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Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe praises development in casino dispute



Congratulations to the new Secretary of the Department of Interior Secretary Zinke. Secretary Zinke said to Me, "I am all about Tribal Sovereignty!" Hoka 💯

Posted by Re-Elect Cedric Cromwell, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman on Thursday, March 2, 2017

Chairman Cedric Cromwell on Facebook: 'Congratulations to the new Secretary'

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe remains confident that its long-delayed casino will overcome a legal challenge, especially since the nation's highest court put an end to a similar lawsuit.

The tribe broke ground on the $1 billion First Light Resort and Casino a year ago this month. But a lawsuit filed by opponents halted construction at the facility in Taunton, Massachusetts.

The tribe is pursuing an appeal while the Trump administration weighs how to proceed. Both appear to be on solid ground now that the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a crucial precedent affecting land-into-trust decisions at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“The U.S. Supreme Court's decision blazes a trail forward for Mashpee,” Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a press release on Monday.

At issue is whether the tribe can follow the land-into-trust process in light of a prior Supreme Court case known as Carcieri v. Salazar. The ruling limits the process to those tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934.

The Mashpees didn't gain federal recognition until 2007 but the BIA undertook a comprehensive examination of the tribe's history, which included the establishment of one of the first reservations in the United States. That led to the approval of the land-into-trust application for the casino.

The Cowlitz Tribe, whose federal recognition wasn't formalized until 2000, was in a similar situation when the BIA approved the land-into-trust application for the forthcoming ilani Casino Resort in Washington. Opponents tried to derail the project by raising a Carcieri challenge but were unsuccessful in the federal courts.

“The challenges to the department's decision to place land into trust for the Cowlitz Tribe are now over,” Cromwell said of the development affecting the Department of the Interior, which is the parent agency of the BIA.

The Trump administration has until April 27 to decide whether it will pursue an appeal in the case. Attorneys from the Department of Justice were granted a delay in order to coordinate with the new leadership in Washington, D.C.

“The time to cut the red tape is here,” Cromwell said of the tribe's delayed project. “We are ready to deliver thousands of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in critical traffic infrastructure improvements, and hundreds of millions of dollars toward urban renewal.”

Federal Court Decisions:
District Court of Massachusetts: Littlefield v. Department of the Interior (July 28, 2016)
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals: Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon v. Jewell (July 29, 2016)

Supreme Court Decision in Carcieri v. Salazar:
Syllabus | Opinion [Thomas] | Concurrence [Breyer] | Dissent [Stevens] | Concurrence/Dissent [Souter]

Department of the Interior Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)

Related Stories:
Trump administration given more time for appeal in tribal gaming case
(March 17, 2017)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe enters new year with casino in limbo
(January 2, 2017)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino in limbo amid change in D.C.
(December 14, 2016)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe files notice of appeal in casino lawsuit
(December 9, 2016)