The United South and Eastern Tribes, an organization of 25 federally recognized Indian tribes in 12 states, has joined with the Wampanoag of Gay Head (Aquinnah) in their opposition to the wind factory on Nantucket Sound.
The board of directors of the organization called upon the U.S. Minerals Management Service, which is reviewing the Cape Wind application, to “respect the Traditional, Cultural, Spiritual and Religious beliefs of the Wampanoag People and preserve the spiritual integrity and sanctity of the eastern horizon, vista and horizon viewshed; and to deny the permitting of such a devastatingly and destructive experiment, which will adversely affect and destroy the essence of tranquility, sanctity and spirituality of this sacred place for all time.”
In explaining its decision, the board said the Gay Head tribe is part of the Wampanoag nation – the People of the First Light.
“Since time immemorial, the Wampanoag People have inhabited the area of the eastern-most lands and waters, and have maintained their traditional spiritual and cultural connections to them,” according to the board’s resolution. “As the People of the First Light, one of the most important aspects and fundamental components of their religious and cultural beliefs and practices is their ability to experience, embrace and give ceremony and prayers of thanksgiving to the first light.”
These ceremonies depend upon maintaining the ability to view the first light, the eastern horizon and viewshed without obstruction.
“Whereas the right to practice their religious ceremony in the traditional manner will be forever denied by a proposed experimental wind farm consisting of 130 windmill turbines, with propeller blades reaching approximately 440-feet above the surface of the water on about 25 square miles (about the size of Manhattan)…the Wampanoag Tribe most strenuously objects to this proposal and opposes the placement of this wind farm in the traditional Wampanoag waters of their religious and ceremonial sanctuary.”
In a nod to the significance of this vote, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, a sister agency of the Minerals Management Service within the Department of Interior, has asked the MMS to re-initiate consultation with the tribe over this issue.
“While the Draft Environmental Impact Statement appears to demonstrate the MMS has initiated and conducted consultation with the Wampanoag Tribe, the DEIS does not appear to give any weight to the cultural concerns of the Tribe for their right to ‘practice their religious ceremony in the traditional manner’.”
As a result, the BIA has asked the MMS to at least extend the comment period for the DEIS and consult with the tribe on these issues.
The main question now is whether the MMS will do more than just acknowledge the concerns of the Wampanoag and reject the Cape Wind project. If MMS does not oppose the project, the tribes should go to court to protect their ancestral lands and waters.
21 April 2008
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