Gale Courey Toensing
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe recently celebrated the opening of its new government and community center building.

Mashpee Wampanoags Celebrate New Government/Community Center

Gale Courey Toensing
4/15/14

The center was built on approximately seven acres of an existing parking area, minimizing the amount of land clearing that was needed. In addition, there were no wetlands on the site. The tribe wanted to maintain as much of the natural environment as possible, Cromwell said.

The center has 39 offices (both shared and individual) and around 34 cubicles and houses several tribal departments including language, housing, social services, judicial, medical assistance programs, tribal enrollment, the elders’ lounge and offices, archives, classrooms, kids craft area, and a huge gymnasium and exercise space. The tribe’s health and dental clinics are in other buildings on the site.

RKB Architects incorporated many culturally significant elements into the design of the building, the most prominent being the roof structure at the main entrance of the building, which is modeled after a turtle shell.

“It represents Turtle Island. Turtle Island is Indian country – strong, steady, wise and consistent,” Cromwell said. “We endure, we remain, we still live here. If you think about the first contact, our turtle shell has been so strong in providing protection around who we are as Mashpee Wampanoags in continuing our plight and our fight forward as a tribal nation.”

Brackets of cedar, a traditional material used by the tribe for shelter, are featured on the building’s exterior. The window mullions are designed to suggest the spirituality of a figure with arms uplifted in prayer. And the terrazzo floor of the rotunda entrance is embedded with over 700 pounds of wampum that was processed by tribal members.

Tribal government employees moved into the new space at the end of February when construction was officially completed.

“This building is so encompassing of who we are and we’re tremendously excited about it,” Cromwell said.

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