Monday, November 1, 2010

The Wapanoag - people or tribe, by the numbers

By all accounts the Wampanoag as a re-organized tribe is a relatively new entity.  The tribe was largely wiped out and disbanded in the 1600s following King Phillips War when many tribe members then integrated with colonists or moved to join other tribes.  What remained of the Wampanoag tribe’s last official activities appear to be in the early 1800’s.  The new Wampanoag group formally established themselves as a tribal council in 1976 and
received partial federal recognition in 1987.

By their own ordinance definition, tribal membership requires “Persons who have lived in or near Mashpee, Massachusetts, or have had family members actively involved in tribal community affairs who have lived in or near Mashpee, Massachusetts for at least the preceding 20 years prior to application for membership.”
The Masphee Wampanoag organization, in pursuit of their gaming claim rights, asserts tribal census of over 1,200 registered members. 

However, census data suggest the Tribe’s numbers may be somewhat inflated or that membership standards are lax:
·        2010 US Census – Mashpee, MA  -- 432 individuals identified as Native American
·        2000 US Census – Mashpee, MA – 377 individuals identified as Native American

Even if tribe members don’t call themselves Native Americans for US Census purposes, how does such a small group have the financial resources to be spending hundreds of thousands to lobby state legislators for their gaming interests?  Since the tribe’s finances are not public, we’ll never know  the details on whose money or how much is behind their efforts.

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