The new chair of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council promises to unite his tribe after the previous two people to hold the position were indicted on financial crime charges.
Brian Moskwetah Weeden was elected May 16 after a four-person race. At 28 years old, he is the youngest person to hold the position of tribal council chair.
WBUR's Bob Oakes spoke with Weeden recently. Here are some of the highlights of the interview:
On his immediate plans to create the unity on which he campaigned:
"We're going to get the tribe's affairs back in order by restoring our trust in each other. That's something we need to work on, as well as our unity in the community. We plan on tackling that through various cultural projects, programs, initiatives in bringing the people together and bringing the people together, listening to the people, and making sure that the people's voices are being heard.
"It's been a problem in the past that our agendas and the tribal council's agenda has been subject to the chairman. AS the new chairman, I plan on changing that and making it the people's agenda."
On his plans to establish talks with Gov. Charlie Baker and state officials:
"My priority with the governor is to talk about restitution and what is owed to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and to make sure that he understands that the tribe is looking for our fair share.
"The Commonwealth of Massachusetts illegally turned our Indian district into a town against the tribe's will. There's laws that say that Indian land cannot be sold without the consent of Congress. They took the land of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe without getting congressional approval ... Other tribes have worked on restitution, land negotiations, and so on and so forth, and those are the kind of conversations I plan on having with the governor.
"Whether the tribe works on another compact and the tribe goes into anything that we can do on the reservation from tax-free cigarettes or gas, and so on and so forth ... those are the kinds of deals we want to work on with the governor."
On plans for a tribal casino in Taunton, which has been in the works for more than a decade:
"I have not called a [tribal] gaming authority meeting to date because we need to work on this within the tribe internally before we figure out how we'll move and proceed with the gaming endeavors. That's why we're trying to work with the commonwealth of Massachusetts to work out negotiations and compacts and so on and so forth to bring other economic development and revenue with the tribe.
"I think that gaming is the low-bearing fruit in Indian country for tribes and that's why the tribe tried to go after it. I think it's time for us to re-evaluate that. We're talking about 10-plus years here working towards gaming."
On whether the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe got enough support in handling the coronavirus pandemic:
"I believe that the tribe did get enough support from the federal government. The CARES Act fund that the tribe did receive, we were allowed us to provide services to our elders: giving them laptops, giving them freezers to store their food, we did a COVID assistance hardship basically to our tribal citizens and sent them some help and assistance during this time."
This segment aired on May 31, 2021.