11 miles SE of Sagamore; 12 miles W of Hyannis
Mashpee is a study in contrasts. This is the location of South Cape Beach State Park, a beautiful stretch of unspoiled coastline on Nantucket South, but the major portion of Mashpee's shoreline has been claimed by the New Seabury Resort development. Further housing developments are rapidly carving up the inland woods, leaving less and less room for the region's original residents, the Mashpee Wampanoags, whose nomadic ancestors began convening in summer camps by these shores millennia ago. In 1660, concerned by the natives' rapid disenfranchisement and heartened by their willingness to convert, missionary Richard Bourne got the Plymouth General Court to grant his "praying Indians" a 10,500-acre "plantation" in perpetuity. The provision proved far from perpetual, as settlers -- and much later, developers -- began chipping away at the holdings.
After lengthy litigation in the 1970s and early 1980s, the Mashpee Wampanoags -- whose tribal roster now numbers about 1,000 -- were denied tribal status (unlike the Gay Head Wampanoags of Martha's Vineyard) and were stymied in their efforts to preserve the land. It was only in 1995, with the backing of local legislators, that the 5,871-acre Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge was carved out of the disputed territory.