Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe elects Brian Weeden as new tribal council leader
MASHPEE — The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has a new chairman who aims to unite tribal members, promote economic development and preserve the tribe’s culture.
In its May 16 election, members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe elected 28-year-old Brian Weeden as chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council.
“I feel ready to get to work,” Weeden said. “There’s a lot of things that need to be done for the tribe and the community.”
Weeden won by 20 votes, garnering a total of 241 votes to 221 for Nelson Andrews Jr.. Aaron Tobey Jr. received 167 votes, and Robert “Kyle” Bassett had 20. Carlton Hendricks Jr. was elected vice-chairman, Marie Stone elected treasurer and Cassie Jackson elected secretary.
“I hope the tribe’s future is bright with the newly elected leadership,” Bassett said. “I know everybody that got elected, and I hope that they’re up for the challenge.”
Weeden is the youngest person to serve as Tribal Council chairman, the head of the tribe’s executive and legislative government branch.
Weeden graduated from Mashpee High School in 2011 and attended Cape Cod Community College. He works for the Mashpee Department of Public Works as a custodian at the K.C. Coombs School.
For years, Weeden has been involved in both tribal and town organizations, such as the Mashpee Conservation Commission and the Mashpee Historical Commission. He was most recently elected to the Mashpee School Committee. He is also on Mashpee’s Town Seal Design Committee, and is representing the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on the state seal commission.
In 2009, Weeden founded the Youth Council, and created the Mashpee Youth Commission in 2019 to give young people a voice and experience in tribal and local politics.
Weeden said his main priority is to restore unity in the tribal community by talking with members and listening to them, he said. He said he plans to organize more unity conferences and ceremonial gatherings. Hendricks, the vice-chairman, also wants to have an open, transparent government where members are aware of what is going on, he said.
Weeden said another goal is to preserve and emphasize the tribe’s culture through more language classes and cultural programming, such as summer camps and Quahog Day for children. He said the tribe used to have a toddler hour at the tribal museum, where day care providers would come in with their children, and a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe would host a cultural activity.
Weeden and Hendricks say they also want to find ways to improve the tribe’s financial status through the implementation of a finance committee as well as find new streams of revenue.
The tribe has been in a dire financial situation for years, and with the plans to build a Taunton casino halted, there is a serious need for economic development.
Weeden’s past two predecessors, Cedric Cromwell and Glenn Marshall, were both indicted on felony charges while in office. Cromwell is currently facing bribery and extortion charges, and Marshall pleaded guilty to several charges in 2009, including embezzling nearly $400,000 from the tribe.
Weeden said he hopes to turn the tide and restore the tribe’s integrity.
“The Cromwell administration left the tribe devastated,” said Hendricks, who has a couple of plans to bring economic development to the tribe, although he declined to provide specifics until he shares them with tribal members and the Tribal Council. He hopes to see two viable economic plans bringing in revenue to the tribe within two years.
One of Weeden’s ideas is to create a deer farm in Mashpee. The tribe could replenish the woods and restock the Cape’s game, he said, as there are a lot of tribal members who still hunt. The tribe could sell venison to local distributors, tan the deer hide and make traditional clothing. Another idea is to do canoe tours along Mashpee’s rivers and waterways, Weeden said.
Now also president of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Gaming Authority, Weeden plans to get input from members of the tribe and the Tribal Council about what route the tribe plans to take with its casino projects.
Weeden said he plans to put policies and procedures in place so the tribe “can never be in this situation again.”
“I think people that do wrong by the tribe should not be allowed to receive services” or be a part of the tribal government, he said.
As someone who attended White House gatherings as a tribal youth delegate, Weeden said he plans to continue making sure the tribe is represented on a national level and build relationships with potential economic partners, he said.
And at a local level, Weeden said he will also negotiate with the Town of Mashpee and review their intergovernmental agreement, and make sure the town is consulting with the tribe on matters such as development projects.
Tribal members continue to get harassed for practicing their aboriginal rights to fish and hunt, Weeden said. Members have been arrested for trespassing while trying to access waterways. The Mashpee Pond, for instance, is locked, and Weeden plans on working with the Town of Mashpee to improve treatment and access to waterways.
He also wants to work on the tribe’s land-in-trust status and continue land and restitution negotiations with the commonwealth. The tribe’s constitution also needs to be reformed, he said. Certain clauses about Tribal Council requirements and tribal enrollment should be amended to give more power to tribal members, he said.
“The constitution took away the voice of the people and gave a lot of power and authority to the chairman and the council,” Weeden said.
“This administration is going to lead the way for future generations and get everything back in order around here, culturally, spiritually, physically, mentally,” Weeden said. “And do what’s right by our people.