December 06, 2013

Wampanoag calls casino foes "skinheads"

Taunton mayor asks for, receives apology from Wampanoag vice chairman

By George BrennanCalling her comments “insensitive and ill-advised,” Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye Jr. called on the vice chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to apologize for her comments where she referred to opponents of Native Americans as “NIMBYs,” “skinheads” and “xenophobes.”

The emotional comments by Jessie “Little Doe” Baird came at a hearing at Taunton High School Tuesday night where the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs was preparing to hear public feedback to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement for its proposed casino.

The tribe is seeking to have the BIA take 155 acres in Taunton into trust for a $500 million casino complex that will feature three hotels and a water park.

Shortly after Hoye asked for the apology, Baird issued one.

“On behalf of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, I want to convey my sincerest apology to anyone who was offended by my comments at the DEIS hearing at Taunton High School,” Baird said. “No offense was meant toward casino opponents, the people of Taunton, or city officials. I was referring to the types of comments other tribes’ land-into-trust applications have received in the past. The comments were directed to the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding the Land-in-Trust comment process, which lasts 45 days.”
Dueling views

More on the story, including dueling views from the right and left:

GUEST OPINION: Apology can’t erase underlying hatred and racism

By Frank LagaceMashpee Wampanoag Tribe Vice Chairwoman Jessie Baird’s letter is not an apology. The context of her remarks Tuesday were squarely aimed at casino opponents, were hateful and intentional. Her “apology” rings empty.

Furthermore, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell’s statement purporting to be an apology regarding the statements of Ms. Baird is an insult to the government and people of this city as well as this nation. This is literally one nation hating the citizens of another nation based on race and disagreement. If the Mashpee wish to reap the benefits as a sovereign nation, they must also suffer the consequences of their leadership’s hateful statements and failure to take ownership and responsibility of such. Would the vice president of the United States be excused for spewing racially offensive comments towards Native Americans, Jews, Muslims, Catholics or people of heritage from all other countries across the globe or because of disagreements? Would casting offensive comments toward an Indian tribe by a citizen of Taunton who opposes the Mashpee casino proposal be acceptable?

Ms. Baird’s use of hate speech regarding those of us trying to protect our homes and community of East Taunton with the explicit and provocative words of skinheads, xenophobes and NIMBYs during a federal hearing that goes on record via a recorded transcript is abhorrent to say the least. A true xenophobe is one who resorts to using such epithets, most alarmingly skinhead. Ms. Baird’s statement will be transcribed in a federal agency’s files. There is no way possible that her hatred can be misconstrued. It is documented in a transcript. It is irrefutable. Her hatred and racism is documented for history. Her speech is condemned in our society and certainly displays an underlying current of hatred and racism simply based on opposition to the Mashpee casino proposal. And an accusation of one being a skinhead is not taken lightly by law enforcement, the courts and the public at large. Nor is it taken lightly by this writer.
Then there are the foes' alleged ties to a known hate group:

On the Mashpee Wampanoag controversy: What Jessie “Little Doe” Baird left out

By Hal BrownComments made at a meeting by Tribal Vice Chairwoman Jessie “Little Doe” Baird provoked justifiable indignation and outrage (read letter to the Taunton Gazette) when she made them at a meeting in Taunton. According to The Enterprise:

“At a BIA hearing on the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed casino, Baird told the federal officials that they would hear comments from 'xenophobes, skinheads, NIMBYs, folks who were put off of reservation lands when their leases ended and probably every other hate group east of the Mississippi with every specious argument known to every single tribe that has followed this process since its inception in 1934.' ”

After the uproar, Tribal Vice Chairwoman Jessie “Little Doe” Baird said in a statement that “no offense was meant toward casino opponents, the people of Taunton, or city officials. I was referring to the types of comments other tribes’ land-into-trust applications have received in the past."

What was left out was a further explanation as to what I assume she was referring to. These types of past comments, none specified by Baird, fit the modus operandi of an organization called Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), which has been identified by some anti-bias organizations as an anti-Indian hate group. They go into high dudgeon when accused of being racist. I have no doubt that many of their members don't have a racist bone in their body, and don't fully grasp the reasons those in Indian Country consider their organization to be a hate group. You can read their website and see if you buy their denials.

When the Mashpee Wampanoag were attempting to open a casino in Middleboro, two members of CERA, one from Plymouth, and another from Carver, attended a number of meetings on the anti-casino side. As far as I know neither were actively involved in Casino-Facts, and although Casino-Facts never took me up on the challenge that they disavow CERA, I never had any indication that CERA as an organization or any of its members were anything more than interested bystanders. That being said, members of the tribe were very much aware that CERA had at least a presence in Middleboro during those tumultuous and divisive times.

The two individuals from CERA are still active in the organization, and represented Massachusetts at a recent conference in Bellingham, Washington in April of 2013.
Comment:  Baird used three terms, only one of which is linked to race. I don't think you can characterize her comments as "racist" when they apply to all races, including some whites who may be skinheads.

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