Discussions For and With Massachusetts Native Peoples

A Reassessment for Our Times

Discussions For and With Massachusetts Native Peoples


Welcome to the blog for the Institute for New England Native American Studies (INENAS)!

Entitled “Discussions For and With Massachusetts Native Peoples,” this first blog entry will be about a project called Massachusetts Native Peoples and the Social Contract: A Reassessment for Our Times.

This collaborative project is the result of ongoing dialogue between INENAS, Massachusetts tribes, Suffolk University Law School’s Indigenous Peoples Rights Clinic, and other colleagues in academia and government. It originates from our lengthy conversations about past policies and statutes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and their impacts on the lives of contemporary Native Peoples who reside in the state.  Some of those reports and statutes include the Earle Report (a study of Natives living in Massachusetts in 1859, published in 1861) and the Massachusetts Enfranchisement and Allotment Act (passed in 1869).

Although it is hard to believe, it has been over 145 years since the last comprehensive review of the status of Native Peoples in Massachusetts. These two state sanctioned activities set the stage for state citizenship for Native men, disenfranchised Native women, and changed the legal relationship between many Native Peoples and their homelands. Instead of the various Indian districts, reservations or towns having ultimate collective ownership of their homelands, they were divided up to individual heads of households and subject to state taxation. This change in the legal status of Indian land would dramatically accelerate the loss of this land between 1870 and the time of the Great Depression in the early 1930s.

Much has changed in the world since the publication of the Earle Report and the Massachusetts Enfranchisement and Allotment Act, including international recognition by the United Nations of the rights of indigenous Peoples, including those in Massachusetts.

To develop a framework for discussing these changes and the current status of Native Peoples, we proposed and were funded for a series of roundtable discussions across the state. I hope you can attend one of them (see the table below for dates and times) and hear what Native Peoples who live in Massachusetts have to say about these very old policies and their contemporary impact, as well as how they hope to shape their future, ideally in collaboration with their non-Native neighbors, state, and local governments.

To help you gain some understanding about these past policies and statutes, you can find their links embedded in this text as well as the information for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).    To provide a comparable orientation to current international thought on indigenous Peoples, my collaborator Nicole Friederichs has written a summary essay describing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and included some relevant ideas as to how it can be used by Native Peoples in Massachusetts.

UNDRIP Summary

How to Use the UNDRIP

I hope you find this useful, and look forward to engaging with you over the next year on this topic.

Thank you!

Cedric Woods (Lumbee), Ph.D. – Director, Institute for New England Native American Studies



This project is generously sponsored by:

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