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Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe chairman charged with theft of objects from Plimoth Patuxet

Native wetu at the Historic Patuxet site.
A wetu at the Historic Patuxet site.

Plymouth police are pursuing charges against two Mashpee residents, including the chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, in the alleged theft of four items from the Wampanoag homesite at the Plimoth Patuxet Museums.

The museum says two black bear skins and two bulrush mats were stolen in early November from inside a wetu, a traditional Wampanoag home.

Based on surveillance video, police believe Chairman Brian M. Weeden and Phillip C. Hicks Jr. were two of four people involved.

Det. Lt. Michael Glowka of the Plymouth Police Department said the men have not been arrested because the items have been returned, but police still intend to seek charges at a Jan. 5 arraignment in Plymouth District Court.

According to the court clerk’s office, both are facing charges of breaking and entering a building in the nighttime for a felony, and larceny over $1,200.

Glowka said the suspects claim they were not involved in removing the items from the museum. Their lawyers assisted in returning the bear skins and mats undamaged, he said. The items were shipped to the Police Department.

Weeden, Hicks, and their attorneys could not be reached for comment.

In a written statement, the museum called the incident “shocking” and said the mats had been woven by museum staff.

“Far more than beautiful objects, the items are an important part of the Museum’s educational mission,” the museum said.

Over the last year, some members of the Wampanoag community have publicly criticized the museum for its representation of Native history.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.