Mashpee Tribe Files Notice to Appeal Court Ruling in Effort to Restart Casino Plan

PHOTO COURTESY: Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

MASHPEE – The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the U.S. Department of Justice have filed a notice to appeal a federal district court ruling in an effort to get the tribe’s casino project back on track.

That ruling challenged the federal government’s authority to designate tribal land in Mashpee and Taunton as a reservation.

The tribe was moving ahead on a plan to build a casino in Taunton until the federal court decision earlier this year.

A federal district court judge ruled in July that the Department of Interior did not have the authority to take land into trust on the basis of what is known as “category 2” under the Indian Reorganization Act.

“Category 2” means the tribe had been living continuously on an existing reservation under the Indian Reservation Act.

While a federal judge ruled that the Interior Department did not have the authority to hold land in trust on behalf of the tribe under category 2, it could consider revising the ROD and basing it on category 1.

That would mean the tribe would have to prove they were under the control of the federal government in 1934.

“This is a continuation of our fight to remain on the land our ancestors have lived on for thousands of years,” Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a statement.

According to the tribe, as the appeal moves forward, federal officials will also now consider whether the tribe is eligible to have its land held in trust under category 1, which would establish that the Tribe was “under federal jurisdiction” at the time of the 1934 law.

Separately, the Bureau of Indian Affairs sent a letter to Mashpee tribal leaders this week saying it was prepared to consider a revision of the its initial Record-Of-Decision (ROD) based on the fact that the tribe was “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934 when the IRA became law.

The Interior Department’s authority to take land into trust on behalf of federally recognized tribes can only be done under one of three categories written into the IRA.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell said he was confident the Tribe’s homeland will be preserved by the federal government. 

“The evidence that our Tribe was under federal jurisdiction in 1934 is compelling. I have no doubt that once all the evidence is reviewed, the Interior Department will issue a revised Record-Of-Decision,” Cromwell said.

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