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Holy Road

Maurice Foxx, Mashpee Wampanoag chair of state commission, dies

MASHPEE, Mass. - Maurice Foxx, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and a leading advocate for American Indian rights, died in his Mashpee home Aug. 7 several days after undergoing heart surgery. He was 59.

Foxx was appointed to represent the tribe on the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs and served as chairman of the commission since 1998. He spent years working with his tribe and the commission in efforts to disseminate and preserve information about American Indian culture and heritage and in defense of American Indian rights.

;'Maurice loved his people,'' commission Executive Director John Peters told The Boston Globe. ''He dedicated himself to trying to educate people about Native causes.''

Foxx also worked with the commission on issues related to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the 1990 federal law requiring museums and other institutions to return the remains of ancestors and cultural artifacts to their tribal descendants.

Foxx had a long history of heart problems, Peters said in a statement.

Chief Vernon Lopez, the tribe's traditional chief, told The Boston Globe that Foxx was ''more like a son to me than anything. We were very close. He was soft-spoken, but he had a lot of very good ideas and things he wanted to do for the tribe.''

''He always wanted to see the tribe come together and work together and love and respect each other,'' Lopez said. ''He was always happy when he was with the tribe. That was one of his main goals in life, to just be with the people and help them as much as possible.''

Foxx's passing is a sad event for the tribe, Chairman Shawn Hendricks told Indian Country Today.

''He was involved in all kinds of special tribal affairs. Every tribal member that we lose is a great loss to our tribe and Maurice's death will be felt by everyone.''

Foxx was one of six children and grew up in Boston. He graduated from English High School and attended Northeastern University before graduating from the Wentworth Institute of Technology, where he studied mechanical engineering.

Amy Den Ouden, professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts - Boston and author of ''Beyond Conquest: Native Peoples and the Struggle for History in New England,'' said Foxx's death was ''a devastating loss'' both to her personally and to her students.

''As an educator, leader and activist, Maurice's contributions have been enormous,'' she said. ''I have seen the tremendous impact his words have had on students at UMass Boston. He has shaped their understanding of Native American history and Native rights in ways that will always stay with them. And he has long been a dear friend, colleague, mentor, and supporter of the Native American Student Society at UMB.

''We will miss Maurice very much, but his words and his work will continue to inspire us to do our best to stand up for what is just and right, and to keep working to get Native rights issues heard.''

Foxx leaves a son, Maurice, of Atlanta; two daughters, Monet, of Dorchester, and Aisha, of Brockton; four brothers, Peace Alexander, of Smithfield, Va., L. Nelson, of Cambridge, Vincent, of Roxbury and Frederick, of St. Louis; a sister, Anne, of Yarmouth; and a grandson.

A memorial service was held Aug. 13 in Mashpee.