May 21, 1833

Indians in Mashpee Demand Self-Government


On this day in 1833, the Mashpee of Cape Cod signed what amounted to an Indian Declaration of Independence. They reminded officials in Boston that "all men are born free and Equal, as says the constitution of the country" and spelled out the details of what had become an intolerable situation — the appropriation of their woodlots, hay fields, pastures, and shellfish beds by whites. The Mashpee declared that they would take action against further encroachment by white settlers. A group of Barnstable farmers decided to test the tribe's resolve. When they arrived to cut wood on Mashpee land, the tribe resisted, and a violent confrontation followed. Fearing an insurrection, the legislature granted the Mashpee the right of self-government in 1834.

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