The central command post and nerve center of a sovereign nation’s government has risen out of the woodlands on Great Neck Road South, and it is magnificent.
Tomorrow, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe will officially celebrate the opening of its new 46,000-square-foot, three-level, $15 million government and community center. More than 1,500 guests are expected to attend the invitation-only event, which will run from noon to 8 PM and include a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a traditional native ceremony, Wampanoag cuisine, and entertainment.
Construction of the building, which began in October 2012, was funded by a $12.7 million loan the tribe received from a US Department of Agriculture rural development program. The building sits on 57.8 acres of tribal property, and only four acres needed to be cleared to accommodate the complex, which encompasses approximately seven acres.
Several tribal departments started occupying the building in late February.
The new government and community center, which is more than twice the size of the Mashpee Public Library, replaces two small single-family, cottage-style homes that were moved from Popponesset to the tribal lands on Great Neck Road South in the 1980s. Tribal government and operations had been dispersed between the two cottage buildings, modular trailers, and office space throughout Mashpee that the tribe had been renting.
A Special Preview Tour
Last week, during a 90-minute private advance tour of the facility, tribal leaders, including chairman Cedric Cromwell and vice chairman Jessie (Little Doe) Baird, proudly showed off the gleaming new facility that will become the hub of the Mashpee Wampanoag government.
The “wow factor” kicked in immediately upon entering the building, as visitors entered a two-story, sun-filled rotunda. The rotunda lobby has been designed to incorporate elements of Wampanoag culture, including a custom-made terrazzo floor that has within it more than 700 pounds of Mashpee seashells, or wampum, that were handcrushed by tribe members. In the middle of the floor is the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe logo. Around the perimeter of the rotunda area are water features that are intended to pay homage to the Mashpee River herring run, mill pond, and Mashpee-Wakeby Pond.
Additional elements that will be added to the rotunda area in the near future include the installation of mural panels that will be a permanent donation from Plimoth Plantation, as well as cedar poles that will be placed in the lobby to give it more of a “lodge” feel. The roof of the rotunda has been built to resemble a turtle shell, an important element in the Wampanoag creation story.
“We want people to feel a bit of Mashpee history and our land when they walk in,” tribal councilwoman Patricia Keliinui said.
Upon moving beyond the rotunda area, where there is a security desk requiring all visitors to sign in, an elevator ride to the second floor led the tour group to a large, modern office area that would be more commonly seen in buildings along the Route 128 technology belt than in Mashpee. There are conference rooms with teleconferencing capabilities and online scheduling systems, state-of-the-art executive offices, and classrooms with SmartBoards. There are currently 73 employees working in the building.
“This is the most high-tech building on the Cape, and perhaps in the state of Massachusetts,” chairman Cromwell said.
The building has 39 offices and 34 cubicles for employees. In addition to tribal leaders and departments such as finance, education, and human resources, tribal commissions and committees—including the housing commission, public safety commission, natural resource commission, and the pow wow committee—are also housed in the new facility.
The tour then proceeded to a 400-seat gymnasium, complete with electronic scoreboard, that can be repurposed after floor panels are placed over the wooden gymn floor, to accommodate receptions, dances, and other events. The gymnasium also features a large, ceiling-mounted retractable screen that can be used to show films.
Other facilities included within the new building are a council chamber, climate- and humidity-controlled tribal archives, an elders’ lounge, a commercial-sized kitchen, youth craft room, exercise equipment room with men’s and women’s locker room facilities, a tribal courtroom complete with a peacemaker’s room, and a food pantry for the tribal community.
While the new tribal and government center has only been opened for a month, there is already talk of expansion.
“We are already reaching capacity in the new building and have started to consider a possible 14,000-square-foot expansion,” Ms. Baird said.