GBH News Assignment Editor Matt Baskin joined GBH All Things Considered Host Arun Rath to talk about what stories our newsroom is following closely this week, from the migrants who landed on Martha’s Vineyard, slow zones on the Orange Line to historic Lakota artifacts that are being returned. This transcript has been lightly edited.
1. The migrants who landed on Martha’s Vineyard are looking for more permanent housing.
Arun Rath: So Matt, let's start with the latest on the people who were flown to Massachusetts from Texas last month. That's the flight of about 50 Venezuelan migrants organized by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Do we have a sense of what is happening with these people now?
Matt Baskin: We do. As you know, and I think most listeners know by now, they've been moved off of Martha's Vineyard a few weeks back, just days after the DeSantis flight, and they were offered temporary shelter at joint base Cape Cod. As of last week, about 35 people were still living on the base. The others had left all of their own volition. And those remaining 35 have been looking for more permanent housing options with the assistance of some local nonprofits. With that in mind, the Baker administration closed down the temporary shelter late last week. We're hoping to get an update on how the permanent or semi-permanent housing effort is going. But right now, the nonprofits in question are staying kind of quiet. We'll be following up with them as the week plays out.
I want to point out there were rumors and rumblings over the long weekend that another politically motivated migrant flight was going to be heading towards not Martha's Vineyard, but Nantucket this time this week. That does not seem to be happening. The flight in question that caught people's attention is apparently just run-of-the-mill business travel.
2. Orange Line riders are still experiencing slow zones.
Rath: Let's talk about trains. The MBTA remains on everybody's mind after the Orange Line shut down.
Baskin: Yeah — the T had basically been declaring victory after the shutdown, and at first it seemed like they kind of had a right to because the shutdown ended on time. I think everyone, including me, including a lot of people in our newsroom, including the vast majority of T riders, had zero faith that the Orange Line would open back up and run as planned when the MBTA said it would on September 19th. But the T met its deadline and as we journalists know, meeting your deadline is half the battle.
The only hiccup was these slow zones, those parts of the Orange Line where trains had to move at dirge-like speeds as new tracks were broken in. The T said it would take about a week or so for the tracks to settle in, and at that point the Orange Line would be running at speeds you would expect for a major city subway. But a week came and went and passengers said they were still dealing with really slow rides, especially between North Station and Assembly Square.
And finally, last week, the T fessed up and they said they're still doing Orange Line work at night when the subway is out of service, and that while that work’s ongoing, the slow zones will stay in place. All this is to say that the T is still facing a lot of scrutiny from us in the media, from its riders and from politicians. Later this week, on Friday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is holding a Senate field hearing here in Boston on the T and all the problems that it's had. Our intrepid transit reporter Bob Seay is going to be covering it and we will have further opportunity to hear from the team's general manager, Steve Poftak, and the chair of the state's Department of Public Utilities, the agency that has oversight of the T, Matthew Nelson.
3. A local museum is returning Lakota artifacts to Wounded Knee survivors.
Rath: And Matt, I wanted to get an update on a story that we've been covering going back to this summer. This regards some artifacts from the Lakota people, from people who were murdered at Wounded Knee, being held by the Barre Museum. Back in August on All Things Considered, we spoke with Renee Iron Hawk and her husband Manny, a descendent of Wounded Knee survivors, about their distress over the museum having these artifacts and not giving them back. But there's movement now, right?
Baskin: There is movement now. The Barre museum says it is returning these artifacts. Lakota descendants have been pushing the museum to do just that since at least the 1990s. And there's been a pretty concerted effort that's really ramped up in the past three years. That's when the group you just mentioned, led by Renee and Manny Iron Hawk, Heartbreak at Wounded Knee 1890, found out that the Barre Museum in the town of Barre, just east of the Quabbin Reservoir, had these relics in their possession.
Just to give folks a quick history refresher, the group's name is in reference to the Wounded Knee massacre that happened in 1890. The U.S. military murdered about 250 Lakota at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Items were looted from the bodies of the people who were killed. And in the 130-plus years that have followed, they've kind of been scattered to the winds. But the group in question found out about these artifacts at the Barre Museum, started making this push to get them back. The museum had been dragging its heels. They said they needed to follow various protocols and repatriating the items, they said they were hiring a consultant who was an expert on the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, NAGPRA.
But yesterday, Indigenous Peoples Day, the museum's board announced that the repatriation is happening. They voted unanimously to go forward with it. So we're going to be following up with Manny and Renee Iron Hawk, members of Heartbreak at Wounded Knee 1890, to get their take on what's happening now.
Rath: Interesting. Well, of course, I want to hear from all the involved parties, if they think any of the attention that came to this is behind this this change of heart, apparently from the museum.
Baskin: We'll find out.
Rath: Matt, this is great, as always. Thank you.
Baskin: You got it, Arun.