Upcoming Tribal Elections: A Winning Tribe and a Solid Council

On February 8th, members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe will gather to cast their votes to fill six seats on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council. There are 12 official candidates and a couple of folks running as write-ins. To see this many folks trying to have a voice or bring a new voice to the leadership of the tribe is encouraging and positive. However, what comes with elections is another issue.

Factions can be a serious red flag in any community, especially one with a leadership tradition and history that pre-dates the European model. It's especially self destructive when you are looking at a total population of under 4000 people, with a eligible voting body of under 2500, and an actual turn-out that is even lower then that. When dealing with a small population and it's divided into factions, what's recognized is that the voting and candidates has less to do with the good of the tribe and more to do with agendas and takes on the elements of a high school government election-like popularity contest.

A quick Mashpee history lesson about factions: In the late 1860's and early '70's as the tribe was divided, our territory became a town under the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, run by tribal members. In the 1960's and 1970's the tribe was divided into factions. As we bickered and stymied each other, outside forces came in (primarily realtors and developers) and took over the town. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Likewise, the concept of slates are a bit dubious with such a small voting population. We live in a world where many things are packaged for our convenience; from variety packs of cereal to fast food value meals. Slates signify unity and coalition, but once in office, rarely offer or even demonstrate those ideals. Slates only really work to the advantage of the constituencies when the candidates remain mutually accountable to each other, once in office. Otherwise, it's just a quick way into office in the form of a package.

In an ideal world, there are three texts that every contemporary leader should have read and digested before coming into office: The Prince by Machiavelli, The Social Contract by Rousseau (both are available for free as downloads), and How To Win Friends & Influence People, by Carnegie. All three are available in audio book form as well. Knowing that many folks don't have the time (or desire) to read, as a tribal member and voter, I look at five elements in selecting a candidate:
1) What are the main important issues effecting the people our community?
2) What are our progressive goals and plans for preservation?
3) What are clear and precise means of addressing these issues?
4) What do the candidates bring to the table to address the issues and help our community reach these goals?
5) What is the public service track record of the candidate?

Saturday, January 24 is the candidate forum, an opportunity for the tribal community to hear and speak to the candidates about the issues, platforms, plans and goals. For those who pay attention beyond the campaign and related rhetoric, it's a wonderful opportunity to observe the authenticity of people skills and respect for constituency.

Having had an opportunity to visit and work with a number of tribal governments throughout the Eastern region, I've learned that we are all more similar than different. One thing that is common for us all is tribal elections and the internal competition. What we should not lose sight of is the fact that ultimately tribal elections are are not supposed to be about the tribal body winning as opposed to the candidates. As a tribal council member, you are not merely a politician in the traditional western sense, you are supposed to actually be a voice of and for the body, the clans, the councils, the future generations.

Based on my observations and interactions, allow me to share the images of my top five pics, based on the fore mentioned criteria. With all honesty, the jury is still out on the sixth candidate, which is not a reflection in any way on the character or qualities of the other seven candidates. When one cooks a stew, not all of the spices and ingredients on the shelf are going to work well with others. My sixth vote is simply my last minute notion of what the council might need a pinch or dab of.

On we go... on we win.




A consistent voice on the council that has endured many administrations. This consistency has been one of the true strengths of the council and a benefit to the tribal community as a whole.

I strongly and heartily endorse Yvonne Avant

For Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council
Here we have a voice on council that exemplifies leadership that walks among the people. She is about family and tribe and youth. This is some of what we need more of.

I Enthusiastically Endorse Winnie Johnson-Graham for Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council

A strong, gentle spirit on a council, gives the council a powerful blend of the traditional function and contemporary, westernized land of leadership. The flexibility and willingness to go the distance for the people. Definitely the right ingredient in the stew...

I Strongly Support Trish Keli'inui for Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council
 — at Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.


A strong voice for the community and occasionally the voice of contention. Contention is good, it gives dimension and forces a body to consider an alternate point of view. A strong council needs voices with courage of character and conviction. We need true advocacy for the positive self-development of our youth and elders. She has been and should remain this voice on council.

I Enthusiastically Endorse Laura Tobey-Miranda for Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council


The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and Council are at a social crossroads and we are in acute need of as much healing, loving spirit on our leadership as possible. There are people among us who have provided that gentle loving insight, nurturing, encouragement, and inspiration; there leadership has been effective without title. Bringing her onto the council would be a win across the board.

I Strongly, Enthusiastically and Heartily Endorse Robyn Roseblossom Tobey for Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council