I was really happy to see that CasinoFreeMass is calling on Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley to open an investigation into the Mashpee Wampanoag's federal recognition process. President Rich Young, who is also the president for CasinoFacts.org really said it best:
"The citizens of Massachusetts should be able to feel confident in the legality and truthfulness of the Wampanoag's claims, and clearly, these guilty pleas and very serious breaches of public trust cast doubt over the entire process"
Yes, the citizens of Massachusetts should feel confident that the Federal Recognition process was legal and truthful, and right now, many of us really don't. I find myself questioning how the Mashpee Wampanoags were able to meet the seven criteria for recognition. In fact, people should write letters to their senators in DC asking that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's federal recognition be “re-examined”. In light of Glenn Marshall's recent indictment and guilty plea, it seems that the tribe may have had to resort to bribery to get their recognition, and it’s possible that they did this because they weren’t eligible under the 7 criteria. Not to mention, anyone who has taken the time to read the findings for the final determination can easily see that the tribe didn’t have sufficient evidence - yet they got it anyway.
I have always brought into question the Tribe's claim of historical ties to the land in Middleboro, and I am certainly not the only one.......... (video courtesy of Bellicose Bumpkin)
Below is an essay that was written by Jim Lynch, a nationally recognized Ethno-historical research consultant. With permission, I am sharing his findings with you. I think it is important to understand why so many of us question the Tribe's claim to historical ties in Middleboro and why we continue to question everything about their application. It's quite simple really.....we have had this cloud of doubt and mistrust hanging over our heads for 19 months now. If you haven't already, then maybe you too will begin to question this entire process and how we wound up in the fight of our lives, for our lives - for our quality of life, and for our right as American citizens to have a fair and honest process for federal recognition and land in trust decisions made by our elected officials. Thank you Mr. Lynch for this well written and insightful look into the historical claims to the land in Middleboro made by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
Mashpee: A Question of Fact versus Fiction
James P. Lynch
Historical Consulting and Research Services LLC.
In the shortest, yet most instructive of his published writings, “History: Remembered, Recovered and Invented,” the eminent historian Bernard Lewis wrote of three different types of history that confronts the contemporary reader in the various media.
In his 1972 book, Professor Lewis noted “critical [recovered] history begins with dissatisfaction with memory and a desire to remedy its deficiencies.” Invention, as he noted, passes over recovered history and resorts to the “embellishment” of the past,” which Lewis noted, “influences inscriptions and chronicles, monographs and textbooks, and all the other media used to project an image and present a case” It is to certain “inventions” of Mashpee history that this short essay will address: the Mashpee are Wampanoag; the Mashpee greeted the Pilgrims when they landed at Plymouth in 1620; the Mashpee have historical and cultural ties to the lands in the southeastern Massachusetts Town of Middleboro.
How does a historical “invention” contrast with historical fact? Let’s start with the question of “Wampanoag.” Historically there was never a Wampanoag tribe per se. The term Wampanoag is a general linguistic descriptor. Its root lies in the Algonquian “Wa.panwi” which literally means “it dawns” or “easterner” It was a generalized term used by Algonquian-speaking tribes to refer to peoples to their east where the sun rises. In the case of “Wampanoag” we find the suffix “oag” (some Algonquian tribal dialects use “aug”) which denotes near water, or near a body of water. Thus a literal interpretation of “Wampanoag” is: a people who live where the sun rises near a body of water. In the case of southeastern Massachusetts , this descriptor was used as a term of reference by the Indians residing to the west of those Indians who resided along Buzzards Bay , most notably the Pokanoket. This term of reference was picked up by the early colonists at Plymouth who equated the term Wampanoag with the Pokanoket tribe in contrast to the neighboring Massachusett, Nipmuck and Narragansett tribes. With the advent of King Phillips War in 1675, the term became associated with those regional (eastern) Indian groups that joined Phillip (Metacom) in his conflict against the colonists. Thus we hear of a Wampanoag confederation in various historical writings.
Did any “Wampanoag” greet the first arrivals at Plymouth ? No. No Indians did. What William Bradford and those other first arrivals found were deserted Indian villages, the victims of smallpox epidemic that had spread south from Newfoundland . Were there “Wampanoag” in the region? Yes. The boundary between the Pokanoket and Massachusett tribal lands was in this area. Were these “Wampanoag” members of the Mashpee tribe? No.
Why weren’t the Mashpee there? Simply there was not a Mashpee tribe in existence at the time of historical contact (1620) in Massachusetts . Mashpee, as a self-governing distinct Indian community or enclave, having its own defined territory did not come into existence until 1665, that is, some forty-five years after the point of first sustained Indian contact with non-Indians (1620) in this region. Mashpee was a product of the collision between two cultures, English and Indian. Mashpee is not what is commonly called an “historic or historical tribe” that is, a politically organized tribe, having its own defined territory that was inexistence at the time of first sustained contact with the colonists (1620). Mashpee was the produce of tribal disintegration and fissioning as a result of this bi-cultural collision. The Mashpee enclave that came into existence in 1665 consisted of expatriate Indians from many different tribal groups who, having adopted Christianity, shed their previous tribal political relations and portions of their own cultural ideology, and came together into what was known as a “Praying Indian Town ” or simply “Praying Town .” There were many such towns established in eastern Massachusetts for these convert tribal fragments. Most importantly, the Mashpee did not represent a political or social continuation of a specific historic tribe or historic tribes that voluntarily and politically merged to form a new tribe. These converts, with their new Christian ideology were drawn together mainly through the efforts of a colonist named Richard Bourne who, being a friend to the Indian groups residing at the western end of Cape Cod convinced the sachems of two of these groups (Tookonchasm and Weepquish) to convey via a legal deed dated December 11, 1665, lands belonging to their respective groups to the convert community that had congregated on the Capes south shore. These extra-tribal convert Indians who initially resided on these conveyed lands became known as the “South Sea Indians” which later morphed into the name “Mashpee.” At this point in time the Mashpee formed their own town government, established land governance rules based in large part upon English law (Proprietorship) and town organization, had a defined bounded territory in which to live over which they asserted local jurisdiction. We find even as late as 1753, the Mashpee reminding the Massachusetts General Court “that the same sachems who had given most of the Cape to the English had also created Mashpee.” How Mashpee passed muster concerning the descent from a historic tribe requirement (25CFR 83.7 (e)) with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, thus gaining federal recognition leaves one wondering. With the name of the notorious Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff now connected with the Mashpee’s recognition quest and his close association with former disgraced Interior Department administrator Steven Giles, one begins to see a picture, a not very pleasant one at that.
Thus the Mashpee cannot be considered Wampanoag in any political or tribal sense in that they were never part of the Pokanoket tribe nor were they part of King Phillips wartime confederation. Mashpee came into existence in 1665 as a Praying Town under colonial jurisdiction. As a matter of fact, Mashpee remained loyal to the colonists during King Phillip’s 1675 conflict, with some members of the community fighting against the Wampanoag confederation of tribes. Mashpee did not come into existence until 1665, thus making it an historical impossibility of having met the Plymouth colonists upon their landing in 1620, nor was there a Mashpee tribe present to have aided the new colony during those first terrible and trying years of Plymouth’s existence.
Now what about Middleboro, a town at the center of present-day controversy concerning Mashpee historical claims and assertions to the area? First, if the Mashpee were never politically or culturally affiliated with either the Massachusett or Pokanoket tribes, how can they make such a claim, especially given the fact that the Mashpee sided against the Pokanoket-Wampanoag confederation during King Phillips war? Second, the Mashpee cannot make a cultural affiliation with either tribe. They maintained a particular cultural and ideological base (Christianity) from their very inception that was vastly at odds with that of the traditional Pokanoket-Wampanoag. Third, from a historical perspective there was prior to Middleboro’s 1669 founding one named Indian village in the Middleboro area (Nemasket) which in 1622 was under the dominion of the Pokanoket sachem Massasoit, Yet we later find two such villages, “Assawompsett” and “Titicut” located near Middleboro. The historical records clearly depict Titicut as a Massachusett tribal village, while Assawompsett appears to have had a polyglot Indian population of former Pokanoket and Massachusett (with many moving there from the former Massachusett village of “Mattakesitt” in 1674). There is also evidence of Abenaki Indians who had been re-settled on the Freetown reserve having moved into and settled at Assawomptset. It was from the remnants of these two village populations that the name “Middleborough Indians” evolved during the eighteenth century. No where’s in this matrix is Mashpee to be found. In fact, presently only two associations directly mentioning an association between Middleboro and Mashpee are to be found in the April 1859 Report to the Governor and Council concerning the Indians of the Commonwealth, (Earle Report) a William Lee from Middleboro who had married a Mashpee woman and was presently residing in California, and a widowed state pauper named Sylvia Casco also from Middleboro.
One fails to see any Mashpee historical or cultural connection to Middleboro without the coverage of the historically unsupportable “Wampanoag” umbrella. Their request to have lands that they purchased in that town taken into trust by the Department of the Interior appears to lack a necessary historical or cultural foundation.
As is so often the case, the chasm between invented history and historical fact only widens with the application of what the late anthropologist Clifford Geertz called “thick description” or critical historical analysis.
Mr. James P. Lynch is a nationally recognized Ethno-historical, research consultant. He has authored numerous books, research publications, and articles on tribal land claims, tribal sovereignty, tribal recognition, tribal land into trust issues, and tribal history. His professional services are used by law firms, local, state and federal officials and agencies, and private sectors such as businesses, authors, and network news media. He has also testified as a qualified expert witness on historical and anthropological issues in federal and state courts. Mr. Lynch is the owner of Connecticut-based Historical Consulting and Research Services LLC.
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