Open Door Policy

Last month the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) chose Cheryl Andrews-Maltais to lead its sovereign nation.

In her campaign, Ms. Andrews-Maltais stressed openness, an approach that comes at a good time for the tribe and the Vineyard community beyond.

In the past isolation may have served the tribe well, helping the Aquinnah Wampanoags to survive in the midst of a larger, sometimes unfriendly Island population of European descendants. Ultimately that isolation helped the tribe preserve its bloodlines and heritage and paved the way to federal recognition of the tribe as a sovereign nation more than twenty years ago.

But times have changed. The Wampanoags are today involved in projects, such as a continuing study of bay scallops in Menemsha Pond, that can help the entire Island. The tribe is also one of the major players in a renewed movement toward legalizing casino gambling in Massachusetts. An ownership interest in a casino, even if located on the mainland, would have larger implications for the tribe and the Vineyard.

Ms. Andrews-Maltais has spoken about the value of more openness at the tribe. At a time when the Aquinnah Wampanoags are engaging in endeavors that are reaching farther and farther beyond tribal land, an open door policy can help squelch rumors and dispel distrust. With the economy continuing to tighten on the Vineyard and across the United States, there is no better time for tribal and nontribal Islanders to talk — and work — together.