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September 1, 2023

State climate grant will fund Indigenous land reclamation, conservation

Photo | Timothy Doyle Forest land

Pressured to leave what was their homeland in Stockbridge as settlers moved west and divvied up land in the late 1700s, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans was awarded more than $2 million from the state Wednesday to reclaim 351 acres of their native land and implement indigenous conservation and restoration methods to improve climate change resilience, the Healey administration announced.

The $2.26 million Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) action grant will help the federally-recognized tribe, which is now based in Wisconsin, purchase land near Monument Mountain in the Berkshires, the tribe said. The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans and the Hassanamisco Nipmuc Band, which was awarded $95,000 to update climate change resilience plans, are the first tribes to be awarded grants through the popular state program since the Legislature expanded eligibility last year.

"As we work to address the climate crisis, we have an opportunity to right historical wrongs," Gov. Maura Healey said. "This investment to the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans demonstrates our administration's commitment to building strong relationships with Indigenous communities and supporting their efforts in mitigating the impacts of climate change. We are proud to be a part of this significant first step of welcoming the Tribe back to their homeland."

The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans were subject to "forced exile by European colonists and westward migration beginning in 1783," the tribe said. Tribe members first moved from Stockbridge to Oneida tribal lands in western New York, where they formed a community known as New Stockbridge. They then moved briefly to the White River Valley in Indiana before settling in Wisconsin, according to the tribe's website.

"We are creating a paradigm shift in how society invests in tribal nations by grounding an investment strategy in Indigenous systems thinking, recognizing the interconnectedness of all things and our responsibilities to our homelands and each other. Our approach ensures a resilient and regenerative framework from start to finish, built around the origins of our homeland," Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans President Shannon Holsey said in a statement.

During a visit to the tribe's ancestral land in Stockbridge on Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper announced a total of $31.5 million in MVP grants for climate resilience implementation and planning throughout Massachusetts. That funding is broken down into $28.5 million for action grants for 79 local projects led by 56 municipalities, 16 regional groups, two water districts, and the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans.

The remaining $3 million in funding will go to 28 individual municipalities, one regional group, and the Hassanamisco Nipmuc Band to participate in "MVP 2.0," which is the Healey administration's program extension for groups to update their existing MVP plans.

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