Litigation | Openings & Closings

Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe elects new chair amid gaming fight

Cheryl Andrews-Maltais. Photo by Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe elected a new leader on Sunday ahead of a big gaming hearing in federal court.

Cheryl Andrews-Maltais is returning to the chair's post after a three-year absence, during which she took a senior adviser position at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She previously supported the tribe's efforts to build a Class II gaming facility on its reservation in Massachusetts.

The tribe had to stop work on the project after the state filed a lawsuit. A federal judge ruled that the tribe can't follow the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The tribe is asking the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the decision. Oral arguments will take place in Boston on December 6.

The last major Indian case that went before the 1st Circuit was Carcieri v. Salazar. Back in 2007, the court sided with the Narragansett Tribe in neighboring Rhode Island as part of a land-into-trust dispute.

But the state appealed and the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1st Circuit. The February 2009 ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar continues to pose problems for newly recognized tribes that are seeking to restore their homelands.

Carcieri is not at issue in the Aquinnah Wampanoag case since the gaming site in question is already in trust but it's similar in that a state government is trying to curtail the tribe's rights. Under IGRA, states do not any authority over Class II gaming.

But the state argues that the Massachusetts Indian Land Claims Settlement Act requires the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe to be treated differently because it subjects the reservation to state jurisdiction. A federal judge agreed with that premise last November.

The tribe believes the state jurisdiction provisions in the settlement act of 1987 were "implicitly repealed" by IGRA, which became law in 1988. The Obama administration is supporting the tribe in the dispute.

Read More on the Story:
Cheryl Andrews-Maltais is elected tribal chairman again (The Martha's Vineyard Times 11/21)
Wampanoag Tribe Elects Cheryl Andrews-Maltais Chairman (The Vineyard Gazette 11/20)
Tribal Election to Bring Leadership Change (The Vineyard Gazette 11/16)

Relevant Documents:
Solicitor Letter to Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe (August 23, 2013)
NIGC Letter to Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe (October 25, 2013)
Press Release: GSB Client Aquinnah Wampanoag to be First to Game in Massachusetts (November 12, 2013)

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