Updated 5:15 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2013
Tobias Vanderhoop, who resigned last year as tribe administrator, won election as chairman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) on Sunday, defeating incumbent Cheryl Andrews-Maltais in an election that some tribe leaders viewed as a rejection of efforts to establish a casino in Aquinnah.
According to a statement issued by Mr. Vanderhoop, 258 people voted at the tribal administration building in Aquinnah. A total of 165 tribal members voted for Mr. Vanderhoop, while 91 voted for Ms. Andrews-Maltais.
“I am very thankful for all of the support that I have been given by the tribal membership,” Mr. Vanderhoop said Tuesday. “I am thankful to the chairwoman for all the hard work and dedication she has put in to serve our community.”
Mr. Vanderhoop has served in a variety of tribal government and cultural posts. In 2008, he received a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Until his resignation last November, he worked for Ms. Andrews-Maltais as administrator for the tribe.
In an email to The Times, Ms. Andrews-Maltais commented on the vote.
“Obviously I am profoundly disappointed in the outcome of the election,” she wrote. “However, I wish Tobias and our tribal community the best of luck in these very difficult and uncertain times.”
Durwood “Woody” Vanderhoop was reelected as chairman of the Wampanoag Tribal Council, receiving 238 of the 258 votes cast, according to vote totals released by the tribe.
Two seats were open on the tribal council. Reelected were Shelley Carter with 168 votes, and Al Clark Jr., with 145 votes. Naomi Carney, the chairman’s sister and leader of the tribe’s gaming corporation was defeated in her bid for reelection to the council. She received 111 votes.
During his campaign, Mr. Vanderhoop said he supports an “appropriate gaming initiative.” After the election he was unwilling to be more specific, but he said he would open up the process.
“There is certainly a call from our citizens to have a discussion, making them clear on the details so they can come together and fully air their concerns and make their voice heard,” Mr. Vanderhoop said. “The tribal membership will make that direction expressly clear. Our people need to define exactly what ‘appropriate’ is. When they make their position known and clear, I will do the work that needs to be done to advance their cause.”
The chairman-elect also said he wants to improve the relationship between the tribe and Aquinnah town government, severely strained under the administration of Ms. Andrews-Maltais.
“I fully believe in having a more open dialog with our membership, and that certainly extends to the diplomacy we employ with the town of Aquinnah, and the rest of the Island. We also have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with other tribes, the state, and the federal government.”
Some leaders in the Wampanoag Tribe viewed the election as a repudiation of the initiative led by Ms. Andrews-Maltais to establish Class 2 casino gambling at the tribe’s unfinished community center on tribal lands. Class 2 gaming includes high stakes bingo, poker, pull-tab cards and associated electronic games that do not require coin slots. It does not include table games such as blackjack, craps, and roulette.
Days before the election, Ms. Andrews-Maltais trumpeted a legal interpretation from the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) that supported her effort to legally establish Class 2 gaming, and she said the facility could be opened within a matter of months.
Aquinnah town counsel Ron Rappaport, in an advisory opinion for the town, takes the opposite view, that that the tribe cannot operate a gaming casino in Aquinnah because the 1983 Settlement Act that gave the Aquinnah Wampanoag federal recognition, requires them to abide by all zoning regulations in effect at the time. The town’s zoning regulations would not allow a casino.
“I think the tribe is in desperate need of change, and change occurred,” said Spencer Booker, an Aquinnah selectmen who has held several positions in the tribe. “The message was clear that the town of Aquinnah is not the venue for that particular enterprise, as far as tribal members were concerned. We clearly have the right to do Class 2 gaming, just not in Aquinnah. I think many tribal members still believe in doing some sort of casino gambling. The majority of tribal members are still focused on the mainland.”
Beverly Wright, also a selectman and former tribe administrator, said she is confident the relationship between the town and the tribe will improve.
“I know there will be respectful communication between the town and the tribe,” Ms. Wright said. “Whatever comes up, the tribe and the town can work together. We may not always agree, but at least we will know one another’s position, and we will understand one another’s position, which is all we can hope for.”