Mashpee Wampanoag face double crisis: COVID-19 and feds

Aliyah Chavez

‘I am calling to all of Indian Country, to all tribes: we must unite and stand together … we must fight this fight together’

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman spoke out for the first time since he learned that his nation’s reservation will be disestablished and their land will be taken out of trust. Chairman Cedric Cromwell gave remarks on Sunday through a video posted on Facebook through the Social Distance Powwow group.

Cromwell told viewers that the Darryl LaCounte, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, called him on Friday at 4pm to tell him the news. He said LaCounte was instructed to do so by the highest ranking official in the Department of Interior, Secretary David Barnhardt.

(Previous story: Interior takes reservation away from Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe)

“That means that we are now being terminated by this United States government,” Cromwell said. “A little history on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe: We’re the first tribe that met the settlers many, many moons ago which created this ‘history of Thanksgiving’ … The Indians that first sat down with those settlers was us, the Wampanoag Nation.”

Cromwell expressed concern that the Trump Administration notified the tribe of this news in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. He used it as an example to warn other tribal leaders.

“At any given point, this administration will call you up on a Friday evening, when you least expect it and say ‘we are taking your land out of trust. We’re taking away your homelands, that means your housing, your educational funding … ’” Cromwell said.

“I am calling to all of Indian Country, to all tribes: we must unite and stand together … we must fight this fight together,” Cromwell added. He urged those watching to protest on social media by saying they support the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

Since the video was posted on Sunday, it has been seen by approximately 3,000 people. Many took to the comments section to express their thoughts.

“It is wrong and we are all gonna stick with the Mashpee,” one comment read. “Whatever we have to do. All native be aware and help!!!”

Another: “I want to help – this is so terrible.”

Yesterday the Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project started a petition called “Stand with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.” In less than 24 hours, the petition has received nearly 65,000 signatures.

Elected officials are speaking out too. 

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D-VA) shared his support of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Sunday morning.

"I stand with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in their fight to restore lands that belong to them and oppose the disgraceful decision by the Trump Administration to disestablish their lands held in trust by the Department of Interior,” Sanders said in a press release.

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix Bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at achavez@indiancountrytoday.com

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Comments (2)
No. 1-2
HoopsNBangs
HoopsNBangs

I hope Bernie reposts the petition

DHatcher
DHatcher

Have they given a timeframe for this? has the tribe set up a legal defense fund?


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