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Leader dies after signing CITGO agreement Email this page     Print this page
Posted: January 24, 2006
by: The Associated Press
Click to Enlarge
AP Photo/Herb Swanson, Portland Press Herald -- Melvin Francis, governor of Maine's Passamaquoddy Indians at Pleasant Point, shook hands with Felix Rodriguez, CEO of CITGO Petroleum Corp., Jan. 12, in Indian Island, Maine, after signing an oil agreement with CITGO. Francis was killed that night in a head-on collision involving his pickup truck and a tanker truck in Amherst, Maine. Maine Gov. John Baldacci is shown in the backround (left).
PLEASANT POINT, Maine (AP) - So many people filed into Saint Ann's Roman Catholic Church for the funeral of Passamaquoddy Gov. Melvin Francis on Jan. 17 that some mourners who couldn't get inside had to watch a television feed from a nearby school.

The service combined a funeral Mass with Passamaquoddy traditions, including drumming and a smudging ceremony inside the small church. The ceremony, which lasted nearly three hours, was delivered in Passamaquoddy and English to about 300 people who packed the church, standing along the sides and in the back. Across the street, more people watched the live video feed at the Beatrice Rafferty School.

Francis, 60, was remembered for a life of service and for a leadership style in which he acted as a peacemaker to bring parties together.

The governor of the Passamaquoddy Indians at Pleasant Point was killed Jan. 12 in a head-on collision involving his pickup and a tanker truck on Route 9 as he was returning to the Pleasant Point reservation from Augusta, where he met at the state House with legislative leaders. He also stopped at Indian Island to take part in the signing of an agreement with Venezuelan-owned CITGO Petroleum Corp., which is providing low-cost heating oil to four Maine tribes.

CITGO will provide discounted heating oil directly to 912 households on or near reservations of the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Micmac and Maliseet Indians. That deal is worth $543,000 in savings, tribal officials said.

''Until his very last moments, he was fighting for his people to get affordable home heating oil and traveling to whatever lengths he could to make sure he did whatever he could for his people,'' said Maine Gov. John Baldacci.

Baldacci, who ordered flags lowered to half-staff, delayed his annual State of the State address to the Maine Legislature until Jan. 18 so he could attend the funeral.

Sen. Olympia Snowe called the service ''an extraordinary tribute to a remarkable man.''

''He was deeply loved, respected and revered, and held in high esteem for the way he led his people. That's the mark of a true leader,'' she said.

Joining Baldacci and Snowe were Rep. Michael Michaud and a legislative delegation, along with leaders from the Passamaquoddy's Pleasant Point and Indian Township reservations, and the Penobscots, Maliseets and Micmacs.

Francis, whose four-year term as governor was set to expire this year, was a strong supporter of a proposal by an Oklahoma energy developer to build a liquefied natural gas terminal on tribal land at Pleasant Point.

He also supported an Indian-operated racetrack casino in Washington County. Baldacci vetoed a bill authorizing such a facility, but supporters are pressing for a referendum.
 
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