Annual Tribal Council Elections were held on Feb 10 for the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation. The approved candidates were announced on January 15thand listed the following candidates as eligible “pending a criminal background check”: “I” is for incumbent

  1. Carlton Hendricks Jr. (i)
  2. Denise Johnson-Hathaway
  3. Edwina Johnson-Graham (i)
  4. Yvonne Avant (i)
  5. Aaron Tobey Jr.
  6. Brian Weeden
  7. Joanne Frye
  8. Rita Pocknett Gonsalves
  9. Marie Stone

 

Councilman Weeden with Presidential Hopeful Elizabeth Warren

In a dramatic turn of events candidate Brian Weeden received 346 votes out of a total voting turn out of 472!  Councilman Weeden spoke exclusively with indigenous Boston’s Daniel Strong Walker Thomas, about his new role and gave us some details about his background. 

Councilman Weeden created the tribal Youth Council because in 2009 because “The tribe had a clause in the constitution that states I couldn’t run for council until I was 25” and is now the youngest council member to ever hold office! When asked what put him on his path to leadership and tribal involvement so young, Councilman Weeden promptly states, “It’s in the blood!” “Both of my parents are leaders and involved with tribal government and taught me culture and values.” 

Councilman Weeden served as the Youth Council chairman/founder from 2009 until 2012 and in his new role as Councilman will serve as their advisor and liaison. Speaking of his Youth Council members with affection he says, “They all feel like they have a seat at the table now that I am elected! Many people speak of the youth in council meetings, now the youth are here.”

In 2012 Councilman Weeden became a member of the United National Indian Tribal Youth or UNITY, where he held the position of Northeastern Representative. In 2014 he ran for the position of Male Co-President of the organization and won becoming not only a director but also a member of the board of trustees. 

Councilman Weeden has served as chair of the Mashpee Wampanoag Pow Wow committee, has chaired the enrollment committee (currently serves as secretary to the committee) and is chair of the Planning and Land Use committee. I asked Councilman Weeden how he was prepared for all of this reasonability, “I didn’t take the college route, instead I was taught by the elders” and was educated by the people hands on. “To me it’s about being properly groomed for the position and what better way then to stay around the people? Everyone knows me here, elders look to me as the future.” 

Councilman Weeden sits on the cusp of change as many of our Indigenous Youth do. The time has come for the youth to grab the reins and step into the arena, to fight and stand strong or our people. Brian says he is not alone, and that we should pay attention to Dana Flloyed-Jackson who was his campaign manager and after seeing Councilman Weedens success has visions of her own!

What is your message to Indigenous youth of all Nations? “So many times you hear you’re too young, keep doing what you are doing and the future will be bright because of us. You are not the leaders of tomorrow you are the leaders of today!

The Mashpee Wampanoag nation had just seen a vote of no confidence passed to relieve Chairman Cedric Cromwell of his financial powers. In an official statement released on February 7th the Nation stated the council “voted unanimously 7-0 at its Wednesday, Feb. 6 meeting to rescind its previous “no-confidence” vote and also voted 7-0 to reinstate Chairman Cromwell’s financial duties as Tribal Council Chairman and President of the Tribe’s Gaming Authority.” Three seats changed places and this election also saw the return of council member Aaron Toby Jr who historically as been a critic of Chairman Cedric Cromwell.

As with all politics many people have opinions of the Mashpee Wampanoag’s inner tribal workings. I for one say unless you are a member of the general council or enrolled in the nation then you shouldn’t have an opinion. That may seem radical to some readers; however, keep in mind that from the beginning of the reservation systems our people have had outside agencies trying to strip us of our sovereignty and project their wills onto us. The Mashpee Wampanoag’s will find what works for them and accomplish great things as a nation, especially with its newest and youngest leaders!

Winners are:

  1. Brian Weeden – 346
  2. Rita Pocknett-Gonsalves – 309
  3. Carlton Hendricks Jr. – 232
  4. Winnie Johnson-Graham – 212 
  5. Aaron Tobey, Jr. – 201
  6. Yvonne Avant – 187

Written by Daniel Strong Walker Thomas
Daniel@indigenous.boston