Mashpee tribe, which welcomed Pilgrims, losing its land in Massachusetts | Letter Lehigh Valley OPINION – May 6


Posted May 06, 9:38 AM

Mashpee Wampanoag
A wooden sign advises motorists of the location of Mashpee Wampanoag tribal lands in Massachusetts.

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This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The generosity of the Mashpee Wampanoag, who had inhabited that region for 12,000 years, was directly responsible for the newcomers’ survival.

The Mashpee, a federally recognized tribe, is now confined to a reservation on 321 acres. In late March members were informed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that their reservation status was revoked.

Legalese surrounds this persecution. A conflict between a giant tribal casino project and others promoted by allies of President Trump in nearby Rhode Island may be behind this breach. Nevertheless, what are the implications of revoking the land status of a federally recognized tribe? Will any First Nation descendants be safe from removal if this occurs? How will this affect tribes seeking federal standing?

Reservations, far from safe havens, have been repeatedly targeted for gas pipelines and mineral extraction. Will these tactics increase if a precedent is set here?

On Thursday, a federal judge will hear the Mashpee’s argument to retain its land.

Four centuries ago the Mashpee extended kindness to the Pilgrims. Can we do no better than to repeat destructive patterns of history towards the First People?

Anna Maria Caldara