Mashpee Tribe Withdraws Revised Land Into Trust Application; Will Pursue Legal Relief Instead

PHOTO COURTESY: Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

MASHPEE – The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has withdrawn its revised application for taking land into federal trust in Mashpee and Taunton, in what appears to be another delay in their attempts to build a casino.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, the tribe said, “…in consultation with the U.S. Department of Interior, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has suspended its request for review under Category 1 of the Indian Reorganization Act.”

The tribe said the move will preserve their rights to seek further review and consultation at a later date.

Instead, the Wampanoags plan to move forward with the legal appeal of a federal court ruling last year that said the Department of the Interior should not have taken land in Mashpee and Taunton into trust.

The tribe has been trying to build a casino resort in Taunton for several years.

A group of East Taunton residents were successful last year in challenging the land into trust process. The tribe had been hoping to get that designation revised under another section of the regulations governing land into trust.

Despite the federal district court judge’s ruling, the land in both communities remains in trust pending the appeal, according to the tribe.

Since that ruling, at the request of the Tribe, the Interior Department has been considering whether to hold the tribal lands in trust under a different legal category.  

According to the statement, this week tribal leaders decided the best course of action is, “to vigorously prosecute the appeal and examine all avenues available under the law in order to protect their lands and development rights while the issue of legal categories works its way through the courts.”

“We will continue our existing appeal while working closely with the Interior on more options to forever protect our land base, bring thousands of jobs to Southeastern Massachusetts, and secure a prosperous future for the Tribe and the entire region,” said Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell in the statement. 

In September 2015, the U.S. Department of Interior declared 321 acres of tribe-owned land in Mashpee and Taunton as the Tribe’s initial reservation.

By MATT PITTA, News Director

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