Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

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The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is is one of two federally recognized tribes of Wampanoag people in Massachusetts. They were one of the first tribes encountered by Europeans, but did not receive federal recognition as a tribe until 2007.

Official Tribal Name: Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Address: 483 Great Neck Road South, Mashpee, Massachusetts 02649
Phone: (508) 477-0208
Fax: (508) 477-1218

Official Website: mashpeewampanoagtribe.com

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning: meaning People of the first light or People of the Dawn

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Formerly known as Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council, Inc.

Name in other languages:

Region: Northeast

State(s) Today: Massachusetts

Traditional Territory:

In the beginning of the 17th century, at the time of first contact with the English, the Wampanoag lived in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as within a territory that encompassed current day Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Confederacy:

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Reservations:

In 2015 the Federal Government took 321 acres in trust for the initial “Reservation” for the Mashpee Wampanoag.

Land Area: Tribal members own some land, as well as land held in common by Wampanoag descendants at both Chapaquiddick and Christiantown. Descendants have also purchased land in Middleborough, Massachusetts.

Under Glenn A. Marshall’s leadership, the tribe has lobbied the state to build a casino on their Mashpee land. The tribe has since proposed a casino on land owned in Taunton, Massachusetts, but have been challenged by the Pocasset Wampanoag. The state will accept its bid for a casino at that location, as one of three the state intends to authorize. By 2014, the tribe was completing an FEIS for development of the property in Taunton, as well as property it owns in Mashpee, the latter for administrative office needs.

Tribal Headquarters: Mashpee, Massachusetts (on Cape Cod)
Time Zone: Eastern

Population at Contact:

Registered Population Today: In 2014 the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe had more than 2,600 enrolled members.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

1) Direct lineal descent to a blood relative listed on the Report to the Govenor and Council concerning the Indians of the Commonwealth, under the Act of April 16, 1859 written by John Milton Earle. (The Earle Report), or direct descent from the 19th century unions of Georgina Palmers and Charles Peters or Leander Peters and Lydia DeGrasse.

2) For at least 20 years prior to enrollment, you or a family member (biological parents, sibling and children) must have lived within 20 miles of Mashpee, Mashachusettes and been actively involved in Tribal community affairs .

3) You must demonstrate active tribal community involvement, excluding pow wows, the Annual Ball and family reunions. It is presumed the applicant knowns the meaning of “the inclusive activities” and such knowledge is an indicator of active community involvement. To be an enrolled member of this tribe, it is expected that you and your family continue to contribute to the spiritual, traditional, social, and overall wellbeing of the tribe.

4)You must not have denounced the tribe. To “denounce” means to publicly discredit, condemn or cause harm to, or to deny existence of the Tribe.  

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Number of Council members: 4 plus executive officers
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Number of Executive Officers: Chairman, Vice-Chairwoman, Secretary, Treasurer

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Language Dialects: Wopanaotaok

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Related Tribes:

Mashpee Wampanoag, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), Pokanoket Wampanoag of Rhode Island, Chappaquiddick Wampanoag, Chappaquiddick Pokanoket/Massachuset of Martha’s Vineyard

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Catastrophic Events:

1616 – Traders from Europe bring yellow fever to Wampanoag territory, infecting all 69 of the Wampanoag tribes. Approximately 45,000 die.

1675-1676 – King Philip’s War against the English colonists resulted in the deaths of 40 percent of the tribe. Most of the male survivors were sold into slavery in the West Indies. Many women and children were enslaved in New England.

Tribe History:

In 1655, Harvard Indian College opened for the purpose of educating Indian youth. Harvard was in financial trouble during this time and felt that if they opened an Indian College they could secure more funding from those benefactors in England. If the Wampanoag population were assimilated to Christianity and moved away from traditional life, the ease with which land could be appropriated would also prove profitable.

In the News:

In 2000, the Mashpee Wampanoag Council was headed by Chairman Glenn Marshall. Marshall led the group until 2007, when it was disclosed that he had a prior conviction for rape, had lied about having a military record, and was under investigation associated with the tribe’s casino lobbying efforts.

Marshall was succeeded by tribal council Vice-Chairman Shawn Hendricks. He held the position until Marshall pleaded guilty in 2009 to federal charges of embezzling, wire fraud, mail fraud, tax evasion, and election finance law violations.

Marshall had steered tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to politicians through the tribe’s hired lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted of numerous charges in a much larger fraud scheme.

Led by its Chairman Shawn Hendricks, tribe representatives worked with Abramoff lobbyist colleague Kevin A. Ring to pursue Indian gaming-related interests, as this seemed to promise revenues to help the tribe take care of its people.  Ring was subsequently indicted and convicted on corruption charges linked to his work for the Mashpee band.

During this period, there was considerable internal tension within the tribe. Tribal elders sought access to the tribal council records detailing the council’s involvement in this scandal, filing a complaint in Barnstable Municipal Court. They were formally shunned by the tribal council, which voted to ban these elders from the tribe for seven years. The federal government also sought records from the tribe as part of its investigation into Abramoff and his colleagues.

In 2009 the tribe elected council member Cedric Cromwell to the position of council chair and president. Cromwell ran a campaign based on reforms. He worked to distance himself from the previous chairmen, even though he had served as a councilor for the prior six years during which the Marshall and Abramoff scandals took place – and had voted to shun tribal members who tried to investigate. A challenge to Cromwell’s election by defeated candidates, following allegations of tampering with voting and enrollment records, was filed with the Tribal Court. Cromwell’s administration has been hampered by a series of protest by Elders over casino-related finances.

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