Congressional Hearing Scheduled Today for Wampanoag Land-In-Trust Bill

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell

MASHPEE – Legislation that could help revive the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s casino in Taunton and stop the potential revocation of their land in trust will get a hearing today in Washington D.C.

The House Committee on Natural Resources will take testimony on Tuesday from Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell and others.

A group that includes 9th District Congressman William Keating, who represents the Cape and Islands, filed the bill earlier this year that re-affirms the tribe’s federal land status.

“It ensures that, number one, they hear the concern around the potential of our land coming out of trust and that it ensure that they’re supportive of the bill’s process,” said Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell.

A federal court challenge by neighbors of a planned Native American casino in Taunton put the project on hold.

An initial ruling from the court questioned the way the Interior Department took land into federal trust in Mashpee and Taunton for the tribe.

Until the court challenge, the Mashpee tribe was moving forward with a casino project that was made possible by their land into trust designation and a state law that legalized casinos in Massachusetts.

Without legislative action to re-affirm the Interior Departments September 2015 decision that established the Mashpee tribe’s initial reservation, the tribe has said the department could revoke their federal land designation.

“This would be in modern times, the first tribe to lose land since pre-1934,” said Cromwell.

The legislation would supercede any action by the Department of the Interior.

The tribe said losing its reservation would cause them to close its school, abandon a tribal housing project, forfeit federal environmental grants, and divert funding designated for critical social services.

It would also end their efforts to build the casino.

“It was our ancestors who greeted the Pilgrims and helped them survive. It was our forebears who signed the first treaty with the settlers, sharing our land and natural resources which made the establishment of Plymouth Colony possible,” Cromwell previously said.

By MATT PITTA, CapeCod.com News Director

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