September 12, 2018
Cultural Survival condemns the recent Trump administration decision that could take the Mashpee Wampanoag land in Massachusetts out of trust. The land, which includes 150 acres in the town of Mashpee and another 170 acres in the city of Taunton, had been established into trust as of September 2015 by the Obama administration, after years of advocacy work by the Mashpee Tribe. This would mark the first time Native land has been taken out of trust since the “termination era” of the 1940s-1960s in which the US government intentionally attempted to assimilate Native Americans into the broader culture.
On September 7, 2018, Tara Sweeney, the recently-appointed Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, issued the decision that could pave the way for the reservation to be taken out of trust.
The Mashpee Wampanoag, the People of the First Light, have occupied the same region for over 12,000 years and have faced diminishment of their homelands since colonization. The lands of the Mashpee Wampanoag Reservation today represent less than one half of one percent of their original territories. The latest decision is a blow to Tribal sovereignty and undermines the future of and sustainability of the nation. For the Mashpee Wampanoag population, loosing their homelands would be devastating, says Cedric Cromwell, Tribal Chairman, who explained in a hearing that losing their trust lands would mean losing funding for services on their homeland and could mean the closing of language immersion schools.
In 2007, after decades of battling the US government, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was finally federally recognized, however they are the only federally recognized Tribe in New England that does not have any statute that establishes protection for their land. The Mashpee Wampanoag have a right to their ancestral homelands, as recognized in the the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 25 states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.”
Article 26 states ”1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired. 2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired. 3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.”
Cultural Survival stands with the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation and encourages US citizens to take action by calling their representatives to support senate bill 2628 and house bill 5244, “The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act." If passed, this bill would prevent the reservation from being taken out of trust, reports Indianz.com. The Senate bill is being sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who issued a joint statement: “The decision by the Trump administration to move forward with denying the Mashpee Wampanoag a right to their ancestral homeland and to keep their reservation is an injustice… America has a painful history of systematically ripping apart Tribal lands and breaking its word. We cannot repeat that history."
Call your representative at (202) 224-3121. Ask to speak with your representatives, and then convey your support for Senate Bill 2628 and House Bill 5244 the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act.