Mashpee Town Manager to Travel to D.C. to Support Wampanoag Land Bill

Rodney Collins, center, poses with US Congressman Bill Keating and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell. 

MASHPEE – Selectmen in Mashpee have agreed to send Town Manager Rodney Collins to Washington D.C. as part of an effort to protect the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s land in trust.

The board voted last week to allow Collins to make the trip in order to meet with congressional officials and representatives with the Department of the Interior to lobby in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act.

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.

“If this piece of legislation does not pass this would result in the tribe no longer being eligible for many federal grants and assistance programs, including assistance on the opid epidemic that is scourged to our area,” Keating said.

“This would also call into question inter-governmental agreements reached between the Tribe and others, most important to me, the Town of Mashpee.”

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.

An initial ruling from a federal 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.

“At this point there is so much concern around no decision. Currently… with the trust lands that we do have in place, it is very honorable, and just, that Congress could act on passing this bill to clear up any uncertainty, and ambiguity so that our people could continue to thrive, and prosper,” said Cromwell.

Cromwell is urging Collins to make the trek to D.C. as soon as possible.

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