COVID-19 in Massachusetts; the place of the great hill

Indian Country Today

We look at this virus...as an agent of change

Larry Fisher is the chairman of Mattakeeset people in Massachusetts. He says the name Massachusetts means, in their language, place of the great hill. Fisher says they are looking into the process of becoming a federally recognized tribe. Until then he is still overseeing his community. Here are a few of his comments: 

"Today we have about 250 enrolled tribal applicants within our tribal community. We're a small tribe here within the confines of the Massachusetts state."

"We have some, several members who've tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and we've had one confirmed death within our tribal community of the COVID-19 as well."

"Internally we've issued out our own orders to our tribal members, you know, stay at home and basically practice all the same guidelines as the CDC."

"We've put together something called an ad hoc committee, which is volunteer based, and it's basically to try to work on pertinent issues that the Mattakeeset tribe faces within an emergency such as COVID-19."

"It is not a nonprofit organization. It's just a simple volunteer group that's trying to garnish small resources to get out to the tribe."

"Most of our Sachems, which are our chiefs in the 1600s were very closely related to one another. So each Sachem were sent out to those villages to set up community and village a homestead so that when the English came, each Sachem could protect those specific areas of land."

"The 1869 Indian Enfranchisement act is one act of what we would like to call strategic perpetuated genocide by way of paper."

"Though the act seems so gracious enough to give the tribal people citizenship, unfortunately, the language within that act plays a strategic act of aggression toward Indigenous people here in Massachusetts. What that act is saying is that we will give you citizenship just like the rest of the citizen but as we do that, we will take away your lands."

"These lands will be put into a process called a fee simple. So it's an act of trickery, in that sense. And it's really played a major downfall on the advancement of tribal people here in Massachusetts."

"Our language is very much so intact. Uh, there was a gentleman by the name of John Elliott who was a missionary...(and created) the dictionary called the Native dictionary in the Massachusetts language. So we do still have access to our language and we do practice that within tribal community today."

"We have began to look and review the process so that we can petition for federal recognition."

"We are surely waiting to see what kind of changes (are coming) especially when pertaining to the recognition processes of Native people here at Indian Country."

Also on the daily newscast, Washington Editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye reports updated COVID-19 numbers in Indian Country.

The anchor and executive producer of the program is Patty Talahongva. 

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