In 1609, the city government of Leiden, which had a tradition of offering shelter to asylum seekers, granted some 100 English religious refugees permission to settle there. They stayed for more than a decade before some of them departed aboard the Speedwell in 1620. The first stop was Southampton, England, where they transferred to the Mayflower. Leiden Pilgrims, in fact, initiated the first trans-Atlantic voyage. The Mayflower landed in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on November 11, 1620.
The first settlers in ‘the New World’ found a snow covered native village called Corn Hill, where they first encountered the Wampanoag Tribe. The Mashpee Wampanoag had lived at Cape Cod for 12,000 years and they were well acquainted with the landscape and how to survive. It was Mashpee tribe members who helped the 102 voyagers of the Mayflower survive their first winter in the Americas by sharing their food and their medicine. They even helped them scout the terrain.
The Mashpee Wampanoag received little benefit for their hospitality. Smallpox killed over half of the population and tension increased as the English expressed interest to take their territory. Hundreds of men and women were forced into slavery and their lands were sold as commodities. After decades of petitions, the Mashpee finally had reason for celebration when the United States Bureau for Indian Affairs declared the Mashpee exist as a tribe. With this recognition came 300 acres of land they once had, to practice their way of life like their ancestors used to.
Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration wants to take away the Mashpee Wampanoags’ reservation status. The decision, if allowed to stand, would destroy much of what the tribe has worked to build in recent years on its sovereign lands, including its homes and educational systems.
The announcement came “on the very day that the United States has reached a record 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus,” tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a statement, calling the move “cruel” and “unnecessary.”
Cromwell: “Whatever the motivation for the order may be, we remain undeterred in our fight to continue having the special legal status afforded by having the land “held in trust.”
“We the People of the First Light have lived here since before there was a Secretary of the Interior, since before there was a State of Massachusetts, since before the Pilgrims arrived 400 years ago. We have survived, we will continue to survive. These are our lands, these are the lands of our ancestors, and these will be the lands of our grandchildren,”
Want to support the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to keep their status and land? Sign the petition if you’re an American citizen: https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/stand-with-the-mashpee