A True Challenge for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Beyond the media fed frenzy and controversy of casinos, looms the shadows of realities for a tribe. When all is said and done, ideally, according to all elements of our traditions it is the people that matter. There is a helpful reading list that I believe all leaders, hoping to be effective and balanced leaders, should absorb; be they community leaders, elected statesmen, corporate heads, etc. I’m going to place it at the end for those who are interested. In the book, Vote For Me, by Dick Gregory, he defines the essential difference between a statesman and a politician. A statesman being a leader who understand politics as a tools of the trade into establishing and sustaining their vision; versus a politician who’s goals are power and will adapt their vision to the desires of those who will bring them into power. Ideally, the leadership of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe will be states people, understanding the true traditional philosophy and ethics of the people they lead, the first being the concept of the circle, as opposed to the hierarchical model of the pyramid or triangle.

I’m going to revisit the metaphor from my last blog post: does renovating a house mean that you have to tear it down? Sometimes it means a bit of rebuilding and replacing parts of the structure. Taking out and/or adding walls, replacing boards, supports, windows, doors, steps... the metaphor can translate to music. The song not sounding right doesn't mean that the issue is with the songs chords, melody, or lyrics. Sometimes, it's just issues with the arrangement. I'm sure you get the idea, but this is what happens when you let a guy blog without an editor.

I implore the tribe’s leadership to closely examine the events of August 27th at the Sons of Italy, not so much as an insurrection or plot of dissention, as much as a cry for help. Obviously beyond the folks with personal and political agendas, there are still a number of folks who are unhappy and dissatisfied with the way things are going or being handled. Employees and community people alike are feeling that their needs are not being met or addressed. Along with them are a silent, yet cynical body who don’t expect to be their needs to be addressed by the powers that be. To simply silence folks for speaking out is not a sign of strength. In fact, quite the contrary it demonstrates marked insecurity in your administration and at the same time, potentially martyring inept crackpots. As a tribe, we have found ourselves at that delicate place between growth and disintegration; death and rebirth; expansion and stagnation. People are happy, scared, maudlin, anxious, apprehensive, hopeful,

What brought these folks together? Consider the wise words in The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend. So, let us be friends.” Hence the forces were able to rally around a common thread, their dissatisfaction. If after the smoke and mirrors has faded, and the story is no longer fuel for the local media hype, the fact of the matter is that a considerable faction of tribe (considering that the enrolled tribal body is less then 2,000) is dissatisfied it stands to reason that the leadership needs to find a way to address the cause(s) of the dissatisfaction. At the same time, escape the trappings and seduction of the outside. Those ideas and concepts that can feed your ego and cause one to lose sight of the true purpose and goal.

As a community we have our history, traditions and values, which have been impacted by forced and passive interactions with other cultures. However, As many of the motives behind the actions and orientation of the dominant culture are not our own, it is imperative that we find a way to walk the fine line between their ways and our core values. This requires the application of acculturation, adapting the tools of one culture into the context of your own; as opposed to assimilation, abandoning your own culture and values for those of the dominant culture. A quick glance at our history demonstrates that we have a long and proud tradition, as a people, of acculturating our tribe into the larger society, with leadership that kept us together.

As I listen to my elders reflect on the old ways, back when the tribe and the town were basically one in the same, I can’t help but realize that to a larger extent, we’ve lost our sense of community. things like Wamp Pride Day and A Mashpee Wampanoag Summer Thing were positive initial steps towards community development, focusing on the youth, elders and family, but the need to take steps back to this core value, but these effort need to be enhanced and expanded to save them from being token, monumental events. A serious, bottom line issue that the tribe and it's leadership faces is the rebuilding of their infrastructure, as a tribe and community. Having worked with a number of tribes on the east coast, I've learned that infighting is nothing new among tribal folks. In fact, this is a factor in all small close-knit communities, if you consider the nature of politics and position in your small town governments, or even the issues that brew up in large families. In reality, the tribe is a large family and issues like this can’t be dealt with in anger and counter attacks, but a level of understanding and cooperation on all levels.

Unity has become a favorite word around the tribe. Yes, we must all come together, but at the same time, bullet wounds will need to be addressed with more then band-aids, essential needs must be addressed, walls might need to be replaced as opposed to re-painted (oops, there goes the house metaphor again). Yeah, that’s basically it.

  1. How To Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
  2. The Prince, by Nicolo Machiavelli
  3. The Art of War, by Sun Tzu
  4. Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, by Deepak Chopra, MD
  5. Black Skin, White Mask, by Franz Fanon (Particularly as it relates to acculturation)
  6. Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  7. Understanding Media, by Marshall McLuhan