Unrepresented Unrecognized Nations of the Northeast
Colonial narratives and historical documents identify at least 27 Indigenous peoples in Massachusetts, represented each by their own leaders as agents for their land. Today, there are at least 17 entities petitioning for recognition as Indigenous nations in Massachusetts. Not all claims are the same, but we also don't have a transparent, democratic or socially just system for recognizing Indigenous nations. The system for recognition at federal and state levels are designed and formed by outsiders, the Colonial powers. Because the right to have a voice on the disposition of Indigenous heritage sites relies on recognition, this is a critical central issue in Massachusetts archaeology.
So, what happens when an archaeological site is found on land that is not part of a recognized tribe's homeland? Who speaks for the land is pre-empted by the politics of recognition. In Massachusetts, one tribe obtained federal recognition under the Clinton Administration, only to be "rescinded" by the next. Another tribe was "rescinded" at the onset of 2020, leaving just one "federal tribe" and one "state tribe" in Massachusetts.
Restoration of "rescinded" tribes is a central priority if we are to approach racial justice in Massachusetts. since there are historically many nations across Massachusetts whose descendants are unrepresented, we need a system that acknowledges unrepresented Indigeneity and form an inclusive and equal method for talking about heritage sites. As it stands at the federal level, recognition is a closed and opaque process where a small panel of political appointees decides on the sovereignty of nations. We hope for a day when policy on archaeology will arise from a public, democratic and inclusive process of discussion and negotiation.
The following list has not been updated, and it is not an attempt to assess claims.
Unrepresented Nations and Unrecognized Nations of the Northeast
UN Council on Unrepresented Nations, Nations without State or Federal Recognition, with dates of letters of intent to petition to Office of Federal Recognition, BIA.
• Assonet Band of Wampanoags
• Chappaquiddic Band of Massachusetts Letter of Intent to Petition 05/31/2007.
• Chappquiddick Tribe of the Wampanog Indian Nation Letter of Intent to Petition 05/21/2007.
• Chaubunagungamaug Band of the Nipmuck Nation, Webster/Dudley. Letter of Intent to Petition 04/22/1980 as part of Nipmuc Nation; separate letter of intent 5/31/1996; proposed finding was in progress. Declined to acknowledge on 6/25/2004, 69 FR 35664; Reconsideration request before BIA (not yet effective)
• Council of Seven/Royal House of Pokanoket/Pokanoket Tribe/Wampanoag Nation
• Cowasuck Band-Abenaki People, also known as Cowasuck Band of Pennacook Abenaki People. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/23/1995.
• Federation of old Plimoth Indian Tribes, Inc. Letter of Intent to Petition 05/16/2000. Receipt of Petition 05/16/2000.
• Historical Nipmuc Tribe
• Narragansett Tribe of Indians
• Nashawe Nipmuk of Massachusetts and Quebec
• Natick Nipmuc Indian Council
• New England Coastal Schaghticoke Indian Association and Tribal Council
• Pocasset Wampanoag Indian Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 02/01/1995
• Pokanoket Tribe of the Wampanoag Nation. Also in Rhode Island.
• Ponkapoag Tribal Council
• Quinsigamond Band of the Nipmucs
• Seaconke Wampanoag Tribe
• United American Indians of New England
• Mattakeeset Tribe of the Massachuset Nation
• Algonquian Confederacy of the Quinnipiac Tribal Council
• Grasmere Band of Wangunk Indians of Glastonbury, Connecticut (formerly the Pequot Mohegan Tribe, Inc.). Letter of Intent to Petition 4/12/1999.
• The Mohegan Tribe & Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/06/1992.
• Native American Mohegans, Inc. Letter of Intent to Petition 9/19/2002. Receipt of Petition 9/19/2002.
• The Nehantic Tribe and Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 9/5/1997.
• New England Coastal Schaghticoke Indian Association
• Nipmuc Indian Bands
• Paugussett Tribal Nation of Waterbury, Connecticut. Letter of Intent to Petiton 7/3/2002. Receipt of Petition 7/3/2002.
• Poquonnock Pequot Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 7/7/1999.
• The Southern Pequot Tribe (a.k.a. The Southern Pequot Tribal Nation of Waterford). Letter of Intent to Petition 7/7/1998.
• The Western Pequot Tribal Nation of New Haven. Letter of Intent to Petition 11/27/2000.
• Maliseet Tribe
• Wesget Sipu Inc. Letter of Intent to Petition 6/4/2002. Receipt of Petition 6/4/2002.
• Abenaki Indian Center, Inc.
• Abenaki Nation of New Hampshire
• Pennacook New Hampshire Tribe
• Aquidneck Indian Council
• Pokanoket Tribe of the Wampanoag Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/05/1994 for Federal Recognition. State recognition attempted for the tribe with the introduction of State of Rhode Island House Bill 2006--H 7236, but the bill was never passed. Also in Massachusetts.
• Pokanoket-Wampanoag Federation: Wampanoag Nation/Pokanoket Tribe and Bands. Letter of intent to petition 1/5/1998.
• Rhode Island Indian Council
• Seaconke Wampanoag Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/29/1998.
• Wappinger Tribal Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 7/7/2003.
• Wiquapaug Eastern Pequot Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 09/15/2000. Receipt of Petition 09/15/2000.
• Koasek Traditional Band of the Sovereign Abenaki Nation. (formerly Northern New England-Coos Band, Independent Clans of the Coos United, Cowasuck of North America and Cowasuck-Horicon Traditional Band; a.k.a. Cowasuck Traditional Band of the Sovereign Abenaki Nation