In Massachusetts and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has reportedly been told that the United States Department of the Interior has unilaterally ‘disestablished’ its reservation to potentially scupper its plan to build a $1 billion tribal casino resort.
According to a Saturday report from local radio broadcaster WBUR-FM, the federal department had placed the 321-acre parcel of land about 38 miles south of Boston into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in 2015 so as to grant the group a first homeland that was to be free from most state interference.
The broadcaster reported that having land ‘held in trust’ by the federal government gives Native American tribes the ability to decide for themselves on how to organize and handle a plethora of tax, development and management concerns. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was purportedly hoping that the award would have allowed it to build its 300-room First Light Resort and Casino complete with a selection of some 3,000 slots and 190 gaming tables so as to help improve the economic standing of its over 3,000 members.
However, this move was almost immediately countered by a group of local residents via a legal action that sought to quash the land-into-trust decision from the United States Department of the Interior. This endeavor purportedly relied on a 2009 ruling from the United States Supreme Court in the case of Carcieri v Salazar that tribes could only be eligible for a reservation if they had held an official relationship with the federal government prior to the 1934 passage of the Indian Reorganization Act.
Although the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe had only won federal recognition in 2007 following a 32-year struggle, WBUR-FM reported that its defence of the land-into-trust award had progressed all the way to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Even though the Massachusetts tribe subsequently lost this argument, the move from the United States Department of the Interior was purportedly unexpected due to the fact that a separate federal court case is still pending.
The Chairman for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Cedric Cromwell (pictured), reportedly described the revocation move from Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt as ‘cruel’ and ‘unnecessary’ as the federal government had been ‘under no court order to take our land out of trust’.
Cromwell reported stated…
“[Bernhardt] is fully aware that litigation to uphold our status as a tribe eligible for the benefits of the Indian Reorganization Act is ongoing. It begs the question, what is driving our federal trustee’s crusade against our reservation?”
Cromwell reportedly claimed that the administration of President Donald Trump has been actively working against his tribe’s efforts at securing a reservation but vowed that the leadership of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe would ‘continue to fight for our land’ and was now considering whether to file appropriate legal action.
The tribal leader reportedly told WBUR-FM…
“We have survived, we will continue to survive. These are our lands. These are the lands of our ancestors and these will be the lands of our grandchildren. This administration has come and it will go. But we will be here, always. And we will not rest until we are treated equally with other federally-recognized tribes and the status of our reservation is confirmed.”