Wampanoags Get National Help in Dispute with Interior Department

Mashpee Tribal Chair Cedric Cromwell

MASHPEE – The National Congress of American Indians has joined the dispute between the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Federal Department of the Interior after the agency declined to allow the tribe to hold land in federal trust which would have allowed it to pursue a casino project in Taunton. The decision was announced Friday. 

In a statement, the organization says the Department erred in not considering all of the evidence the tribe presented to make its case that it was under federal jurisdiction at the time of the enactment of Indian Reorganization act of 1934. The recognition is necessary for the land in question to be held in trust. 

The Congress continued, “The Tribe also presented evidence that the Office of Indian Affairs considered the Tribe in several large policy discussions, including whether to remove certain groups of Indians from their reservations. In addition, the Tribe provided evidence that a United States (U.S.) Attorney represented the Tribe’s interests in court, but DOI suggested that the Tribe needed to show the actual authorization from the Federal Government enabling the U.S. Attorney to take the case, or some other comparable indicia that a U.S. Attorney was acting on behalf of the Federal Government other than his title at the time he provided the Tribe his services.” The recognition is necessary for the land in question to be held in trust. 

The National Congress says the decision to remove the land from trust results in a restriction of the Tribe’s sovereignty and its ability to exercise meaningful self governance. The removal, termed “disestablishment,” has not yet occurred. 

In comments on the decision, Mashpee Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell says the Interior Department lacks the authority to disestablish the trust designation, saying there is no mechanism in place for such action. 

The Mashpee Wampanoags are holding a Community Planning meeting to consider their next move. All are welcome at the forum, it will be held Friday, September 14th from 6-8 at the Tribe’s community building on Great Neck Road South in Mashpee. 

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