Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe defends right to use land for gaming

Gay Head in Massachusetts is home to the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe. Photo by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts was back in federal court on Tuesday to defend its gaming rights.

The tribe started working on a small Class II facility on its reservation after securing approval from the National Indian Gaming Commission. But the state filed a lawsuit that put a halt to the effort.

The tribe is now asking the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals to recognize its right to use its own land for gaming. An attorney said Congress enacted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to help tribes strengthen their governments and to become self sufficient.

"The purpose of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is to enable tribes to mature to the point of being able to have such sufficient operations on their Indian lands," Scott Crowell told a panel of three judges during a 40-minute hearing in Boston.

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: 1st Circuit Court of Appeals oral arguments in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head December 6, 2016 The Department of Justice is siding with the tribe and an attorney from the Obama administration took part in the hearing on Tuesday. Both the NIGC and the Department of the Interior believe IGRA allows the tribe to use its reservation for gaming.

All forms of gaming -- including Class III -- are legal in Massachusetts. But the state claims the Massachusetts Indian Land Claims Settlement Act requires the tribe to be treated differently due to a provision affecting state jurisdiction on the reservation.

The tribe and the Obama administration believe IGRA "implicitly repealed" that provision. In a similar case involving the Narragansett Tribe in neighboring Rhode Island, the 1st Circuit agreed with that argument.

Read More on the Story:
Wampanoag Tribe Presents Oral Arguments to Overturn 2015 Gambling Decision (The Vineyard Gazette 12/6)

An Opinion:
Jacob Raver and E. Abim Thomas It’s Game Time for Tribe on Martha’s Vineyard (JD Supra 12/5)

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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