Mashpee Wampanoag Dilemma

Essay by mreedUniversity, Bachelor'sB-, November 2014

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Malone Reed


Mashpee Wampanoag Dilemma

When the United States Government made the ruling that only the federal government could deal with tribes to make treaties or land purchases, this had a retroactive effect allowing many tribes to take arguments to court claiming back land that states had previously purchased or taken from them. For several federally recognized tribes these cases were fairly successful whether reaching an actual verdict, or rather by settlement. However this type of claim was not so easy to make for tribes who were not recognized by the federal government. This became an issue for the Mashpee Wampanoag Indians as they were not federally recognized. The Mashpee Wampanoag Indians made the argument that the law did not explicitly say that the ruling applied only to federally recognized tribes, therefore it could be implied that this ruling is extended to any Native American tribes. Opposing forces, however used this opportunity to bring into question whether or not the Mashpee Wampanoag Indians were truly a legitimate tribe: generally recognized and functioning with an Indian government and culture.

It was argued that because the Mashpee area had become predominantly white, no longer spoke the old native language, and had fully converted to "American" ways of thinking in both religion and culture, the Mashpees were not truly a Native American tribe. They considered themselves Native American, but in the eyes of a skeptic, this did not mean they truly were Indians. People over the years had fought in wars along the puritans. The majority of the town had "thoroughly" converted to the Christian faith. Many of their political leaders were white-nonnative members, and their Chief had arguably lost his authority and influence over the tribe. Not only was the Mashpee's culture and government not purely Native American, but their heritage...