0

MUST READ: Tribes claim offshore wind farm would destroy sacred ritual

MASHPEE, Mass. -- From a blustery perch over a Cape Cod beach, Chuckie Green gestures toward a stretch of horizon where he says construction of the nation's first offshore wind farm would destroy his Indian tribe's religion.

The Wampanoag -- the tribe that welcomed the Pilgrims in the 17th century and known as ''The People of the First Light'' -- practice sacred rituals requiring an unblocked view of the sunrise. That view won't exist once 130 turbines, each over 400 feet tall, are built several miles from shore in Nantucket Sound, visible to Wampanoag in Mashpee and on Martha's Vineyard.

Tribal rituals, including dancing and chanting, take place at secret sacred sites around the sound at various times, such as the summer and winter solstices and when an elder passes.

The Wampanoag fight to preserve their ceremonies has become the latest obstacle -- some say delay tactic -- for a pioneering wind energy project that seemed at the cusp of final approval.

''We, the Wampanoag people, who opened our arms and allowed people to come here for religious freedoms, are now being threatened with our religion being taken away for the profits of one single group of investors,'' Green said.

The Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag claim Nantucket Sound is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as a Traditional Cultural Property. The tribes say the designation, which would come with new regulations for activity on the sound, is needed to preserve not only their pristine views but ancestors' remains buried on Horseshoe Shoal, where the turbines would be built.

Cape Wind supporters say the tribes' claim for a National Register listing for the sound is baseless and was sprung late, in league with the project's most vociferous opponents, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

''I think this is clearly a tactic for delay, for delay's sake,'' said Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for Cape Wind.