Aquinnah Wampanaog Tribe Wins $567,236 DoJ Grant

Gale Courey Toensing
9/29/11

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has won a $567,236 competitive grant for its judiciary department from the federal Department of Justice. The funding will be used to support the development, implementation, enhancement and continuing operation of the Aquinnah Wampanoag’s court system.

“We are delighted that the Department of Justice (DoJ) has awarded us this grant,” said Wampanoag Chairwoman Andrews-Maltais. “It demonstrates their recognition of the work we have performed thus far, their respect for our sovereignty and our efforts to protect it, and their commitment to a true government-to-government relationship. Additionally, building upon the foundation of the newly passed Tribal Law and Order Act; we will continue to develop a strong relationship with the DoJ while continuing to develop and enhance our own Tribal Self Governance.

The Martha’s Vineyard-based Nation established its judicial system in the early 2000s, passing a number of ordinances dealing with various aspects of tribal law, and has received a number of federal grants along the way, Andrews-Maltais said. The Aquinnah Wampanoag court is designed to express and act upon the Nation’s values, enhance self-governance, strengthen the economic and cultural health of the tribe, and build tribal court capacity at the local and state levels.

The grant will go a long way in helping the Nation implement a more traditionally-based judicial system for tribal members and activities that take place on tribal lands, providing time-honored indigenous ways of resolving disputes in a manner other than punitive, Andrews-Maltais said.

“For instance, if there is an issue or dispute, we can utilize the wisdom of our traditional and cultural Leadership to offer a more traditional and/or community value based type of restitution. We can also draw from other established tribal judiciaries, with similar traditional aspects for their expertise as another option. We can determine in our own way, the level of severity we believe the issue at hand is, and we can address it as our tribal community sees fit,” Andrews-Maltais said.

The Justice Department announced the grant in a press release from Carmen M. Ortiz, the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, on September 14. “I am thrilled that the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head will receive federal funding to enhance its tribal justice system. Consistently, they have developed solid strategies that exude their genuine desire to strengthen and preserve the integrity of the Tribe. We are very pleased that they are being recognized for their efforts again this year,” Ortiz said.

The award was made under the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) program that was launched in 2010 after extensive consultations with indigenous nations around the country. The CTAS combines the Justice Department’s existing tribal government-specific competitive grant solicitations into one packet, meaning federally-recognized tribes and tribal consortia only have to file one application for the various grant programs available.

Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli announced this funding during the DoJ’s 19th Annual Four Corners Indian Country Conference in Colorado, which he said underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to enhancing public safety in Indian country and the importance of a streamlined grant application process for federal funding.

“I am pleased today to announce the Justice Department’s continued investment in programs that offer innovative and comprehensive approaches to public safety and justice in Indian country,” Perrelli said. “Our government-to-government consultations have been critical to our understanding of how to better serve and support our tribal partners. By deepening our engagement with tribal governments, we have sought to help put an end to the unacceptable and sobering crime rates witnessed in Indian country.”

The Wampanoag’s grant will also help local governments with whom the Nation already partners. For example, the Nation has no police department of its own and contracts with the local law enforcement agency. “We can alleviate some of the workload from local and county court system,” Andrews-Maltais said. “We can enter into intergovernmental agreements to share our resources and where allowable assist financially as well. We can contract for specific services, equipment and facilities and we can collaborate where appropriate. Whenever our Tribe benefits, ultimately the local community becomes a secondary beneficiary as well, and that makes us very happy because we are also part of the local community as well as our own tribal community.”

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