Since Native tribes are considered dependent sovereign nations under the Constitution, age-old treaties can be the basis of new legal claims.
In 1972, the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Indians sued to get federal help in their dispute with Maine. They say the state took 12.5 million acres illegally—in fraudulent treaties signed 200 years ago when Maine was still part of Massachusetts.
Today, the lawsuit was settled. President Carter signed the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act.
The settlement is controversial. It gives the tribes $81.5 million if they give up their sovereign claim to the land —nearly two-thirds of the state of Maine.