A sandy path to the sea is now the scene of a small battleground in Aquinnah between the Wampanoag Tribe and town selectmen. For reasons that remain unclear, the tribe has blocked access to the path which leads to Lobsterville Beach, and the Aquinnah selectmen are up in arms about it.
But before this tiff escalates into a costly court dispute, both sides are wise to come to the table with cool, level heads and talk about it, which is what they plan to do this coming Thursday afternoon at five o’clock in the old town hall. The town is right to demand an explanation for why the tribe suddenly blocked off the path with a rope and a brush pile to the beach that has enjoyed public access via footpaths for as long as anyone can remember. And it is not enough for the tribe simply to say that it is their property and they have the right to close it off.
That may or may not be true, since the terms of a 1983 Indian land claims settlement agreement stipulate that all the existing paths at Lobsterville at the time the settlement was signed would remain open for public access. Unfortunately a map that accompanied the agreement is missing, so the record remains ambiguous.
All the more reason for the town and the tribe to meet and discuss the matter. Civil discourse is in order here between the two governments in this tiny town that lies at the extreme westernmost edge of the Vineyard. One of the three selectmen, Spencer Booker, is also a member of the tribe. This is a good time for Mr. Booker to employ his quiet leadership skills to help guide the discussion onto common ground.
Because neither the town nor the tribe needs to waste money going to court, when good neighbor relations are the only thing required. Surely a matter as simple as this can be worked out through open, honest dialogue between two governments acting in good faith.