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December 15, 2012

Wampanoag elder writes book about her tribe

MASHPEE, Mass. (AP) — Amelia Bingham has spent most of her 89 years striving to learn more about her tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoag, and its culture.

In a self-published book, Bingham tells much about the subject, from her childhood in Mashpee to her misgivings about past and current tribal leaders.

“I thought it was time that we really put it out there, what the situation was in Mashpee, from the inside,” Bingham said in a phone interview.

“Seaweed’s Revelation: A Wampanoag Clan Mother in Contemporary America” needed to be told, she said.

The book’s title is a nod to the Indian name, Seaweed, she was given as a small child, Bingham said.

Bingham, a tribal elder and a clan mother, was a central figure in pushing for an investigation into the political corruption and financial misdeeds of former tribal council Chairman Glenn Marshall in 2007. When she and three other tribe members filed suit seeking access to financial records, Marshall and the tribal council voted to shun her and the other members, which took away their rights to vote and participate in tribe activities.

“The thrill of our pending recognition was blunted, however, by continuing indications of trouble within our tribal leadership,” Bingham wrote.

Though she worked in pursuit of federal recognition for the tribe and provided documentation that helped prove its claims, she was not allowed on tribal grounds when the tribe celebrated its freshly minted sovereignty in 2007.

Bingham remained defiant. She showed up at the annual powwow with other shunned members, leading tribal leaders to call the police. She and her son Stephen continued to push investigators to dig deep into the tribe’s finances. That finally happened after Marshall was forced to resign in August 2007 amid reports that he once had been convicted of rape and had lied about the extent of his military service. He eventually served time in federal prison.

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