In a press release sent to news outlets on Friday, Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), outlined the tribe’s opposition to the Cape Wind project in terms of cultural, religious, and environmental concerns.

The press release (available at followed the visit last week of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Mr. Salazar visited with the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes and took a boat ride to the Cape Wind site on Horseshoe Shoals in Nantucket Sound.

Ms. Maltais said the tribe’s reluctance to discuss its sacred religious and spiritual beliefs and desire for privacy had led “to media speculation and misinformation.”

Explaining the meaning of Wampanoag as “People of the First Light,” a reference to the dawn, the release said the proposed project would impact the tribe’s ability “to continue their ceremonies in a way that their ancestors have done for thousands of years. The Tribe believes that the environment, and particularly the sun rising over the open ocean every day, is nature’s temple.”

A second area of concern is the archeological richness of the shoal, an area that was once above water. “We believe that remains should be respected,” Ms. Maltais said. “It is unsettling that our ancestors’ remains could be churned up by large machinery. When their remains are disturbed, their rest is disturbed.”

The Tribe also expressed concern about the project’s environmental impact. Tribal members see themselves as “stewards of Mother Earth,” the release said, and are responsible for protecting it for future generations. “Tribal members believe that wind renewable energy is part of the solution, but projects must be sensitive to cultural concerns,” Ms. Maltais said.

By Nelson Sigelman
Published: February 11, 2010