Interior denies Mashpee trust land: ‘You do not meet definition of an Indian’

The irony hasn’t been lost on me that, even as an historical marker is finally being raised in three weeks to commemorate William Apess’ birth in Colrain, MA the U.S. government has moved to dissolve the standing of the Mashpee Wampanoags who adopted Apess in the 1830’s and fought alongside him to throw off the regime of colonial “guardians” or overseers who had kept them in a state of peonage for nearly a century. Mashpee was the place where all of Apess’ skill, experience, and leadership abilities as an advocate for social change came to fruition. In his time, social media consisted of notices nailed on trees, formal signed petititions, and fiery backwoods sermons, but Apess was able to influence public opinion over a large geographic range in a way that helped the Mashpee reassert their sovereignty in the public sphere. To see this swept away now, with such callous disregard for law and custom is just another emblem of the reckless times in which we live under a self-serving president who cannot even speak of indigenous identity without rendering it a slur. I don’t have to ask what Apess Would Do if he were here today. He would stand with Mashpee.



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