Department of the Interior Disestablishes Mashpee Tribe’s Land

MASHPEE – The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has been told that the Secretary of the Interior has ordered their reservation be disestablished and land taken out of trust.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs delivered the announcement to the Tribe.

In a post on the Tribe’s website, Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell called the action “cruel and unnecessary.”

“The Secretary is under no court order to take our land out of trust,” said Cromwell.

“He is fully aware that litigation to uphold our status as a tribe eligible for the benefits of the Indian Reorganization Act is ongoing.”

The move comes as the tribe plans to be build a $1 billion First Light Resort and Casino in Taunton.

The questioning of whether or not the tribe qualified for land-into-trust status has been part of litigation that has gone on for years.

The First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month upheld a decision in 2016 that the Tribe did not qualify for land-into-trust status because it was not under federal jurisdiction at the time that the Indian Reorganization Act was passed.

The Tribe is also awaiting a lawsuit against the Interior Department to reverse their decision in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Congressman Bill Keating, who reintroduced the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act (H.R. 312) to Congress to provide the Tribe with federal recognition, announced that he was disappointed with the news.

“In a time of national health and economic emergency, the Secretary of the Interior should be reaching out to help all Native American tribes,” said Keating. 

“This is one of the most cruel and nonsensical acts I have seen since coming to Congress. The Secretary should be ashamed. This also calls out the need for the Senate to act on the dual bipartisan proposals led by myself and Rep Cole, which would rectify this issue.”

Massachusetts Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren released a joint statement, expressing their dismay over the Department of Interior’s decision.

“The Mashpee Wampanoag have a right to their ancestral homeland no matter what craven political games the Trump administration tries to play,” said the joint statement.

“Disestablishment of the Mashpee Wampanoag reservation would re-open a shameful and painful chapter of American history of systematically ripping apart tribal lands and breaking the federal government’s word. We will not allow the Mashpee Wampanoag to lose their homeland. We will fight this cruel injustice that promises to have ripple effects across Indian Country.” 

Cromwell believes that the Trump Administration is working against the Tribe.

“These are our lands, these are the lands of our ancestors, and these will be lands of our grandchildren,” said Cromwell.

“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.”

About Justin Saunders

Justin Saunders has nearly 10 years of experience in radio, television, online and newspaper journalism across the US and Canada. Justin joined the NewsCenter in May 2014 and continues to help provide coverage of the Cape and Islands.
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