Thursday, August 23, 2007

Native American Religious Rights Pose Complexity In Massachusetts Case

The complexity in protecting religious rights of Native Americans is illustrated by a case heard in Famouth, Massachusetts yesterday, and reported on in today's Cape Cod Times. In January, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council "shunned" four tribe members who had filed a lawsuit against the Council charging financial mismanagement. This meant that the four were banned from the tribe's annual Pow Wow in July. However, they attended anyway, claiming that the Pow Wow is a religious activity and the Tribal Council was interfering with their religious exercise. Tribal leaders called Mashpee police who issued trespass complaints against the four. Those complaints were dismissed yesterday by a Falmouth District Court Magistrate after the defendants, while still asserting their right to attend the Pow Wow, agreed to obey an order not to trespass on tribal lands for the next three months. Meanwhile, the financial mismanagement lawsuit filed by the four dissidents has been dismissed because in February the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe received federal recognition, and a Superior Court judge held that this deprived state courts of jurisdiction over the lawsuit.