Health | Federal Recognition

Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe wins expansion of health service area






The clay cliffs in Aquinnah, Massachusetts, the home of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe. Photo from Wikipedia

The Indian Health Service has expanded the service delivery area for the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts.

The decision -- which was published in the Federal Register on Thursday -- adopts a long-standing request of the tribe. Earlier in the Obama administration, the IHS had declined to expand the area beyond the island of Martha's Vineyard, the location of its reservation.

But the tribe convinced the IHS to include a handful of counties on the mainland. The delivery area will now cover Wampanoag citizens who live in Barnstable, Bristol, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk counties, enabling them to access funds from the purchased and referred care program.

"The sole purpose of this expansion is to authorize Aquinnah to cover additional tribal members and beneficiaries under Aquinnah's PRC program using the existing federal allocation for PRC funds," the notice states.


A map of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe's headquarters are located in Aquinnah, shown here in the lower left portion of the map. Image from AWT

The expansion covers less than 300 tribal members so it's not seen as a huge step. But it drew opposition from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, whose newly-declared reservation is on the mainland.

The tribe's reservation in fact falls within two of the counties in the Aquinnah delivery area. But the IHS said the expansion was not contrary to law and was justified because of the long distance between the mainland and the tribal clinic on Martha's Vineyard.

"To access direct care services, non-residents must travel over one and a half hours via ferry and car to receive the health care offered at the clinic," the notice states ."As a consequence, most non-residents do not seek care on the island."

The IHS established a service delivery area for the Mashpees in September 2012 and it includes Barnstable, Bristol, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk counties. It came after the tribe won federal recognition in May 2007.

The Aquinnahs secured recognition in 1987.

Federal Register Notices:
Notice of the Redesignation of the Service Delivery Area for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) (April 7, 2016)
Notice To Propose the Redesignation of the Service Delivery Area for the Aquinnah Wampanoag Indian Tribe (October 5, 2015)
Notice To Propose the Redesignation of the Service Delivery Area for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) (August 24, 2015)
Notice of Service Delivery Area Designation for the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe (Septmeber 13, 2012)

Related Stories:
IHS reopens comment period for Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe (10/05)
IHS plans to expand service area for Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe (08/27)