February 2018 Chairman's Column
Greetings Tribal Family,
It’s taken us a few years and the hard work of many, dedicated tribal members to take these steps toward completing the mission of our dearly departed sister, Alice Lopez. Alice would often say that our people should never be homeless on their homeland. It was a personal mission that she undertook as she worked tirelessly as a housing advocate in the 90’s and continued in 2003 when she launched our Wampanoag housing program.
Alice was driven and focused on getting homeless tribal people into safe homes. She had this rare ability to connect the federal housing regulations with historic rights of our tribe. She knew that there had to be a connection between federal, state and tribal rights if we were going to make meaningful progress in getting our people into long-term housing on our ancestral homelands.
The passing of Alice was and continues to be a tragic loss to our community. Thankfully her message was not lost. Since Alice first opened the doors to our Housing Department, we’ve had several great directors that have taken the lead on seeing her dream through. We’re so fortunate to have leadership, like our current Housing Director Michelle Tobey, that continues to run the department with compassion.
In 2007 Alice spoke with the Boston Globe about the importance of tribal housing. She said “we have people living in tents, doing winter rentals only, or three families living in a single-family home, just so they can be here.”
11 years later we’ve made great progress in the housing needs of our community – with several housing programs that specifically address the short-term housing crisis – but the core issues around sustainable housing are still prevalent today.
That’s what made the news last month that the Tribe had received $11 million in support for our housing project so important. The work started by Alice 15 years ago and completed by Michelle will ensure 42 tribal families will no longer have to struggle for housing on their homeland…no longer will our people be homeless on their homeland.
We are a proud and resourceful people and this is another proof point. We have never been a community to rest in the face of injustice. We see it in our quest for housing, in our bid to forever protect our tribal lands and in our need to preserve our culture.
Our strength and commitment to constantly better our tribal position doesn’t end with housing. There’s so much going on within our community to be proud of. We have an amazing group of youth that continue to amaze us daily. Our Tribal Youth Council has organized a fun event for February that will show off our culinary skills. I can’t wait for the “Taste of Mashpee.” We also have departments, programs and services that have regrouped and committed themselves to continue serving the needs of our family and friends. I’m also immensely proud of our Powwow Committee for bringing this year’s powwow back to our tribal lands. It’s always been in our long-term plan to bring our powwow home and thanks to this dedicated group it will be a homecoming in 2018.
Alice understood that our people – our tribe, culture and heritage – have remained intake for over 12,000 years because of our connection to our homeland. Michelle Tobey and our youth understand this and I know that each member of your tribal council understand this as well. This housing project will help to ensure that our culture and heritage continue for another 7 generations. We are Mashpee Strong.
Chairman Cedric Cromwell
Qaqeemasq (Running Bear)