Wampanoag housing advocate, Alice Lopez, at 49

It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Alice Lopez of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. Ms. Lopez, of Mashpee, was the Director of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Housing Department since its inception in 2003.

 “Alice Lopez represented the very best of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe,” said Chairman Cedric Cromwell. “Alice’s commitment to her family and her Tribe was unwavering, and her passing leaves a tremendous void in our hearts. Alice was like a sister to me, and I know many other people feel the same way. My prayers go out to her wide circle of family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.”

Mashpee, Mass – If a person has two blankets, they have one too many. It is an old Native A merican philosophy that guided the sensibility and generosity of Alice Mae Lopez, a beloved member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and a tireless advocate for the poor and homeless, who passed away suddenly on New Year’s Day at the age of 49.

The director of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Housing Department, Alice was passionate in her belief that no Wampanoag person should be homeless in their own homeland and was in the process of completing the Tribe’s first tribal housing community in Mashpee.

 Alice began her housing career in 1992 when she went to work for the Community Action Committee of Cape Cod and the Islands in Hyannis as a housing advocate. With no formal education in the field, but a genuine enthusiasm to deliver people from crisis to someplace safe, she was mentored under the late Richard “Dick” Bigos, the legendary Cape political activist and Executive Director of CACCI for more than 20 years before he passed away in 2000.

 Within a decade while at CACCI she went from advocate to Case Manager, to Case Facilitator and ultimately Director of the Scattered Site Shelter Program. In 2003 she left CACCI when she achieved her dream of launching a housing program at the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe exclusively for Native people and especially those displaced in their own ancestral lands. She served hundreds of individuals and families in an official capacity and countless others out of the goodness of her heart. When a situation seemed hopeless she was often known to take people into her own home.

 Alice was born in Hyannis and raised in Mashpee where she attended the Samuel G. Davis School. She was a graduate of Falmouth High School in 1979.

 After graduation Alice worked for several years in the Wampanoag Indigenous Program at Plimoth Plantation as an interpreter of Wampanoag history and was also an artisan responsible for the reproduction of artifacts for the museum’s living history exhibit.

 She was a member of the Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers, a troupe of traditional performers who travel throughout the Northeast performing cultural music and dancing at schools, powwows, special events, private functions, and diversity trainings.

Alice was an accomplished beadwork artist and was responsible for creating the crown that adorns the tribal Princess and is passed on at the Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow at the culmination of the annual Princess contest.

 Along with another tribal member, she was responsible for developing an annual Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow T-shirt nearly 25 years ago that is now a collector’s item and recognized at powwows and tribal events across the nation. Each year the shirt features a different animal which she would keep a guarded secret, building speculation and anticipation until the day of the powwow.

 Alice was quietly and fervently involved in many charitable efforts. To raise money to benefit the Housing Department she organized Cultural Day, an annual event to celebrate a Wampanoag cultural and education held each November, and also organized the Mashpee Wampanoag Housing Program Run for Recognition team established in 2005. While she did not run herself, she helped more than 20 runners raise more than $30,000 in the first year and organized an enthusiastic rallying group to cheer the team on as they ran the Falmouth Road Race. The effort continued even after the tribe completed the acknowledgement process in 2007 and was re-named Mashpee Wampanoag Home Run.

 She enjoyed socializing and celebrating life and was well known, well respected and well loved by many both within the tribe and the wider community. She loved traveling to Powwows and tribal social gatherings throughout the United States. She especially enjoyed annual trips to St. David’s Island in Bermuda where she attended powwows held by the descendents of Wampanoag sold into slavery there after King Philips War in the 17th century. Alice believed strongly in the tribal connection and was instrumental in helping the St. David’s descendents learn traditional songs and dances and made many friends in their community.

 At home she was a founding member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Women’s Medicine Society and a student of the Wôpanâak Language.

 Alice was predeceased by her father Vincent “Cuddy” Lopez and is survived by her mother, Carol (Hendricks) Lopez of Mashpee;  two sons, Tauohkomuk “Woki” Lopez and Kesuqs “Kees” Lopez, both of Mashpee; four sisters, Marcia Lopez, Marie Stone, Rita Lopez, and  Naomi Walker all of Mashpee; two brothers, Mark Lopez of Mashpee and Robert Lopez of Ashburnham; many aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins and her God child, Mae Alice Baird of Mashpee and Aquinnah.

 A funeral will be held Saturday, January 8 at 11 am in the Old Indian Meetinghouse in Mashpee with burial to follow in the Old Indian Cemetery. A traditional sunrise ceremony will also be held at the Old Indian Meetinghouse at 7 am. Calling hours will be held on Friday, January 7, from 4 to 7 pm at the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home 74 Algonquin Avenue at Route 151 in Mashpee.

 Donations in her memory may be made to the Mashpee Wampanoag Housing Department, c/o The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, 483 Great Neck Road South, Mashpee, MA 02649.