Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe Fears Losing Land Base In Massachusetts

Feather News

This installment of the Tribes In The Media is a story in the Herald News of Massachusetts about the Pocasset Wamapanoag Tribe´s fear of losing their land base while sharing their views of intertribal relations in the state.

Pocasset Tribe wants to clear the air on casinos
By Jay Pateakos
Herald News
February 10, 2010F

FALL RIVER — The Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe is calling on state and federal officials and other tribes to join them at their annual powwow in March to address rumors that their land on the North Watuppa Pond is being eyed for a casino and to collaborate efforts going forward.

Two weeks ago, the state’s Commission on Indian Affairs requested that a 100-acre parcel of the Watuppa Reservation be put into trust. Pocasset Tribal Council Vice Chairman Daryl Black Eagle Jamieson said that was part of a plan for the Mashpee Wampanoag Indians to build a casino. But Jamieson said his tribe owns more than 424 acres of land in Fall River and Freetown, and that nothing happens on that land without their approval.

Jamieson said having the Wampanoag nations at the powwow and subsequent meetings that day will help to “get everything out in the open and hopefully straighten everything out” as far as to the rightful owners to the land and who can and cannot use it.

Jamieson said the Commission on Indian Affairs does not represent the tribes of the commonwealth and includes groups such as the Mashpee and Nipmuc tribes, who have no ties to this area.

“The tribes from this area should be on that Commission; and the biggest three, Pocasset, Seekonk and Herring Pond, are not,” said Jamieson. “We want to have this meeting to get a chance to talk with other Indian nations and get everyone on the same page.”

Pocasset Tribal Council Chairman George Spring Buffalo said in addition to the Wampanoag nations meeting, he is hoping to create his own committee to better represent American Indian interests.

“We want to form a committee to help our area’s tribal nations in situations we feel the Commission on Indian Affairs are supposed to be representing,” said Buffalo. “We want to help look out for the affairs of all Indian nations, not just a few.”

Chairman Buffalo said he does not expect any representatives from the Mashpee Wampanoag’s tribe to attend the meetings in March.

“They are not into talking. If they had, they would have done so before stepping on our territory,” said Buffalo, who added that the Mashpees never once informed his tribe of its intention to locate a casino in the city. “They have disrespected us and as far as I am concerned, we have nothing to talk about.”

Reached by phone Wednesday, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe officials said they would not comment on any of the Pocasset Indian comments, the upcoming meeting or the potential of what they plan to do or not do with any land in Fall River.

Jamieson said if there is going to be gaming in its territory, it will be the Pocasset Tribe working with the local and state agency for the benefit of the people who live in their territory. Jamieson said the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe is still recognized by its Colonial treaties made on behalf of the Massachusetts Bay Authority Co., formerly in Tiverton. The Pocasset’s petitioned the English government to move its reservation to the North Watuppa Pond in Fall River in 1709.

Jamieson said the pending Commission on Indian Affairs meeting where the discussion will take place to put 100 acres of Pocasset land in trust “violates our civil rights as a tribal government,” and that any changes to that would need to be made through the Legislature only. Something he said is not going to happen.

“The Commission on Indian Affairs is an advisory committee, not a legislative committee. They don’t have the power to manage this land,” said Pocasset Indian attorney Les Rich. “If you look at how they were formed, they were an advisory committee for the governor. They don’t have those kinds of powers.”

The Commission on Indian Affairs meeting to discuss the future of the Watuppa Reservation will be held on Feb. 23 in Boston. The Pocasset Indian powwow and gathering with other Wampanoag Nations will take place on Sunday, March 7, at 8 a.m.