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Tribe members worry about Wampanoag image

Say controversy casts shadow on recent recognition

PLYMOUTH -- Members of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe said yesterday that revelations that their leader was a convicted rapist who had lied to Congress about his military record cast a pall over the tribe's recent hard-earned federal recognition.

Some members said they were shocked and disgusted by the news and worried that Glenn Marshall's past may tarnish the image of the tribe, which hopes to build the state's first casino. They also questioned whether authorities should investigate how Marshall oversaw financial dealings.

"Glenn Marshall cannot be trusted," said clan mother Amelia Bingham, 84. "Hopefully, now the state will look into him. This is just the tip of the iceberg."

Marshall stepped aside as chairman of the tribal council Friday, saying he needed to deal with "mental and physical issues."

Bingham and several other tribe members say Marshall has never accounted for the way he and the council spent $14 million outside investors put up for federal recognition. Bingham and three other members filed suit against the council in Barnstable Superior Court in December, demanding to know how the money was spent, but the court dismissed the case because the tribe had been recognized as a sovereign native tribe and its council was immune from suit.

In an interview with the Globe on Friday, Marshall said documents accounting for the money were available to tribe members.

To see the books, all the members needed to do was come in and make an appointment, he said. During the interview, Marshall acknowledged that he had lied about his military service during the Vietnam War and had allowed his supporters to spread false information about his winning prestigious medals. He also acknowledged that he had lied about being a police officer, and he admitted that he had been convicted in a drug case and a 1980 rape.

Some Mashpee Wampanoag members said they suspected Marshall still may be concealing other detrimental information about his past.

"It's probably a lot more than you know," said Shirley A. High-Rock, 71, a tribal elder who works in Plimoth Plantation's Wampanoag Indian Program.

Komi Wildhorse, 50, rolled her eyes at the sound of the chairman's name.

"He did an unjustice towards the people of Mashpee. He's embarrassing," said Wildhorse, a weaver from East Taunton who also works in the program, which replicates a 17th-century Indian settlement.

Wildhorse said Marshall's confession may change the way outsiders view the Mashpee Wampanoag, and Native Americans in general.

Marshall was the face of the tribe during his seven-year chairmanship and helped the Mashpee Wampanoag win federal recognition in February, 30 years after the tribe first petitioned the government to add it to the list of recognized Indian tribes.

"He jeopardized a lot of feelings against native people in general," Wildhorse said.

In Middleborough, where the tribe hopes to build its $1 billion casino, opponents of gaming said Marshall's lies and convictions raise doubt about the legitimacy of the agreement between the town and the tribe.

"When you enter into an agreement for something that will completely change a way of life, it requires trust and credibility," said Rich Young, president of the anticasino group Casinofacts. "This deal has neither."

"Given all his statements about his past, can we really trust those promises will ever become a reality?" Young said.

Middleborough officials said the agreement is still in place.

"We didn't sign an agreement with Glenn Marshall," said Patrick Rogers, a town selectman. "We signed an agreement with the Wampanoag tribe."

Marshall has handed his day-to-day responsibilities to his vice chairman.

His stepping aside should not cripple the tribe, said Darius Coombs, 36, who manages the Wampanoag Indian Program at the plantation.

"We have other leaders, not just one man," Coombs said. "I don't think we're going to fall back."

Globe correspondents Claire Cummings and Christine Wallgren and Sally Jacobs of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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