"An engrossing and well-written account of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe's struggle for federal recognition. He discusses at great length the failure of the American judicial system to recognize and recompense a group of native people whose land was taken away not only in the far reaches of America's past, but also as recently as 1970."—Library Journal
"A sophisticated and fascinating account of the Mashpee Indians of Massachusetts. The book primarily describes the failure of these people to be recognized as a formal Indian tribe. . . . Raises profound questions regarding the legal process as applied to individual and tribal identification."—Choice
The Mashpee Indians have occupied the same area of Cape Cod for more than 350 years and have adjusted and maintained their identity despite the cultural and political changes imposed upon them from the time of early European contact. Central to this ethnohistory is the question of the meaning of the word tribe, a question that was raised in the tribe’s 1977 suit against the town and private landholders of Mashpee, Massachusetts.
The Mashpees based their land-recovery claim on the provisions of the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act of 1790, which protected the land of any Indian tribe or nation. But the jury found that the Mashpees were not a tribe, and the U.S. District Court judge therefore ruled that the Mashpees lacked standing to sue for land taken from them in contravention of federal law.
Campisi reconstructs the trial and provides a detailed history of the Mashpees based on archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, and the documents collected during the tribe’s suit. Since the trial, use of the term tribe has taken on increased importance in federal-Indian relations. There are nearly three hundred recognized tribes in the United States that are affected by changes in the definition of tribe, and over one hundred Indian tribes are now seeking federal recognition.
About the Author
Jack Campisi is associate professor of anthropology at Wellesley College. He is the coeditor of The Oneida Indian Experience: Two Perspectives.
Series: The Iroquois and Their Neighbors
5.5 x 8.5, 188 pages