After decades of maltreatment in their homeland, history is repeating itself in a case against Native Americans.
The federal government allows indigenous people to live on reservations, parcels of land, that they sold to them. Native Americans thought, no doubt, that this act would guarantee a degree of freedom from the entanglement of broken promises. However, for the Mohegan tribe in Ulster County, N.Y., it’s dej vu. Sherriff Paul J. Vanblarcum has given tribal leader Chief Ronald Roberts a notice of eviction with an execution date of March 15.
Vanblarcum will be conducting a sale of the Western Mohegan tribe’s land, buildings, museum, goods, chattel and all their possessions on March 15.This sale will displace the Mohegan women, children and elderly, creating a homeless tribe.
In a telephone conversation with Chief Don Ryan of the Sheriff of Ulster County’s office, Ryan stated, “The sale will proceed unless there is a court order against it.”
For Roberts, 63, grand sachem of the Western Mohegan tribe and nation, this eviction will cast him as an ineffective leader in the eyes of his people. Roberts has spent many years seeking reaffirmation of the tribe’s statehood. According to him, the Mohegan tribe has already paid Ulster County $1.9 million and has invested $6 million in the property.
The chief has reached out to Black elected officials for assistance, but they unfortunately seem to have no voice. However, the Rev. C. Herbert Oliver, president of the Black Solidarity Education Committee, was quick to state, “I am fully in support of the right of the western Mohegan tribe and nation to have and hold their Mohegan reservation in Ulster County, New York, and to be recognized by the state of New York as a sovereign nation.”
Recorded history tells us that Harriet Tubman relied on the Mohegans to go north to Canada. They assisted her as she journeyed back and forth through their territory, leading those who escaped the cruelty of slavery to freedom. Roberts acknowledges that there is a bond between the Mohegans and Africans that can only be preserved through the education of both groups despite the difficulties they continue to experience. He sees strength in unity.
Furthermore, Ollie McClean, founder of Sankofa International Academy, found it “hypocritical that a government that spends billions of dollars to send thousands of troops around the world to help foreign countries would not guarantee the Mohegan tribe its right to exist as a sovereign nation in its homeland.”
“In this Black Liberation Month, we must remember that Carter G. Woodson named this month in memory of Frederick Douglass, who was born in February 1818. He named it Black Liberation Month, not Black History Month as it is now called,” said McClean. “History is a record of past, present and future acts. Liberation is the quest for social and economic freedom.
“Having Chief Roberts and the Mohegan tribe remain on their land to determine their social and economic destiny would be an honor to the memory of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and all the other ancestors whom we will celebrate this month.”