Mashpee Tribe Files Federal Complaint Over Interior Department Decision

WASHINGTON – The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is taking more legal action to try and save their federal land-into-trust designation, a key component in their hopes to build a $1 billion casino in Taunton.

The Tribe filed a complaint in federal court in Washington D.C. this week challenging the Department of the Interior’s ruling to reverse a 2015 decision that placed land into trust in Mashpee and Taunton on behalf of the Tribe.

“We have been utterly abandoned by our federal trustee,” said Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell.

Earlier this month, the Interior Department said the Tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934 and did not have any basis for maintaining the Tribe’s reservation.

“I do not believe that our country, this great nation that our Tribal citizens have fought and died for, wants to return to the dark days of taking sovereign Indian land away from indigenous communities,” Cromwell added. “If neither Congress nor the federal courts weigh in to stop this, this Administration will return the Mashpee Wampanoag once again to landlessness, force us to close our schools and social service programs, and lead us back to despair and hopelessness.”

Despite the Interior Department’s decision, the Tribe’s land-in-trust remains protected for the time being.

“We are urgently petitioning the United States Congress and the federal courts to end this nightmare—to prevent what appears to be an intentional return to the dark days of the termination era, when tribal lands were taken out of trust and the federal relationship with tribal governments disavowed,” Cromwell said.

The Tribe is facing a legal challenge from Taunton landowners opposed to the casino project.

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