Petition of Sundry Natives of Chappaquiddick to the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives

To the Honorable the Senate and the Honorable the House of Representative of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General Court Assembled

The subscribers, Natives of the Island of Chappaquiddick on Martha’s Vineyard, respectfully represent that by a division of the Indian lands on the Island of Chappaquiddick, by the Commissioners lately appointed for that purpose, manifest injustice has been done; some who for a long course of years have lived on the land, cultivated and subdued it, have been deprived of their possessory right, while strangers, not belonging to the island or tribe (but by marriages), have become possessed of the land under this late division to the most manifest prejudice of the Natives of the soil, who by labour and industry have cultivated the soil and rendered it productive.                                           

Your Memorialists are at a loss and cannot conceive by what rule or on what principle this late division was made: They cannot believe the Honorable General Court would take from those who have spent the best of their 1 days in reclaiming their lands from a state of nature to a state of cultivation and give it to strangers or divide it with those who had been at no labour or expense to render it productive.                                             

They have believed that the same principle by which settlers on the Commonwealth's land have been quieted would apply at least to your petitioners, who own the soil on which they live, and they have understood such settlers always have been allowed their improvements, but we the petitioners in the present case, though owners of the soil, have been, as we believe, denied this justice and in several instances where lands has been possessed, occupied, and improved for nearly half a century has been by this division taken from us and given to those who have no connection with us, except they may have intermarried with some Native, who may have some interest with us but who refuse to bear any public burthens with us, such as supporting our poor, etc.                                       

The whole property on the Island of Chappaquiddick, except a common field, has been apportioned among the residents on the land and yet no provision has been made for the payment of the outstanding debts due from us for the support of our poor of former years, who have never been paid and, as we understand, no funds are left from which they can be paid.

The line of fence, so called, between the Indian land and the land owned by the White proprietors on Chappaquiddick ordered2 long since to be built by the latter and to be supported by them is not maintained and kept up but lies prostrate and, though repeated remonstrations have been made by the Natives3 that it should be repaired by the owners and application on application has been made to the present Guardian whose duty it is to compel these repairs, yet nothing has been done and the lands of the Natives lie exposed to the inroads of cattle and the little property left to the Natives is daily exposed to [ crossout ] their depredations and the result will be that without some remedy, we must soon become paupers of the Commonwealth and must look to the Government for our support.

The mode of supporting our poor has been for some years last past by taking them among ourselves and removing them from family to family without any tax, and yet these strangers, who by marriage have connected themselves with us, have refused to assist us in these burthens, and the expense has been unequally been by us from this refusal. Claims for the support of poor of former years to an amount of more than two hundred dollars still remain unpaid to a Native, though said poor were put out to the Natives by a former Guardian with assurance of payment, yet said Guardian, for the want of funds, did not pay the same and could not do it during his lifetime, and the same accounts still remain unpaid and for the same reason that there are no funds from which to pay them.
We regret the mode adopted of appointing constables and pounds and think them unnecessary if the White inhabitants were compelled to [ crossout ] make the fence, they were directed to make and maintain to separate their improvements from ours, and we are told that the present Guardian refuses to enforce this law respecting 4 the repairs of this fence, which if done, there would be no need of constables or pounds and, without which our improvements will be as they have been imposed.

We exceedingly regret that the law respecting this 5 Island of Chappaquiddick has been altered6 and are compelled to believe our situation is now worse than it was before, and we pray that Your Honours would appoint some suitable person or persons in no way interested for us or against us to visit our island to whom we may freely impart our situation and from whom the Honorable Legislature may learn the facts that may be proved and from whom the truth of our complaints may be substantiated.

And as in duty bound will ever pray,

Mary Cook for Olive Cook
Mary Cook for Thaddeus Cook, Jr.
Hannah R. Simpson for my sons
William Johnson for my daughters
Neley Joseph for my sons
          my grandchild, Jared Simons
          my daughter,  Martha Tucker
Margaret Peters
Attests, John Huxford
Assisting the signatures in this paper, Peter Catalin
Legislative Action:
Petition Sundry Natives of Chappaquiddick.  House of Representatives, June 9, 1829.  Committed to Messrs. Whitman P., Butler Edgartown, Norton T., 8 Draper B.   P. W. Warren, Clerk
  • 1. Deleted Text: lives
  • 2. Previous to 1789, the Chappaquiddick held their land in common. Legislation addressing the land divisions between then and their neighbors began in that year with An Act to Set off to the Patentees, and Other Purchasers, Certain Lands on the Island of Chapequiddick, in the County of Dukes County, and Finally to Adjust and Determine all Disputes between the Said Patentees and Other Purchasers, and the Indians on the Said Island, and to Prevent Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Goats and Swine from Going at Large on the Said Island, at Certain Seasons of the Year, Chapt. 35, Acts and Resolves (Massachusetts, 1788-89), 56-63.
  • 3. See, for example, the petitions of Samuel Peters and other Chappaquiddick to the Legislature which complain of the same facts. Petition of Samuel Peters, 1824.01.14.00 and 1826.05.00.
  • 4. Deleted text: this
  • 5. Deleted text: regulations
  • 6. See An Act for the better regulation, instruction and government of the Indians and People of Colour in the County if Dukes County, Chapt. 114, Acts and Resolves (Massachusetts, 1827), 682-637
  • 7. Elihu was the son, not daughter of William and Celia Johnson.
  • 8. Deleted Text: Spencer