Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Its the Historical Significance...Oh! No, its not, actually!

A recent e-mail received regarding the BIA meeting argued strongly against the land going into trust, and really focused in on the historic:

Mr. Bond,

I would like to retort the comment you made publicly in the record of the BIA hearing. Firstly, I will briefly comment on the second portion of your statement and be more specific later.

By virtue of the prevailing philosophy of Native Americans, no one has "ownership" of the land, but are only stewards of the land. This I am sure is what you meant to say as this is common knowledge and would apply to the Mashpee. Therefore the point would be a matter of presence and tribal territory, not ownership. The Mashpee Tribe owned no land at any point until after the plantation or reservation of Mashpee was established in or about 1658 as an Indian praying town. http://capecodhistory.us/Deyo/Mashpee-Deyo.htm More on that later.

In regards to [a certain family's] ancestral "ownership" or presence in Southeastern MA (including Middleborough and in Lakeville), this is well documented both in Middleborough and Plymouth County records. Without having to search with much labor, you can go to the Middleborough Public Library on the corner of N. Main and Peirce Streets, not far from Thomas S. Peirce Playground, and view a copy of "The Peirce Family of the Old Colony" by Ebenezer W. Peirce, 1870. Other books he has written are: "Peirce's Colonial Lists" and "Indian History, Biography and Genealogy" (An on line version you can view here: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~massasoit/book.htm. It was published by Zerviah G. Mitchell, a direct decedent of Massasoit.) amongst other books. If you are history buff, you will find Ebenezer somewhat of a colorful writer who doesn't mince his words and personal convictions. I'm sure it could be said of any family ancestry that there are colorful characters. Also, I'm sure you are familiar with The Peirce Trustees who have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to activities and organizations in Middleborough for a great many years and may have access to other information on the Peirce Family as they relate to our area.

Now, more on the Mashpee Tribe. As I stated during the hearing, I am not disputing the Mashpee's existence in the colonial times, that their "ownership" ended nor their right to reservation in Mashpee. I am not disputing their affiliation with the Wampanoag Confederacy (or Nation) under Massasoit, who was a Pokanoket. There were numerous tribes under his jurisdiction and Mashpee was one of them. There was at least a village of Mashpee before 1658 and other tribes on the Cape at the time. There are some that would claim they were never a tribe before 1658 or after, I tend to disagree with that assertion. Even if evidence showed that they weren't before 1658, that doesn't mean they couldn't have become one after 1658 with the terms of final determination still applying. I have not seen any overwhelming evidence they weren't. My bone of contention is this: Does the Mashpee have a right as a tribe to land in Middleborough? Are they Wampanoaq, yes, but so are the Pokanoket, the Aquinnah (Gay Head), Nauset and Nantucket to name the few most common. As you know, the Mashpee and the Gay Head Wampanoaq are currently the only federally recognized tribes in the the state, although others are still making that attempt. Just because the Mashpee are Wampanoag, it does not mean they had tribal presence or influence over areas other than Mashpee. There is no evidence of such that I can find in any verifiable authenticated record. If you or anyone else has access to such records, I would like to see them. The Gay Head Wampanoaq would vigorously refute any Mashpee claim to Martha's Vineyard, since that area was also Wampanoag, but claimed only to Gay Head. That is why the members of the Pokanokets & Massachets strongly oppose any such claim by the Mashpee.

Massasoit's descendants, being Pokanoket, lived for several generations in the Assawompset Pond area. If you read [the books] referenced above, you will see that is true. Also,In the Mashpee's Final Determination (http://mashpeewampanoagtribe.com/PDF%20Files/mashpee_final_determination.pdf) there is no mention of Middleborough or any other surrounding communities where their presence or territory is documented through the criteria for recognition. There is no evidence of such. Have members of the Mashpee Tribe ever lived within the area? Yes, (Ebenezer makes note of one instance, but only for 2 generations and then leaves no descendants after that), but not under tribal or ancestral influence. The center of their heritage has always been Mashpee and that is where they always return, if some members lived any where else. It would be like, just because I once owned land in Boston that I have some claim to Boston Common as my rightful domain. I'd be laughed out of town.

The federal government recognizes the separation of Wampanoag tribes and their heritages by recognizing them as separate tribes. Would the logic for claiming Middleborough as "home" apply if the Gay Head Tribe, also being Wampanoag, laid claim to that land as "home" for them as well hold up under scrutiny? Of course not, they could make the same assertions that the Mashpee do, but it wouldn't hold up. You would have a real Indian war then. Gay Head and Mashpee fighting for the same plot of land.

That is why I oppose the land proposed in Middleborough to be taken into trust as initial reservation. They and you may disagree, but from my research they are not coming home. Their home is Mashpee.



In response, I wanted to find out if the issue is really historic or simply an opposition to a casino, dressed up in the garb of an academic argument. So I responded:

While I recognize the implied altruism of your position on this matter, would your position on the project be any different if the Mashpee project were a commercial casino on land that the Mashpee purchased in Middleborough through private sale and/or auction? Am I to presume that a commercial Casino venture on that Middleborough land would not drive you to opposition because it would have no historical implications?

I look forward to your response and further dialogue on this matter.

Adam M. Bond

The response was telling: The land into trust opponent responded:

Mr. Bond,

I would still be in opposition on numerous grounds. I have moral objections, some economic and some environmental impact objections to casinos and do oppose them on all those grounds as well. I'm sure you have heard them all. I've heard all the benefits, but still chose to oppose. If the sight was of some significant historical value that would be destroyed, I could then still be opposed on those grounds with a commercial casino as well. The catalyst for my opposition is the casino. The source at the moment is the Indian gaming laws. I may not have cared as much otherwise, if a casino was not involved, but it is, so I am. Many do not believe casinos are bad, but I do as do many others.

In my opinion, this is a scrupulous and honest man, who is holding to his convictions and has the ability to communicate his opposition in a clear and concise manner. My issue is that I believe that his opposition to the land into trust would not be so, if the Mashpee were seeking it as reservation land for the purpose of creating a living village, a wildlife preserve, or some other less controversial development, with which he agreed.

His position loses credibility--for me--where his opposition is to the casino, and his rationale is steeped in something other than his main basis for opposition. It makes me question the impartiality of his research. However, as I said above, this person is clearly honest and intelligent, and I thought that others should have the pleasure of viewing this exchange.

1 comment:

cdplakeville said...

You believe incorrectly that I would not be in opposition to the Mashpee's request for land-into-trust for initial reservation if it were not for the casino. It is because of the casino that I found what I believe is a reasonable argument that they should not have the Middleborough land to build a casino. That argument is; if they did not have the land before, they should not have it now.
I find the linear form of questioning you have used too simple for such a complex and controversial subject as land-into-trust for Indian gaming. To better illustrate, I will use the following example.
Suppose your neighbor decides to sell his home of say 3 acres with a nice home and nice landscaping. It is sold to a person who decides to tear down the home and flatten the lot entirely. The new owner decides that he wants to build in your neighborhood… an adult entertainment store with video sales, private viewing booths and live peep shows. Your first response is, “This thing does not belong in this neighborhood.” “Children live around here, my children.” “What kind of traffic will be going up and down our street?” These would be some of the first logical responses to any enterprise of this type proposed to be built near you and your family’s home. Now, to your dismay, there are some in town and in your neighborhood that actually like the idea, in fact some of the town officials approve of the location and use of the sight. You are told that he has a right to build such a facility because the Supreme Court declared that such forms of entertainment are protected under the First Amendment as free speech. You are hence called a prude and need to stop being a “Puritan.” “Move out”, if you don’t like it. After time, you decide to research and what do you find out, the land which it is to be built is zoned residential and is not zoned for adult entertainment. You argue on that basis knowing what the law says and so you accomplish the same goal and no such project is built in your neighborhood, even though your main objection is on moral grounds. If instead of adult entertainment, an ice cream shop was to open. You love ice cream. Your children love ice cream. Would you have cared as much or object to it going in, probably not initially. But finding out it needs to be zoned commercial and not residential, you could still object or work to change the zoning for the property.
So, I would be still opposed knowing what I know now even if all was being built were benign purposes or given proper avenues allow the Mashpee to rightfully use the land. IGRA is a flawed and often abused law. It is need of serious revision for the sake of both Native Americans and the rest of the citizens of the US.

Lost credibility for you, but not for others. If you have questions regarding my research, then where is the research to the contrary that I and others may see it? I could be convinced otherwise and drop that portion of my argument. Since the only purpose for the land in question is for a casino (class 2 and possibly in the future class 3), I will continue to oppose the project by any legal means available.