BARNSTABLE – A first-of-its-kind land agreement in the eastern United States was finalized Mondayat Sturgis Library in Barnstable Village.
The Dennis Conservation Trust and the Native Land Conservancy signed a five-year Cultural Respect Agreement which will allow conservancy members access to the 250 acres of conservation land in northwest Dennis.
Native Land Conservancy President Ramona Peters said the agreement is important and historically significant.
“It will be the first [time] since the Pilgrims landed here on Cape Cod that we’ve been welcomed back to an area that’s been disconnected from us,” Peters said.
The conservancy will be allowed to use the marsh and upland margins owned by the non-profit DCT along Chase Garden Creek.
The estuary and barrier beach was a traditional place of gathering, ritual, ceremony and foraging by the early natives of Cape Cod.
NLC members and guests will be able to use the land for cultural practices that include spiritual ceremonies, offerings and cultural education to honor the early natives’ use of the property.
“They agree to respect our culture and they agree to allow us come on to their property and give thanks,” Peters said.
The agreement was modeled after similar land deals between natives and non-native property owners for access to sacred sites in California.
“We’re very excited and I can say I’m personally very proud to be part of this kind of new frontier of land conservation on Cape Cod,” said Katherine Garofoli, the director of the Dennis Conservation Trust.
DCT and NLC members at the signing ceremony were hopeful that this agreement would inspire other conservation trusts, towns and private property owners to make similar agreements.
“I really hope that we do lead by example and encourage other land trusts across the Cape to look at the way that they are protecting land and how they might be able to include some native peoples’ heritage and culture to that process as well,” Garofoli said.
The NLC is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the natural and cultural resources, habitats, and ecosystems on lands in the Northeast. The organization’s operating area runs from the Cape and Islands to the Merrimack and Blackstone Rivers, which is the greater homeland of the Wampanoag federation.
By the end of 2015, the conservancy had totaled over 100 members and acquired two parcels of land in Barnstable and Sandwich.
The DCT was founded in 1988 with a mission to preserve open space in the town of Dennis. The trust has preserved over 595 acres of land through gifts, purchases and conservation restrictions.
By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter