Amidst the heartache, Our Tribe’s Strong Kinship Ties Have the Power to Transform Mourning into Morning

Dear Tribal Family,

The month of May turned out to be a difficult time for many of us. Even as the beauty and renewal of spring shone its face – even as the herring began their annual run – it wasn’t all sweetness and light. Amy Booth Hamblin (Hendricks), Dwight A. Peters, and my beloved mother and Tribal Elder Constance Myrna (Tobey) Cromwell went on to the Grande Lodge in the Sky. And while each of their spirits are now with The Creator, those of us who were left behind are not without a sense of grievous loss.

Of course, I cannot speak for the immediate families of Amy and Dwight. But, as for me, I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to all those who offered their love, support and Good Medicine during such a difficult time.

Amidst the heartache, however, I am always blown away by how our Tribe’s strong kinship ties have the power to transform mourning into morning. The sacred songs, sage, prayers and drumming embody an ancient appreciation for the circle of life, and, I believe, is the secret to our resilience.

It is a blessing that even in death, there is still beauty – and strength – among our people. The way we come together to celebrate the lives of those of us who pass on, without regard to circumstance or status, carries the implicit message that each and every Wampanoag life matters.

To behold and partake in that is a constant source of healing and hope.

***

We draw upon the everlasting energy of our ancestors (as well as the recently deceased) to walk in their footsteps that we may have the fortitude to face our tomorrows.

It is with that spirit I ask you to join me in welcoming new leaders into our tribal government:

Our new Tribal Administrator David ThunderEagle; our new Tribal Supreme Court Justice Terri Yellowhammer; our new Youth Director, Tracy Kelley; our new Assistant Education Director, Scott Shepherd; our new Indian Education Coordinator, Cameron Greendeer; our new Tribal Outreach worker, Ann Marie Askew; our new Emergency Preparedness Planner, Nelson Andrews Jr.; our new Clerk, Eileen Miranda; as well as our new Gaming Authority member, Daniel Nuey.

 

Kutâputunumuw,

Cedric Cromwell

Qaqeemashq (Running Bear)

2015 Proposed Budget has arrived at homes…Please reveiw

Dear Tribal Family,

You’ve got mail. This week we sent out the Tribal Council’s proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget for your review. We will hold a budget information session from 2- 5 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Community & Government Center. Then, at our General Membership meeting on March 8, an up-or-down vote will be held.

With 2014 in the rear view mirror, we are now passing through a critical intersection on the road to economic self-sufficiency and the budget is a big part of that.

It’s also important to note that because we don’t impose taxes on individual tribal citizens, our tribal government does not run on taxpayer dollars, as other governments rely on to provide services to its citizens. Instead, we have access to a limited amount of grant funding, federal aid, and investor contributions.

Of course, a budget is not simply an accounting statement filled with numbers. A budget, first and foremost, is a statement of priorities. It’s a document that lays out how limited resources get divvied up in the face of diverse needs in way that gives us the biggest bang for our buck.

It’s not just about the dollars. It’s also about common sense. So let me say right off the bat: the proposed budget is balanced and does not project to spend more than we bring in.

I believe our proposed $16.6 million budget (which includes secured funds as well as $4 million in anticipated in additional revenues) serves as a bridge to a more prosperous future. In preparation for the upcoming vote, I’d like to give you an overview of what’s in it – the good and the challenging.

First, the challenging: As with any budget – whether you’re talking about a government or a private business – salaries are always the biggest line item. And that’s because governments (or businesses) are still run by people who need to make a living, and who provide the services we all rely upon.

Of the $16.6 million in this year’s proposed budget, $4.7 million is to pay the salaries of the 79 people who keep our government running, 92 percent of whom are tribe members. There will always be those who question the salaries of employees. Yet, before a judgment can be made about what’s an appropriate salary, one overarching principle must be taken into account: competitive wages that attract highly capable professionals with particular skill-sets.

This budget does not propose to extend 401K, retirement or pension benefits to tribal employees, which is the norm in the labor market outside of our growing nation. The truth is: the salaries of tribal employees and the $1.5 million in additional health insurance benefits are in line with similar jobs outside of the tribe.

But that’s not all: this year’s budget proposes to eliminate cost-of-living-adjustments for the upcoming year. By doing that, we can save $200,000 and put that money toward our Tribal Native Scholars program, which lost the grant that previously funded that program. That’s not something we take lightly. But, in the face of limited resources, I believe it’s a difficult choice justified by the priority we place on investing in those pursuing a degree in higher education.

Now, a few words about the good in this budget.

I think we can all agree that our Community & Government Center is not only the seat of our government but the heart of our community – a place where we can come together as a people to be about our business. No doubt, there are costs associated with maintaining this magnificent building. That’s why this year’s budget proposes $1.5 million to pay for building costs, which not only includes maintenance and utilities but also the $500,000 interest on the loan we got to finance the construction.

We are also proposing to spend $856,000 in program supplies, which covers materials needed for tribal initiatives such as equipment for our shellfish farm and the $313,000 it cost to put in place paved infrastructure at the future site of our Tribal Housing Development on Meetinghouse Road.

In terms of more direct spending serving tribal members, we are proposing $800,000 to cover client expenses, the biggest portion of which ($270,000) will directly benefit tribal members in need of housing assistance. Another $250,000 would fund education scholarships and $227,000 would fund our hardship emergency services, which helps financially struggling tribe members pay utility bills or keep their families afloat amid unexpected financial catastrophe.

One of the things I’m most proud of in this budget proposal are the efficiencies and savings we’ve found that will allow us to spend $250,000 to place tribe members battling addiction into transitional sober homes.

Now, if we pull the lens back, the proposed budget for the upcoming year represents an increase of $1.8 million over last year’s budget of $14.8 million. What accounts for this increase is the federal requirement for us to establish a tribal gaming commission as well as the true costs of paying the bills at the Community & Government Center, which last year was based on an estimate.

We are proposing to spend $1.5 million on our Tribal Gaming Commission in anticipation of getting land into trust this year, which will trigger federally mandated hiring and licensing fees associated with building our First Light casino project in Taunton. This is money set-aside that will only be used when we break ground. Yes, it’s an added expense but a necessary one that reflects we are moving closer to our top priority: establishing sovereign tribal lands on which we can build a money-making engine that will ultimately drive us to economic self-sufficiency.

I am well-aware of the concerns over our gaming authority budget, the funds of which are separate from the money that funds our tribal government. I am also aware there has been misinformation circulated about the finances needed to bring this project to fruition. At this point, it should be self-evident what it costs to build a $500 million resort destination casino, which is what the state Gaming Commission requires our competitors to spend. If we are going to compete with the big players, we must invest on the same level, otherwise it would be like trying to compete with Super Stop & Shop by building a tiny convenience store.

While the road to complete economic independence may be filled with potholes, traffic, and other temporary detours, this budget keeps us cruising forward on the freeway to our future. It literally puts our money where our mouths and hearts are – a future financed, not by outside investors or government grants, but one that is paved and paid for by the bounty of our own prosperity.

Kutaputunumuw,

Cedric Cromwell

Qaqeemashq (Running Bear)

Winter Storm Update

Dear Tribal Community,

With a major winter storm expected to affect the majority of our Tribal citizens over the next few days, please stay safe and take precautions to ensure safety throughout the duration and aftermath of the storm.

Tribal offices will close early today at 11:30 am and all Tribal meetings have been postponed so that tribal citizens and employees can stay off the road. This includes the Tribal Election that was scheduled for Sunday, February 10th. Please see the Election Committee’s notice here.

Please check in on family members and neighbors – especially Elders – if you are able to safely do so.

Our Tribal government has been working hard to communicate with Elders, prepare Tribal resources in case of an emergency, stay in touch with state and local emergency officials, and monitor conditions.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has provided the following information about the storm and resources in case of an emergency situation:

A significant snowstorm/blizzard is forecasted to impact Massachusetts beginning on Friday February 8th, lasting into Saturday February 9th. Snowfall across much of Massachusetts is expected to be approximately 1-2 feet with locally higher amounts. In addition to snowfall, strong damaging hurricane force winds (gusts up to 80 mph along the coast, up to 50 mph within the Rte 95 corridor, and up to 40 mph further inland) are expected which could lead to widespread power outages. In addition, moderate to major coastal flooding is anticipated along much of the coastline during the Friday evening and Saturday morning high tides.

Travel may become nearly impossible with blowing/drifting snow and near zero visibility during the height of the storm (Friday afternoon into Saturday morning). Motorists are asked to stay off the roads if they can during the storm to allow snow plows to clear the roads.

Get MEMA Winter Weather tips here.

MEMA encourages smartphone users to download the free ping4alerts! app. This app is available free of charge for iPhone and Android phones and receives severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service and emergency information from MEMA based on the user’s location. Learn more at http://www.mass.gov/mema/mobileapp.

Stay safe, and may the Creator cover you.

Kutaputunumuw;

Cedric Cromwell
Qaqeemasq (Running Bear)

Apprenticeship Training Opportunity

Dear Tribal Community,

Please see an important notice below from Yvonne Tobey in our Tribal WIA Department about an apprenticeship opportunity for Tribal members. Please share this with anyone who you think may be interested in learning a trade and starting on a pathway to a solid, lucrative career.

Kutaputunumuw;

Cedric Cromwell
Qaqeemasq (Running Bear)

Apprenticeship Training Program Opportunity

The UA Local #51 Plumbers and Pipefitters Apprenticeship Training Program will be accepting applications for Plumber and Pipefitter – Refrigeration apprentice training.

The applications will be available Monday through Friday, March 4 – 8 and 11 – 15, 2013 from 9:00 am – 12:00 noon at 11 Hemingway Drive, East Providence, RI 02915.

All applicants must apply in person, be at least 18 years of age and have obtained either a high school or GED diploma. Applicants must also have a valid drivers license with them the day they pick up their application.

All applicants are required to take an aptitude test and a math test consisting of basic eighth grade math. They must obtain at least a 70 on the math test in order to continue to an interview.

For more information, please contact Yvonne Tobey in the WIA office at 508.419.6016, ext. 606 or ytobey@mwtribe.com; or David Marland, Training Coordinator at UA Local #51, at 401.943.7301.