Unitarian Universalists Rise in Solidarity With the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

On March 27 at 4 p.m., the Bureau of Indian Affairs informed the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts of a U.S. Department of the Interior order to disestablish the tribe’s reservation and remove its land-in-trust status. Vice Chair Jessie Little Doe Baird says that the order will terminate the Tribe’s ability to self-govern, strip the Tribe of their reservation lands, and effectively terminate them as a recognized people.

In a video appeal posted on Facebook Baird states, “We have been here 12,000 years. This is the land that the Pilgrims set foot on, 400 years ago.” This year is the 400th anniversary of Mayflower landing and the Unitarian Universalist Association has been working with the Wampanoag on a program for our 2020 General Assembly that appropriately recognizes and mourns that anniversary. Vice Chair Baird points out that when the Mayflower landed, people on the ship had been ravaged by illness and almost half of them died during their first winter in Plymouth. She says, “Our people fed them, protected them, shared resources. Now during a pandemic, we get a call from the Trump administration that they are going to wipe my people out.”

The Unitarian Universalist Association unequivocally affirms our support for the Mashpee Wampanoag People’s sovereignty and right to their ancestral territory, and condemns the government’s blatantly illegal and morally reprehensible attempt to strip the Tribe of their rights and their homelands. In keeping with the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly’s responsive resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, we urge Unitarian Universalists to act in solidarity now with the Mashpee Wampanoag people to defend their sovereignty and push back against this latest aggression on behalf of the federal government.

UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray says, “As Unitarian Universalists, we have supported Indigenous communities in their fights for sovereignty and the protection of their lands and people, from Wounded Knee and support for Leonard Peltier to Standing Rock and the fight to stop the Dakota Access and KXL Pipelines. Our congregations and the early formation of our religious tradition also draw our lineage to the pilgrims on the Mayflower and this history of colonialism in this country. We have a responsibility to side with the Mashpee, to side with love in solidarity to protect the Mashpee and their land.”

Take Action

People across the country are calling for action, including Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey. The UUA urges Unitarian Universalists to support the forward movement of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act (Senate Bill 2628, introduced by Sen. Markey, the passage of which would override the Trump Administration’s order). The bill has already passed the House with strong bipartisan support, (HR 312), but is stalled in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

In addition to advocacy for this legislation, the UUA urges Unitarian Universalists to take the following actions in solidarity with the Mashpee Wampanoag:

  • Sign a petition calling on Congress to Pass the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act

  • Call Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs: (202) 224-2551. Urge him to support the forward movement of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act (Senate Bill 2628)

  • Call and email the Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, who issued the order to disestablish their reservation lands

  • Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and ask to Speak to your Senators. (Find your senator). Urge your Senators to support the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act (Senate Bill 2628)

  • Make a donation to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe through their official website.  Donate now.

Learn More

  • Watch this great 3-minute video by Teena Pugliese to hear directly from allies and leaders in the tribe about why this matters.

  • The Doctrine of Discovery has been the religious and legal basis of land theft, extractive capitalism, Indigenous genocide, and violent colonization. Learn more about the history of the Doctrine of Discovery—and Unitarian Universalist efforts to make amends and repudiate the Doctrine in contemporary times.

  • Learn more about the history and contemporary life of the Mashpee Wampanoag on the Tribe's official website.