Mashpee Tribe Wins Approval To Join Lawsuit Threatening Casino Project

PHOTO COURTESY: Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

PHOTO COURTESY: Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

BOSTON – A federal judge has issued a ruling allowing the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to join the legal proceedings that could threaten the construction of their resort casino in Taunton.

U.S. District Judge William Young granted the tribe standing to intervene in a lawsuit filed by a group of Taunton landowners challenging the Interior Department’s decision to place land-into trust for the tribe in both Taunton and Mashpee. In July, Judge Young ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, jeopardizing the designation of the lands as a Native American reservation.

Under federal law, Native American tribes are allowed to build casinos on reservation lands.

“This is an important legal victory,” said Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell. “It allows us to directly participate in the case.”

Young remanded the case back to the Interior Department. Before the tribe was given the approval to join the legal proceedings, any decision on an appeal effort would have fallen on the Interior Department.

“As recent higher court cases have affirmed, the Interior Department decision to establish an Indian Reservation for our people in Mashpee and in Taunton is on the right side of history, and the right side of the law,” Cromwell said.

Young cited a 2009 Supreme Court decision when he ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, saying the Interior Department “lacked the authority” to designate the land as a Native American reservation.

150 acres and Mashpee and 170 acres in Taunton were designated as reservation lands by the initial Interior Department decision.

Work has stopped at the casino site in light of the legal proceedings. Ground was broken in April.

“We hope the justice system will ultimately honor the longstanding promises made to our people – going back to the first Europeans to settle in this country,” Cromwell said.

By MATT McCARTHY, NewsCenter 

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