News and Events

Disparate Effects of Coronavirus

Indigenous peoples and other people of color in the U.S. are especially vulnerable to serious complications and consequences of the coronavirus:

Sources curated by Beverly Ward, Decolonizing Quakers Steering Committee.

Mashpee Wampanoag vs. U.S. Government

On March 27th, the Trump administration ordered the “disestablishment” of the Mashpee Wampanoag reservation, which lies in Southeastern Massachusetts. The tribe, whose ancestors were among those who “welcomed” the colonists when they first arrived on this continent, has held this land — and much more — for about 12,000 years. Ironically, the tribe was not officially “recognized” by the federal government until 2007, when the tribe was authorized to try to re-consolidate its reservation lands.

Update: On May 7, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia was expected to issue a temporary stay to prevent the federal government from taking any action on its decision until the court can rule on the tribe’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

Congressional Action: During this Congress, the House of Representatives passedthe Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Affirmation Act (H.R. 312) by a strong bi-partisan vote. The Senate has not yet acted on a companion bill.

Resolving the Root Problem: The House of Representatives has also passed a bill (H.R. 375) introduced by Representative Tom Cole (OK) known as the “Clean Carcieri Fix,” which addresses problems created by the 2009 Carcieri Court decision (see Background, below). The Senate has not yet acted on a companion bill, S. 2808, introduced by Senator Tester (MT).

Background: Though most of the tribe’s land has been lost to takings by settlers, by the federal government, and by the state of Massachusetts, the small amount of land still held by the tribe today holds deep cultural significance. An “initial reservation” plan was approved in 2015 by the federal government, allowing some lands to be taken into trust.

Reservation lands and sometimes other lands owned by recognized Indigenous nations are typically held “in trust” by the federal government. In theory, the trust arrangement brings the land under the protection of the federal government against incursion by individuals, corporations, states, and other governments. In a contorted interpretation of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Supreme Court in 2009 (Carcieri decision) ruled that only tribes that had been federally recognized before 1934 were eligible to have lands held in trust. In spite of its deep history, the Mashpee Wampanoag were not federally recognized until 2007.

Read more here about the impact of the federal government’s decision on the tribe and on other lands held by Indigenous Nations. Read the tribe’s press release about its struggles in 2015 to 2019 with a private developer who opposed the tribe’s application to build a gaming resort, and sought a permit to build one himself in the same town (Taunton.)

Actions that you can take: Contact your own Senator about S. 2808 (the “Carcieri fix”) and ask whether the Senate will affirm the Mashpee Wampanoag Reservation as the House has done in H.R. 312.

Good Sources for News

Indian Country Today – Weekly digital and video news reports covering breaking news, debates, trends, education and culture throughout the Indigenous world, including American Indians and Alaska Natives. You can sign up for the weekly news here.

Native American Legislative Update – a web publication from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). The FCNL’s Advocate on Native American Policy provides updates and advocacy suggestions on Congressional actions each month. Updates and background materials can be found on the FCNL website. You can sign up for the Legislative Update here.

Coming Up … Sometime?

Working Toward Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples

** This event has been indefinitely postponed.** Due to the pandemic, Pendle Hill has closed its facilities until October.

Watch for news of a second conference calling Quakers to a concern for truth and right relationship with Indigenous Peoples at Pendle Hill, a Quaker Center for Study, Retreat and Conferences in Wallingford, PA.