueberry production and distribution to the manufacture of chemical protective apparel for the U.S. military. But at what cost? What happens to Passamaquoddy cultural values in the process of the tribe regaining its financial stability? The notion of living on a reservation, while making chemical protective apparel for the American government, paints a portrait of contradictory identities. In the end, earning a living should not preclude living and “(l)earning” about one’s heritage.

Original Citation

Matelski, M.J., Street, N.L. (2014). The Passamaquoddy Indians: Casinos, Controversy, and Creative Apparel. International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies, 12(2), 21-32.

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