ELDER PASSING : Wamsutta Frank James

From: Mahtowin Munro: uainendom@earthlink.net

Dear Friends: We are sorry to let you know that Wamsutta Frank James died around midnight last night. He was a lifelong warrior for all Native people. He never gave up the fight for self-determination, land, and treaty rights. Below is some general information we have provided to area newspapers to use in writing obituary columns. Unfortunately, we simply have not had time to prepare a separate announcement for this e-mail message and we wanted to get this out right away. At the bottom is information about the burial which is scheduled for Saturday, 24 February at noon for those who wish to attend.

Moonanum James for United American Indians of New England

Wamsutta Frank James - presente!

Frank B. (Wamsutta) James 1923-2001

Frank B. (Wamsutta) James, an Aquinnah Wampanoag elder and Native American activist, died February 20, 2001 at the age of 77. James first came to national attention in 1970 when he, with hundreds of other Native Americans and their supporters, went to Plymouth and declared Thanksgiving day a National Day of Mourning for Native Americans. The National Day of Mourning protest in Plymouth continues to this day, now led by his son.

James was proud of his Native American heritage long before it was fashionable to do so, and spent many hours researching the history of the Wampanoag Nation and of the English invasion of the New England region.

A brilliant trumpet player, James was the first Native American graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in 1948. While many of his classmates secured positions with top symphony orchestras, James was flatly told that, due to segregation and racism, no orchestra in the country would hire him because of his dark skin. While at the Conservatory, he became the first non-white member of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity. In 1957, James became a music teacher on Cape Cod, where he was a very popular and influential instructor. He went on to become the Director of Music of the Nauset Regional Schools, retiring in 1989.

James devoted much of his life to fighting against racism and to fighting for the rights of all Indian people. James often traveled long distances to be at Native American protests, including the Trail of Broken Treaties in Washington, DC in 1972, when Native American activists took over the Burea of Indian Affairs building, and the historic Longest Walk from California to Washington, DC in 1978.

Although he was less active in recent years due to declining health, he always maintained an interest in all Native American issues. He was the moderator of United American Indians of New England from 1970 until the mid-1990s. [UAINE is the organization which organizes the National Day of Mourning protests in Plymouth.]

A former President of the Federated Eastern Indian League, he was also the Executive Director of Operation Mainstream on Cape Cod in the 1970s. [FEIL was an organization of all Native American people from the East Coast.] [Operation Mainstream was a federally-funded job retraining program serving the Cape and Islands; it was later absorbed by CETA.]

In the 1970s, he was appointed by Gov. Sargent to the newly-created Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs. James later resigned from the Commission due to what he felt was the state's refusal to take Native American needs and issues seriously.

James was considered by many who knew him to be a true Renaissance man. In addition to his many other talents, he was also a gifted painter, scrimshaw artist, silversmith, draftsman, builder, raconteur, model shipmaker, fisherman, and sailor.

He is survived by his sisters, June MacDonald of Chatham, Vivian of Brewster, and Shirley Freethy of Chathamport; his children Roland of Weymouth, Sharon Ryone of Brewster, and Donna Sacher of Westminster, Colorado; and his grandchildren Allen, Derek, Benjamin, Andrew, Leslie, Ki'Sha, and Womsikuk.

Burial will be at the Seaside Cemetery on Crowell Road in Chatham, Mass. on Saturday, February 24, 2000, at 12 noon.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Metacom Education Project, Inc., P.O. Box 697512, Quincy, MA 02269, which has established a Wamsutta Frank James Memorial Scholarship Fund.