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Friday, March 31, 2006

The Shock of Recognition

A nation that seemingly dies may be born again; and even though in the physical sense it die utterly, it may yet hand down a history of heroic achievement, and for all time to come may profoundly influence the nations that arise in its place by the impress of what it has done.
Theodore Roosevelt, June 7, 1910

Porcupine would like to be the first to congratulate the Mashpee for their preliminary Federal recognition as a tribe. A final decision must be made by March of 2007.

The seven criteria that must be met for final recognition seem well within their purview - a cohesive history, active and able leaders, a distinct identity separate from other Federal tribes, and proof that they have never been terminated by legislation. While the Mashpee Wampanoags may have been formally banned from Boston until recently, thank goodness nobody ever sought to eliminate them - even during the contentious New Seabury land battles of the 70's and 80's.

There are about 1,458 members of the tribe. All are descendants of 451 tribal members who lived in Mashpee in 1861. Ten of the original thirteen petitioners have dies since they first asked the Federal government for recognition 30 long years ago. Porcupine is acquainted with some tribe members, and has always been impressed with the dedication that they show as they hold their annual PowWow and celebration of their heritage. No matter what the eventual disposition of their petition may be, they can be secure in the knowledge that they are respected for thier historic achievements, and know that they did indeed affect the genesis of this nation.

Now, the Town of Mashpee must find a way to cope with the formation of a sovereign entity within its town borders. But after all, the Wampanoag had to find a way to accommodate those pale people in the strange boats 400 years ago. Surely this time, we can all work this out, and live together in peace and contentment.


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