A proposal to acknowledge the Wampanoag people as the original inhabitants of Plymouth has met with skepticism from some members of the Plymouth Committee of Precinct Chairs.

The committee voted 14 to 4 on June 20 to send town counsel Kate McKay a proposed statement acknowledging that the town encompasses what was once Wampanoag land.  

The statement, proposed by the League of Women Voters of the Plymouth Area, would be read before every meeting of the committee.

“We acknowledge that we are meeting on the sacred land of the Wampanoag Nation,” it says. “We honor the Herring Pond Wampanoag People, as the original stewards of this place now known as Plymouth, and we honor all Wampanoag Tribes, along with the countless other Indigenous Peoples who traversed these lands for centuries before us. As we acknowledge many historical injustices, may we keep the First Peoples of this Land in our hearts and minds as we discuss issues affecting these valuable members of our community and their ancestral homelands today.”

Some members of the committee pushed back against adopting the statement, raising concerns about its legal implications.  

“There are no legal implications,” said Phoebe Flynn, of the League of Women Voters. “It’s just a nice way to acknowledge and recognize not just the history but the current presence of our indigenous citizens and just be nice and good people and good citizens and good caretakers.”

But Betty Cavacco, of precinct 6, disagreed, saying town counsel should review the statement.

“This certainly has legal implications for this town,” Cavacco said.

Melissa Ferretti, chairwoman of the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe, was incredulous.

“In all due respect, this is three sentences that we’re looking at here,” said Ferretti. “There’s no legal implications to these words. I find that to be nonsense. This is not something new that people are doing here. This is done all over the state, in universities, campuses, City Hall in Boston. Think about how this looks, that we’re arguing and we’re worrying about legal implications about acknowledging the original people that were living here.”

Arlington, Brookline, Marblehead, Northampton, and Winchester have already adopted similar resolutions. In Plymouth, the Affordable Housing Trust, the No Place for Hate Committee, the League of Women Voters, the Open Space Committee, and Sustainable Plymouth have adopted such resolutions, and the public school system is considering one.  

Alan Costello, of precinct 10, expressed concern about the reference to historical injustices.  

“No one in this room partook in any of those historical injustices,” Costello said. “I worry that this is the groundwork for something bigger.”

He cited the recent renaming of the Myles Standish dorm at Boston University.  

“It would make us ripe to have a movement down here in Plymouth to start changing names of buildings, of schools that I don’t think anyone is going to sign up for,” Costello said.

It’s unclear when town counsel might render an opinion on the proposed acknowledgement.

Fred Thys can be reached at fred@plymouthindependent.org  

Share this story

We believe that journalism as a public service should be free to the community.
That’s why the support of donors like you is critical.

Thank you to our sponsors. Become a sponsor.