On April 26, 2023, the newly formed youth group Mashpee Wampanoag Native Environmental Ambassadors drafted and presented a Declaration of the Rights of Herring, which recognizes that Herring have “the right to migrate freely, procreate abundantly, and safely make their journey back to sea.” The youth group presented the declaration to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council, which unanimously passed the resolution and declared a State of Emergency for the Herring. This resolution is the tribe’s first acts towards right of nature initiatives and specifically acknowledges that the Herring have a right to thrive and the Tribe has a responsibility to protect them – declaring the Tribe as the herring’s legal guardian.
The youth group received legal and community support from the Bioneers Indigeneity Program’s Rights of Nature team and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Education Department. The group continues to work with the tribe’s Natural Resource Department, Natural Resource Commission, Elders, Clan Mothers, and tribal operations to push the initiative forward. They are working on developing tribal legislation to further protect the herring that will provide the herring and their ecosystem with rights. The tribal law will be a foundation for a compact with the state for the tribe to act in an official capacity as a guardian of the herring. As a federally recognized tribe that has never relinquished hunting and fishing rights, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe are in a unique position to exercise RoN on behalf of the herring.