Mashpee Wampanoag decision ends booking saga – Boston Herald

A years-long battle over the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s 321 acres of reservation land in Mashpee and Taunton is over and future generations “will always have a place to be Wampanoag,” the tribe’s president said Wednesday night.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s assistant secretary for Indian affairs released a 55-page ruling on Wednesday confirming the legal status of the tribe’s reservation lands and closing the books in a legal saga that spans decades.

“This is a momentous day for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, for Indigenous communities across the country, and for justice advocates,” said Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chairman Brian Weeden. “Today’s decision allows us to reclaim and protect our beloved land and better serve the Mashpee Tribe for generations to come. Although the injustices inflicted on us cannot be erased, we can look to the future – a future of freedom, a future of prosperity and a future of peace. We wish this not only for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, but for tribal communities across the country.

The lands of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe under trust status had been disputed for years. The tribe was federally recognized in 2007, and the Obama administration took the land in trust for the tribe in late 2015. The Trump administration worked to rescind that designation and ordered that the land of the tribe to be removed from trust status in March 2020.

But a federal judge in June 2020 determined that the Trump administration’s 2018 statement that the tribe did not qualify as “Indian” under the federal Indian Reorganization Act was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of power and against the law”. The case was referred to the Interior Department for the agency to reconsider, and the Biden administration’s Interior Department formally withdrew the government’s appeal in February.

The decision on tribal lands in trust could impact the state’s commercial casino industry.

The Mass. Gaming Commission could still issue a license for a casino in Region C – the name of the commission for Bristol, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties – but some fear commercial casino operators are unwilling to invest the minimum $500 million in a project that might have to compete with the billion dollar casino the tribe had planned to build in Taunton.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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