November 30, 2009

Wampanoag vs. wind turbines

YOUR VIEW:  Respect Wampanoag opposition to Cape Wind

By Gerard R. BourassaI commend the Wampanoag for their efforts to block the construction of 130 wind turbines on historic and picturesque Nantucket Sound. We should not lightly dismiss these American Indians' claims that the project would impede their ability to properly practice certain religious rituals that require them to have an unobstructed view of the sunrise.

Furthermore, we should be more sensitive to their concerns that erecting the wind turbines would disrupt sacred burial grounds. In general, I am supportive of wind turbines. Anything that promotes clean energy and makes us less dependent on fossil fuel and therefore on other countries is certainly a positive concept. However, in this case, the religious rights of the People of the First Light who have called this area home for more than 12,000 years should take priority.

Although I know that no malice is intended toward the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes by the proponents of the Nantucket Sound wind turbines, one can't help but think that this episode is just the latest manifestation in long history of incidents in America of gross disrespect and utter disregard for the spiritual rituals and religious sites of the indigenous.

It's a shameful history that spans centuries from the "Pilgrim fathers" desecrating the graves of the natives when the former arrived in the "New World" to modern day non-Indian charlatans trying to get rich by counterfeiting sacred Native American sweat lodge ceremonies.
Comment:  I'm not sure the Wampanoag are declaring Nantucket Sound a sacred site. I think they're declaring their unobstructed view of the ocean and the rising sun part of a sacred ceremony.

Even so, they're getting into some tricky territory. Can a group declare its view of the land or ocean a First Amendment right? It can try, but I doubt any US court will uphold such a right.

For a somewhat related case, see Comanches Kick Army's Butts.


dmarks said...

Once they win this frivolous lawsuit, they can sue the NOAA for daring to allow the fog and clouds that have been preventing an "unobstructed view of the sunrise" for a long long time now.

And then they can deal with themselves: I easily searched and found accounts of the Wampanoag trying to build skyscrapers. Buildings which block the sunrise much more effectively than spindly windmills.

Rob said...

Skyscrapers? On Nantucket Island? I find that hard to believe.

You probably read something about the Wampanoags' plans to build a casino hotel. If that ever happens, it'll be in a town far from the coastline. It won't block anything except the neighbors' view.

Wherever the "skyscrapers" might be, the Wampanoags could go around them to see the sunrise. They couldn't go around a seascape of wind turbines filling the ocean from horizon to horizon. Not without moving to another location, that is.

Rob said...

DMarks adds:

As much as I think the tribe is way overreaching in the windmill effort, the other side can of course go too far.

This discussion:

is chock full of the worst type of Tonto-speak sentences laden with stereotypes.

Rob said...

Good point. If you think the lawsuit and the people filing it are frivolous, just say so. People can be foolish and frivolous while still being kindhearted, law-abiding citizens. I.e., without being drunks, degenerates, or savages.

Stories like this one reveal the deep-seated racism inherent in many Americans.

dmarks said...

Has anyone called their bluff on this? Checked to see what exactly blocks the view when as seen from the ceremonial areas used?

It could be that a few of them could be moved a little, and there'd always be a view toward the sun (assuming fog and other obstables don't block it).

Rob said...

I suspect they'd say it's more of a figurative impediment--i.e., a spiritual contamination of the pristine vista--than a literal one. But the difficulty of proving this in court suggests why the lawsuit is likely to fail.

dmarks said...

Yeah. Then, once actual sun-blocking obstacles are removed, they could get into the legal definition of the vista... .how many degrees of arc on either side of the sun must be windmill-free? Do the no-windmill rules apply to sailboats? Or are the sailboats banned from a smaller arc of view because they are temporary obstructions? And even then, should tickets be issued to boaters who park their boats between the sun and the ceremonial sites? Or to those whose boats move too slowly?

Rob said...

If the Wampanoags win their first lawsuit, you've identified some fertile grounds for follow-up suits.