January 2012

Wuneekeesuq Nutawâm (Greetings to my Tribal Community),

Happy New Year! I pray that the Creator blesses you, your family and our tribal nation with good health and happiness in the coming year.

2011 was an exciting year for our Tribe, and I truly believe we are experiencing a “Wampanoag Renaissance.” Together, we made significant progress towards our goals. There is still much to do, and we must always strive to do better, but I would like to take time and highlight a few of our accomplishments over the past year.

Early in the year, our Tribe was recognized with the US Mint’s 2011 $1 coin, depicting the 1621 Wampanoag Treaty. This was important recognition of our history on a national stage. In addition, our Tribe had the honor of participating in Governor Patrick’s interfaith Inaugural service.

Throughout the year, we worked hard to secure funding for existing and new Tribal programs. I am very proud of the job our Development team did over the past year to secure much-needed funds for everything from housing, to fuel assistance, to tutoring, to sports activities for our youth. Especially exciting is the $200,000 in foundation funding our Tribe will receive for child care services.

We executed a first-class, good medicine Powwow. The three-day event was well attended, vibrant, and an opportunity for our Wampanoag culture to shine. We honored the late Alice Lopez with a celebration that I’m sure would have made her proud.

Alice’s legacy continues to live on through the housing development on Meetinghouse Road. While progress has not always been as swift as we would like, we broke ground on the water treatment portion of the project and we are moving forward with this important project, which will provide housing for Tribal members.

Our youth and our Education Department teamed up with UMass Boston to conduct the first-ever session of Native Tribal Scholars. I am so proud of what our young scholars were able to achieve over the summer session, and hope that even more students will participate in the program over the school year and in the summers to come. This effort to support our students to complete high school and go on to college is incredibly important and I thank all who have worked so hard to make it happen.

In order to better serve the many tribal members living in the Greater New Bedford area, the Tribe was proud to open a New Bedford satellite office. Tribal departments are providing services and meeting with citizens every day. Special thanks to the Helme family and other New Bedford-area Tribal members for helping Council pursue and make this goal a reality!

We are also very excited about the milestone toward building our Tribe’s community center. Funding through the USDA makes it possible for a planned groundbreaking in 2012. This facility will provide much needed community meeting space, offices for Tribal departments, services and cultural programs.

On November 22, Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation expanding gaming in Massachusetts, including a provision acknowledging the right of our Tribe to build a destination resort in southeastern Massachusetts. In the coming months, we will announce a location and get to work negotiating a compact with the Governor. This is a major step in our economic development strategy for our Tribe!

And last but not least, I was honored and thrilled to be a part of the Grand Opening of the Mashpee Wampanoag Health Services Unit. Being able to provide health services to our people is a major milestone for us as a sovereign government, and I am so proud of everyone who worked so hard to make this happen.

These milestones are just a few examples of what we can accomplish when we work together in a positive, constructive manner toward our goals. We have much more to do, and we will succeed!

Kutâputunumuw;

Cedric Cromwell
Qaqeemasq (Running Bear)

Deficit Reduction and Job Creation: Regulatory Reform in Indian Country

Testimony of

Cedric Cromwell, Chairman, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

to the

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

regarding

Deficit Reduction and Job Creation: Regulatory Reform in Indian Country

December 1, 2011

(as prepared)

Good afternoon Chairman Akaka and members of the Committee, and thank you for your efforts on behalf of so many issues affecting Indian Country. As Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, I am honored to speak with you about job creation, and what can be done at the federal level to allow us to create jobs not only for tribal members, but also our neighbors in Massachusetts.

The single most effective measure that this Congress can take to spur job creation and economic development is to end the uncertainty caused by the controversial Carcieri decision.  That uncertainty impedes trust land acquisition, denies access to funds and funding opportunities, and creates a continuing threat of litigation that casts a cloud over all of our economic development planning.

As you know, despite our Tribe’s long history, including being the Nation that met the Pilgrims back in 1620, we were only reaffirmed as a federally recognized Tribe in 2007. As a recently reaffirmed tribe, we have much work to do. We have to recover from the centuries in which we lost control of our homes, our lands, our natural resources and the ability to protect our way of life.  Despite all those losses, my community is strong, and working to overcome the difficulties that the Carcieri decision poses to our efforts to restore a piece of our homeland and fulfill our obligation to provide for the Mashpee people.

After centuries of neglect, my people’s needs are crushing. Over 50% of our adults are out of work. Less than half have a high school diploma. Not coincidentally, half of our population lives below the poverty line. Our elders and families struggle to find affordable housing in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country – on lands that were allotted away from us in the nineteenth century.  And our people suffer from poverty-related health issues like heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, and depression.

The Tribe’s needs, although starker, are not much different from the rest of the country.  My people need housing, and we are working to build our first tribal housing development, aided by NAHASDA funding.  But the delay in restoring our trust land base means that we are burdened by state, as well as federal regulation, and progress is slower and more expensive.  Jobs creation and home construction is stalled.

We are about to celebrate the opening of the Tribe’s health clinic, funded by IHS, and operating near our tribal headquarters, in our traditional homeland, but still not on trust land.  We wish that we could build bigger and better, but we are providing much needed service to our people.

We have a high value on teaching our children, and are working to improve the quality of education for our young people who are now surrounded by a much larger non-tribal community that has come to occupy our Mashpee homeland.  To our great pride, our children –and our adults – are learning in Wampanoag again.

We are not waiting to build our dreams, but wish that the few federal programs that we can now access could be supplemented by the others that are outside our grasp because we have no trust land.  We wish that the minimal funds we receive as a recently reaffirmed tribe more closely tracked the centuries of unmet needs we must remedy. The federal programs now in place to benefit Indians are a fragile lifeline, not enough, but certainly not a fair target for budget cuts.

We want to do more with our homeland.  But we cannot yet build on trust land, because we don’t yet have it.  So we must confront state assertions of jurisdiction, including zoning and taxation.  So our costs go up, jobs and programs are delayed and deferred.

We want to do more than just catch up.  We want to restore the powerhouse of Indian economy through tribal free trade zones and Section 17 corporations.  That way, tribal trust land can support a boom of jobs with competitive wages in manufacturing , distribution, and goods and services.  Indian Country can develop a high performing gross domestic product as a gateway to stabilizing the American economy. Nearly 500 years ago, my people, controlling their own natural resources, had it all, and had a high performing economy.  We can be rich again, with a hand up, not a hand out.

I urge, again, that this Congress swiftly enact a fix to the Supreme Court’s erroneous ruling in Carcieri.  Once that uncertainty is resolved, we will be able to more speedily restore a land base, access funding, reconstruct portions of our homeland, and create jobs and opportunities for us and for the communities among whom we now live.

Thank you.

December 2011

Wuneekeesuq Nutawâm (Greetings to my Tribal Community),
This is truly an exciting time for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe! With the passage of the expanded gaming bill, we have a real opportunity to
move our Tribe forward by creating good jobs and providing additional funding for housing, healthcare, education, economic development
issues, and cultural programs and as a whole the uplift of our tribal nation. We have many hurdles still to cross, but we are one giant step closer to realizing our goal of operating a destination resort casino. Working smart and hard, we will succeed and our tribal nation will win as promised.
The progress on the gaming legislation has been possible with the concerted efforts of a great team of committed people. I appreciate their support, focused work ethic and collaboration and working with me to get the job done. I also thank our tribal community for the outpouring
of support and good medicine you have provided during this effort. I have heard from many tribal members with very positive support
towards the positive advancement of our tribe over the past 2 ½ years since I have been in office.

I have assigned different members of our tribal government to work closely with me in order to make certain we stay on track with our
many ongoing efforts. For example, Vice Chairman Aaron Tobey has worked directly with me on gaming legislation, communicating with Tribal Council and our outside team to make sure our goals are met to get this legislation passed and make sure our rights are respected.
In addition, I have assigned Aaron to assist me in managing our constituent services, and he fills an important role in dealing with internal
affairs, liaison for our Fish and Wildlife Commission, and our tribal designee for relationships with outside law enforcement and correctional agencies.
With the depth and breadth of issues that we deal with on a daily basis as a sovereign tribal nation, it would be impossible to accomplish
all we do without a united team working tirelessly toward our goals. We are in the midst of an exciting, important chapter in our Tribe’s great story, and working together we can ensure that this chapter tells the story of our Tribe reaching true economic independence and self-determination.
There is nothing we can’t accomplish if we continue to work together. I envision our destination resort casino as the first step in a plan to lift every Mashpee Wampanoag up to realize his or her full potential. I ask for your support, your advice, and your prayers as we move forward
together. We are on the move and we will win!
Kutâputunumuw;
Cedric Cromwell
Qaqeemasq (Running Bear)