After 400 years, the American Indians of Plymouth Rock and the English Pilgrims fame, the Mashpee Wampanoag of Massachusetts, have finally won a bit of respect.
Last week (February 15, 2007), the U.S. government approved their petition for official recognition as an American Indian Tribe.
Click here for video from the Cape Cod Times capturing the moment the tribe heard the news. Also, watch interviews with tribe members.
Cape Cod Times also has a beautiful photo series titled Recognizing the Wampanoagon.
It took the tribe 32 years, 64 boxes of documentation(including detailed genealogies on each of the tribe's 1,461 living members dating to the first encounter with the Europeans), and a dose of lobbying to finally get the government to do the right thing.
The tribe's chairman, Glenn Marshall, can trace his heritage back to Massasoit, the Wampanoag chief who shared the first Thanksgiving meal with European settlers in 1621.
Scott Ferson, Mashpee Tribal spokesman, wrote the following: "In one respect recognition is symbolic, correcting a near 400 year oversight. But the true power in the act is in allowing the tribe to control its economic future. If the tribe had not been recognized, economic pressures and property costs on Cape Cod would have meant that the tribe would dissipate into the landscape, and its culture and language would have been lost. This decision will allow the 1500 members to remain together."
Governor Deval Patrick included this line in his letter to the tribe: "For a tribe that greeted the Pilgrims when they landed on the shores of Massachusetts, this recognition is long overdue."
Published reports of the news has generated a great deal of responses. One that says it all was submitted by Ricardo to The Scotsman: "400 years ...hmmm how thoughtful of the settlers."
According to Nedra Darling of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are still 200 petitions by tribes seeking recognition still pending.
(BTW: Thanks to UCTP's TainoNews for the news tip.)