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We say in the voice of one man that we are distressed and degraded daily by those men who we understand were appointed by your honors. That they have the rule of everything. That we are not consulted, it is true, and if we are, they do as they please and if we say one word then we are called poor drunken Indians when in fact we are not…. Our people are foresaken sic — many of them sleep upon the cold ground and we know not why it should be so, when we have enough if properly managed to supply all our wants….
There is much more, but we think that this is sufficient to satisfy you. Knowing that if we were whites, one half would be enough for redress — and now in consideration thereof and believing that you sirs would do the same — we as proprietors of the soil proud to return your honors thanks for the interest that we believe that you have taken in our welfare yet afore.
With a cheering hope that we one day would take care of ourselves believing that you will comply with our wishes and resolutions, and discharge those men, as we have several good trusted men who are capable men who are about to be chosen officers by us and who undoubtedly will come in contest with them. For if we do not take such measures in five years our property will be gone…. That we as a Tribe will rule ourselves, and have the right to do so for all men are born free and Equal, says the constitution of the country.
That we will not permit any white man to come upon our plantation to cut or carry off wood or hay or any other article, without our permission after the first of July next. That we will put said resolution in force after the date of July next with the penalty of binding and throwing them off the plantation if they will not stay away without. Yours most obediently as the voice of one man we approve the aboveas the voice of one man we pray you hear. See list [of atories] Presented below. They reminded officials in Boston that "all men are born free and Equal, as says the constitution of the country" and spelled out the details of what had become an intolerable situation — the appropriation of their woodlots, hay fields, pastures, and shellfish beds by whites.
The Mashpee declared that they would take action against further encroachment by white settlers. A group of Barnstable farmers decided to test the tribe's resolve. When they arrived to cut wood on Mashpee land, the tribe resisted, and a violent confrontation followed. Fearing an insurrection, the legislature granted the Mashpee the right of self-government in In what became known as the "Indian town," the remnants of native tribes from southeastern Massachusetts lived according to traditional ways — sharing ownership of the land and natural resources.
English settlers first began claiming title to land on the Cape in the mids. Like other Native American tribes, the Wampanoags did not recognize private land ownership. They were accustomed to moving with the seasons. When colonial settlements first impinged on their temporary village sites, the Indians simply moved elsewhere.
Sometimes they accepted gifts in exchange for allowing the settlers to use the land, not realizing that, according to English custom, they had "sold" the land and lost all future rights to it. However, they soon learned the ificance of ownership and moved to protect themselves.
In two Wampanoag chiefs deeded the land in and around Mashpee to the Indians "forever; so not to bee given, sold, or alienated from them by anyone without all their Consents thereunto. But even as the of inhabitants increased, the amount of land controlled by Indians continued to shrink. Surrounding communities kept redefining their borders, resulting, in the words of one historian, "in zigs and zags and an occasional cut into [Mashpee's] border. In the General Court incorporated Mashpee as a "plantation" or district belonging to the Native Americans residents. Believing that Native people were incapable of running their own affairs, the lawmakers appointed white overseers.
During the Revolutionary years, when the rhetoric of freedom was heard throughout the land, the Indians repeatedly petitioned for self-government and were repeatedly turned down. They fared no better with the legislature of the new state of Massachusetts. In the early s, the Indians living in Mashpee became increasingly frustrated with the status quo.
As the population of the Cape grew, so did pressure on its resources; it became common practice for white residents from other towns to cut firewood in Mashpee's woodlands and to take shellfish from Mashpee waters.
Although the Indians protested, the overseers took no action. Even worse, the overseers allowed white farmers from other towns to lease grazing land in Mashpee. When the Indians protested, their complaints were ignored. The Indians were also distressed that the white minister ased to Mashpee had so little respect for Native people that he discouraged them from attending his services and barred "Blind Joe" Amos, a Native preacher, from the Indian Meetinghouse.
Amos led the Native Americans in worship outside under the trees. In the self-educated Methodist preacher William Apess arrived in Mashpee. A Pequot Indian, Apess was an itinerant missionary who moved about New England preaching to the scattered remnants of native communities. He was appalled by what he found in Mashpee. Apess and Amos helped the council draft a formal protest. It drew heavily on words written by the Founding Fathers.
A gifted speaker and writer, Apess was well-versed in the new nation's founding documents. He inspired the Mashpee to seek independence from the white overseers.
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Under his leadership, the Mashpee elected a man council to challenge white guardianship of their district. On May 21,Apess and Amos helped the council draft a formal protest. The Mashpee demanded to be free of the overseers, whom they referred to as their "masters. The document set forth their chief grievances. Governance by white outsiders, who refused to consult the tribe about anything, was demeaning and intolerable.
The Mashpee asserted their right to rule themselves. The overseers misused their authority to dispose of Native American property as they pleased: meadows and woodlots were auctioned off, other land was rented out, and white farmers were permitted to let their cattle graze on Indian pastures and to take fish from Indian waters.
The Mashpee lived in poverty while the white men charged to oversee them grew rich. The document concluded with a resolution: As of July 1,the Indians of Mashpee would no longer tolerate encroachment on their lands. They would not "permit any white man to come upon our plantation to cut or carry our wood or hay.
White residents of Massachusetts were alarmed, fearing violence.
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Stories about a potential "Woodlot War" ran in the press, and Governor Levi Lincoln promised to call out the state militia if necessary. On July 1 stin a test of the Indians' resolve, two men from nearby Barnstable arrived in Mashpee and began to cut wood on Wampanoag property and load it into their wagons. The Indians objected and unloaded the wagons. Soon after, court officers arrested William Apess and several other native men and charged them with "riot, assault, and trespass. But the confrontation brought change.
A delegation sent from Boston to investigate the dispute produced a scathing report. He helped pressure the legislature to create the Indian District of Mashpee. For the first time in nearly years Indians living on Cape Cod gained the right to govern themselves.
Mashpee was incorporated as a town in Today the Mashpee have the largest native population in Massachusetts with approximately members. Mashpee Wampanoag History. Wampanoag homesite at Plimoth Plantation. On this day ina member of the Pequot tribe named William Apess was born in Colrain, a village in western Massachusetts.
Although his childhood was marked by poverty and abuse, he learned to On this day ina trial began on Cape Cod to determine whether the Mashpee Indians met the legal definition of a tribe. If they did, they could sue for the return of land On this day ina group of Native Americans attending a Thanksgiving feast in Plymouth walked out in protest. The Indians and their supporters gathered on a hill overlooking Plymouth Rock near a statue May 21, Share this story.
Comments 0. For if we do not take such measures in five years our property will be gone… Resolved That we as a Tribe will rule ourselves, and have the right to do so for all men are born free and Equal, says the constitution of the country. Resolved That we will not permit any white man to come upon our plantation to cut or carry off wood or hay or any other article, without our permission after the first of July next. Resolved That we will put said resolution in force after the date of July next with the penalty of binding and throwing them off the plantation if they will not stay away without.