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Lawmaker expects 'no hiccups' when Mass. considers returning tribal documents

Months after the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, voted to return historic documents to the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe, town officials have mailed the paperwork to get the legal process started.

The 18th century documents include an announcement of a meeting, signed by tribal leaders, to regain control of land distribution, which had been dominated by the English.

It took five months for Stockbridge to send a certified copy of the Town Meeting vote approving the return of all documents created by the tribe before 1870 to state Rep. Smitty Pignatelli.

Existing state law requires all towns to keep certain historic documents. Pignatelli said he thinks a bill giving the town permission to return the documents will pass with "no hiccups at all." Still, he wants to talk about it with Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin.

"He is in charge of our archives, these historical documents. And is it a good idea to give up such a historic documents?" Pignatelli said. "But right now, as a home rule state, and a home rule petition, I would not anticipate any issues at all with the Legislature." 

Pignatelli said he expects to file the bill by the middle of December.

Copyright 2021 New England Public Media. To see more, visit New England Public Media.

The great seal of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, from a gravestone in the Stockbridge Cemetery.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM
The great seal of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, from a gravestone in the Stockbridge Cemetery.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Previously she served as the editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub, a collaborative of public radio stations. Earlier in her career she was the Midwest editor for NPR in Washington, D.C. Before working in radio, she recorded sound as part of a camera crew for network television news, with assignments in Russia, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba and in Sarajevo during the war in 1992.

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