Masphee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell speaks in front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning, November 14, during the Mashpee Wampanoag Land Sovereignty March and Rally. (Copyright © 2018 NativeBusinessMag.com. All rights reserved.)
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe isn’t backing down. This morning, supporters marched the streets of Washington D.C. from the National Museum of the American Indian to a rally outside the U.S. Capitol building. The tribe has filed a federal lawsuit to regain control of its lands stripped away by the Interior Department’s September 7 ruling.
They marched in solidarity for their sovereign rights as original peoples of Turtle Island, who in 1620 on Wampanoag land greeted the Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony. They protested the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind a 2015 federal designation holding land in trust on behalf of the tribe. They rallied to implore Congress to pass legislation that restores their 321 acres of land in trust in Mashpee and Taunton, Massachusetts. A tribal land base is the foundation for tribal economic development, Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell has declared time and time again.
In front of the U.S. Capitol, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Vice Chair Jessie Little Doe Baird issued a powerful testament to indigenous resilience and a call to action:
“My blood and bones are from Mashpee, as were my mother’s and her mother’s before her. I stand here not only on behalf of my people, but the people that came before us and the other 127 Tribes that got their federal acknowledgment after 1934—the other 127 Tribes that they’re going to come for, if we don’t put a stop to this right now, today.
As Mashpee Wampanoag women, we love our children and we protect our children. This decision means they’re coming for our children’s future. We’re not taking that. You don’t come for my children. You don’t come for Mashpee children. You don’t come for Indian children. When the women stand up, it’s coming. It’s on. And it’s not polite. There are days to be polite and there are times when that does not pay off. That has not paid off for us as a people to be polite.
There was a time when they came, and they took all of our children and they said we were ‘too Indian.’ They took our kids off to Carlisle Indian school because we were ‘too Indian’ and they wanted us to be less Indian. Today they tell us we’re not Indian enough! Come on, people! Let’s get it together! We need our sovereignty!
We worked for 25 years, Congress, to open up our language school. We teach our subjects in our language. We seek to protect our children from social ills through our language. Congress, we need your support. Do not allow this administration to tell us that we can be a nation with no sovereignty. Who ever heard of such a thing? ‘You will not be able to pass your own laws. You will not be able to build your housing. You will not be able to educate your children. We will take away your police force. We will take away your courts. We will take away the money that you rely on for your natural resource programs, and when we finish with you we’re coming for your brothers and sisters.’ Come on, people. This is where we’re at!
So I’m telling you today, if we don’t stand up together and not just say it and talk about it, but be about it, they’re coming for all of us. We can’t let that happen. As a Mashpee Wampanoag woman, and as an indigenous person, and as a human being, we need to stand together, and I thank you for being here today.”
At the Mashpee Wampanoag Land Sovereignty Walk and Rally on Wednesday morning, November 14, tribal members were joined by representatives from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes of Connecticut, the Quinault Indian Nation of Washington, the Shinnecock tribe of New York, the Narragansett tribe in Rhode Island, and others.
Also near the steps of the U.S. Capitol, Quinault Indian Tribe Chairwoman Fawn Sharp echoed the significance of Tribal Nations rising together in solidarity now.
“Our ancestors delivered prophetic words seven generations ago that in seven generations the Red Nations will rise. They predicted that the point would come for this country—a point where Earth was dying,” Chairwoman Sharp said. “And they predicted that in that time of absolute unknown fear and uncertainty that Red Nations will rise. Today, we are rising.”