Saturday, May 26, 2007

A comment about federal tribal recognition

Sometimes a little pocket of blog comments appears for a post and I don't notice it until later. This blog post [Click here] has some comments worth reading. One of those comments is as follows (I corrected the spelling).

Dear Pile bloggers:
The situation with the Nipsachuck Swamp is the So Called Seeconke's who are jonny come lately. They have no standing in USET nor are they recognized by other Wampanoags who have federal recognition. They are getting everyone all worked up and looking to gain some recognition through the media storm. They are not the genuine article, just ask the Narragansett's John Brown, or Doug Harris. Look out, they will turn a solid arcaheological find into a media circus, with the so called tribal hsitorian leading the way.
Kudo's to N.S. [North Smithfield] Conservation Commission and Dr. Meli, they are trying to protect the area.
Dr. Edwin Wind. Retired Professor UMASS.

I responded to the effect that I have been systematically skeptical about the claims being made about Nipsachuk and that I am in a "wait and see if they find anything useful, probably not" mode with respect to the study by Dr. Meli. All of which could be discussed in greater length. But what I want to comment on separately is this view of Dr. Wind that Wilfred Greene represents "jonny come lately". I have little intelligent to say about how Indians treat other Indians and about why the Narragansetts do or do not support the efforts of other New England Indians to gain recognition, whether state or federal. I do remember a certain amount of contempt expressed about Indians who have forgotten their own names and family connections. Right or wrong that is none of my business. But I do think it fair for me to express a white European attitude about such things and it is as follows: I look at Wilfred Greene's face and have no doubt he has a good deal of Native American blood. In what way would he be a "jonny come lately"?. So I ask: why is he not entitled to similar benefits and responsibilities as an Indian who is a member of a recognized tribe? I don't know. Wouldn't the fact that he is not part of a recognized tribe suggest his own family might have been harshly used by the Europeans, more harshly used in fact that -say- the Narragansetts? Or is it that his family
deliberately turned its back on Native American culture and now they are "jonny come lately" in wanting to take back what they threw away? A kind of reverse sour grapes.

I do not know the details of Mr. Greene's family history. But in at least some scenarios I think
the white community might have a larger guilt to absolve towards Wilfred Greene than towards the Narragansetts. Or in some other scenarios maybe not. But I do want to say to Dr. Wind: you are the jonny come lately, and so am I. Obviously Wilfred Greene has a right to explore his own families history, and all indications are that something significant happened at Nipsachuk. Don't worry that we will be taken in by a "media circus" we are watching closely and caring about all the involved parties - even the much maligned Dr. Meli.


Geophile said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Geophile said...

Sorry, goofed that up, so I'll try again.

I may be criticized for saying this, but a media storm may be a blessing for the whole topic in the long run. Whoever these people are and whatever the intended strategy, it's time this topic began to filter into the consciousness of the populace at large. How else is it likely to happen? As so many people say when attempting profundity, Things happen for a reason.

JimP said...

I've talked with Indians all over New England. I've been to gatherings and powwows, museums and cultural centers, tribal schools and reservations.

I've also talked with Indians all over the Southwest. I've been to their powwows, museums, youth centers, and reservations.

I've met Indians from federally-recognized tribes in New England who scoff at non-recognized tribes. I've met Indians from federally-reconized nations in the Southwest who scoff at federally-recognized tribes in New England because they rely on Pan-Indian cultural elements and aren't pure of blood enough.

I've met Indians who are obsessed with blood quantum, and I've met Indians who couldn't care less about it. I've met Indians who are racist, and Indians who are among the most tolerant people on the planet.

Indians are humans, after all -- their personalities are no less diverse than that of non-Indians.

I'm neither smart enough nor qualified enough to settle a dispute based on federal-recognition versus non-federal recognition.

What I do know is that there are thousands of people in Massachusetts with Indian kinships who cannot trace their genealogies -- Massachuset, Nipmuc, Pawtucket, Wampanoag, Nauset, Pokanoket, and the list goes on -- these people did not disappear. They're still living in their communities and still linked with the families that have connections to the land going back thousands of years. They will never attain federal status because of their inability to document who they are. It isn't up to any of us to judge those people.

It is not the US Government that decides who is and who is not an Indian. Kinships, culture, heritage, up-bringing, traditions -- those are some of the the determining factors -- NOT the Department of the Interior.

Until finally attaining federal status this year, I wonder how many might've called the people of Mashpee, "jonny-come-lately's."

The Seaconke Wampanoag are not selling citizenship. They are not selling culture. They don't seem to me to be in this for a profit. They seem to me to be earnestly interested in reclaiming their heritage, preserving their culture, and building a better future for themselves and their kin.

I simply don't see a problem with that. I also don't see a problem with anyone -- no matter what race or culture -- who wants to work hard to see one of these ancient sites preserved, whatever their motivation.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I hope they will find something so we can further our rock pile knowledge. Also, that seems the only way that this important ceremonial area will be saved from developers! Then again, if they find any valuable artifacts etc. that will put all piles in jeopardy from treasure hunters etc. Maybe they are better off as being mysteries. After all they are the last remaining Indian sites that are relatively unknown about to the general public. Every Indian site will be picked apart!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Meli has done an outstanding job for our commission and the town. He put his extensive reputation on the line by indicating that this site was not merely 'field clearing by colonists'. He then set about to prove his beliefs and convictions and in the end, he did just that.
While I cannot reveal where it is exactly or the what has been located, I can assure all who have an understanding of our amazing Native American culture and history, that preservation and protection of this incredible site is assured.

Anonymous said...

I guess I should say something about this issue. First, the article by J. Hill, was riddled with mis-quotes and mis-information, the work at Nipsachuck will prove that these stone features are not "Field clearing piles" and or "Cairns". With no help from the state archaeologist, and flak from the archaeological community, as well as the amatures. The archaeology speaks for itself.