End expropriation and exploitation of Native American lands


From the very first moments that whites entered New England and the “New World,” they began their centuries-long sordid expropriation and exploitation of native American lands — a phenomenon that saturated both North and South America with the vile displacement and deaths of the dispossessed inhabitants. (“Genocide” is what this conscious ethnic extermination practice was called against Jews in Germany, Bosnian Muslims in Croatia, and Kurds in Iraq.) It is a heritage laced with heinous practices that are continued today, as insensitive, disrespectful, and greedy whites seek to control and exploit for their own wealth, comfort, and convenience the purloined plateaus, valleys, mountains, rivers, and streams comprising the hemisphere.

The facts — and not the self-supportive, flattering, delusional mythology spun by contemptuous conquerors in fictional “history” books and Hollywood movies — are readily set forth in Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s riveting epic, “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.”

The latest example of this pillaging phenomenon on Martha’s Vineyard is the control state government has sought to exercise over the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)’s right to utilize their own land for gaming. Viscerally, the squabble is about the denizens of the rest of the Island seeking to preserve their tranquility, leisure, and ambience by opposing the tribe’s right as a sovereign nation to exercise the principles of self-determination and do whatever they wish on and with their land. Rather than assisting the tribal members in having a robust economy that uses an entertainment mechanism to increase the attractiveness (and the traffic) to the Indian domain, they would refute the right of the tribe to control its own destiny. It is bad enough that these avaricious interlopers have seized most of the Island for themselves. Now they are trying to control that tiny remnant of Native American Vineyard soil that remains, and limit its enterprising use, which could otherwise create self-sustaining prosperity for the tribe.

Rather, these “rustic, snobbish traditionalists” would prefer to see the tribe live hand to mouth in the quaint, picturesque, but decidedly nonlucrative profession of selling trinkets to the occasional summer tourists who come to view the majestic beauty of Aquinnah.

It is time to turn full control of the remaining tribal lands over to the tribe, make suggestions to them on how to use their land compatibly with the rest of the Island, and then get out of the way as they choose to follow the path their wisdom and selection process leads them to. There is currently some ambiguity within the tribe as to which way to go; but if the choice is gaming, fine. We will help them make it work.

Flash Wiley is an attorney, a political activist, and a resident of West Tisbury.



  1. Flash, I would like to take your message more seriously. I really would, but I cannot find it clearly delinted in your letter. I am sure it’s there, somewhere, hiding among the affected and self-important sentences. You and I share an Alma Mater. One can be equally verbose, but to what end? We both know how to insult a reader’s intelligence, but that should not be necessary.

  2. Flash– you could have just said “quit picking on the Indians” —-we would have gotten it 🙂

  3. Flash, have you actually spoken with people in the Aquinnah community? Your commentary lacks understanding of the nuanced situation of what is happening Aquinnah. Most of the tribal members who voted for gaming in Aquinnah do not live in Aquinnah – many of them live off island. Most of the tribal members who live in Aquinnah DO NOT WANT GAMING in Aquinnah. This is not just “rustic, snobbish traditionalists” – this is tribal members living in Aquinnah who feel assaulted by this development being forged upon them, their culture, and their way of life in Aquinnah.

    In your commentary you imply that it is the State government. Not true. The Town of Aquinnah is seeking to have some understanding of what the tribal government is planning in terms of construction, security, etc. The town government is run in part by Wampanoags. A tribal member is the Town of Aquinnah administrator, and a tribal member is a selectmen. This is not a tribal vs non tribal issue. It is more like a tribal members living in Aquinnah vs tribal members not living in Aquinnah issue. Your commentary misses the point of what is actually happening, which is way more interesting.

  4. Never in my life would I hire an attorney who gives himself the nickname “flash”, nor one who can’t seem to make a clear argument in text.
    Guy just found the thesaurus feature on MS Word.

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