Members of the Mashpee Board of Selectmen and the Wampanoag Tribal Council met last night following a years-long back and forth regarding the handling of areas of mutual concern.
The meeting took place at the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Community and Government Center and included discussions on the status of the tribe’s land into trust, their affordable housing development process, shellfishing regulations, public works projects, and water treatment efforts.
Town and tribal officials also discussed potential mutual efforts including economic and wastewater projects, and potential tribal grants for the aid of joint projects.
The meeting was generally light on specifics and largely cordial, with all sides in apparent agreement that they would each benefit if lines of communication were more open.
“I think that there was a lot that was learned, things that will continue to learn from,” said Thomas O’Hara, Chairman of the Mashpee Board of Selectmen,
“I think the dialogue needs to continue there are still some questions and a lot of the questions were not answered fully but the conversation moves forward and we’ll see what happens.”
One issue that did stir contention was the matter of shellfishing regulations. The town has been working to limit fishing in order to allow for population growth and nitrogen mitigation in the waterways. They have also been adding more seed to the area which has been disappearing.
“Aboriginal rights is, you know, who we are as the National Wampanoag Tribe and, you know, we never gave them up we always had them since time immemorial, 12,000 plus years in this land,” said Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell,
“So to tell a tribe that you don’t have this right especially when we didn’t give them up is challenging.”
While the tribe appeared to sympathize with the predicament, Tribal Vice Chair Jessie Little Doe Baird was adamant about the tribe’s right to fish as much as they saw fit.
After a lengthy back and forth, Baird bluntly offered the suggestion that “If we need more fish we should put in more fish,” referring to the ability to simply add addition seed to the beds.
The two sides agreed to discuss the site and agenda of future meetings as well as to appoint liaisons to better facilitate mutual understanding in the future.
By DAVID BEATTY, CapeCod.com NewsCenter