Feds Approve Mashpee Wampanoag Land Into Trust Application; Paves Way for Tribal Casino

An artist’s rendering of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s proposed $500 million casino in Taunton. The tribe hopes to secure the state’s sole casino license for the Southeast Region. (Photo courtesy of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe)

An artist’s rendering of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s proposed $500 million casino in Taunton.  (Photo courtesy of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe)

MASHPEE –  The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has approved the Mashpee Wampananog Tribe’s land into trust application for land in Mashpee and Taunton, essentially paving the way for a proposed tribal casino to move forward.

Tribal officials received word of the approval late Friday afternoon and were expecting to discuss the landmark decision at a meeting early Friday evening.

“Today, history has come full circle. This is truly a glorious, monumental day – a day many of our people, both live and deceased, have spent their entire lives working to establish,” said Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell in a statement.

The Mashpee Wampanoag has been working on a $500 million dollar casino proposal for Taunton, but needed the land to be taken into federal trust before they could proceed.

The agreement means the Interior Department will transfer approximately 170 acres of land in Mashpee and 151 acres of land in Taunton to be held in federal trust for the benefit of the tribe.

“We have occupied this land for the past 12,000 years. But, over the past four centuries, much of our ancestral home was taken away from us…however, now we have a sovereign base from which we can work to sustain our cultural traditions, develop a thriving tribal economy, and serve the needs of our people as we see fit,” said Cromwell.

The tribe received a letter in late August indicating that a decision on the land into trust application was imminent.

The process to designate the land has been underway for several years and was one of the last hurdles the Wampanoag tribe faced before moving ahead with the casino. The application approved on Friday sought to proclaim 321 acres in Barnstable and Bristol Counties as the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Reservation.

Federally recognized Native American tribes are allowed to build casinos on native land, or land that has been taken into federal trust.

A holdup for the Mashpee tribe had been a previous Supreme Court decision that put into limbo whether land could be taken into trust for tribes recognized after 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act was ratified.

While the Wampanoags only won their federal recognition in 2007, other tribes who have proven they were under federal jurisdiction before 1934 have still been able to get land into trust.

The Mashpee tribe had always argued they had been under federal jurisdiction long before 1934.

The 2011 law that legalized casino gambling in Massachusetts provided for a casino in eastern and western Massachusetts, a slots-only casino, and a casino set-aside for a federally recognized Native American tribe.

MGM Resorts is planning a casino for Springfield, while Wynn Resorts is looking to build a gaming resort in Everett. The slots-only casino has already opened in Plainville.

The state’s gaming commission has also been considering the possibility of issuing another commercial casino license for southeastern Massachusetts in the event the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was unable to get federal recognition.

The statement from the tribe announcing the approval said economic development revenues would be used to fund the restoration and preservation of cultural sites in Mashpee and elsewhere.

Educational, cultural and employment programs for tribal youth would also be funded.

“While some outside the tribe will focus only on our quest to build a destination resort casino in Taunton in accordance with the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, for us this goes far beyond economic development. This is about controlling our own destiny and preserving our ancient culture,” Cromwell said.

Mashpee Wampanoag Historic Preservation Officer Ramona Peters described the tribe as “modern” with as much as interest in the future as in preserving the past.

“Our state-of-the-art, award-winning energy-efficient Community and Government Center is a symbol of our modernity. And now that the land it is on, as well as other historic pieces of property will be held in trust, it means that future generations won’t have to deal with the physic wounds that come with being deprived of self-determination,” said Peters in a statement.

U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn announced the decision.

“The tribe’s origins in southeastern Massachusetts predate the arrival of Europeans on this continent,” Washburn said in his ruling. “At the time of initial European contact, the tribe’s ancestors occupied all of modern-day Bristol, Barnstable, and Plymouth Counties.”

Washburn said that the tribe’s descendants were dispersed and lost much of their land in these areas to English settlers.

In addition to the casino, the tribe’s plans for the site in Taunton includes three hotels, an event center, restaurants, retail stores, and a water park. The tribe has said the project would create at least 3,500 full-time and part-time positions, and 287 construction jobs.

Federal officials said that in reaching their decision, they conducted a thorough review of the tribe’s history and application, as well as the administrative record and comments submitted by numerous interested parties.

By Matt Pitta, CapeCod.com News Director



  1. Rule of thumb – play smaller hands while in the early position than in late placement.

Speak Your Mind


737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy