Appeals court denies Mashpee Wampanaog claim to ancestral land
Two members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts lost their land claim before the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals today.

Amelia Bingham and her son, Steven, sued the state for depriving them of their right to land that was deeded to Mashpee ancestors in the late 1600s. The deeds said the land was to be owned by "the South Sea Indians: and their[] Children for ever: and not to be sold or given away from them by any one: without all their[] Consents there unto."

The Binghams said they are descendants of the South Sea Indians but the 1st Circuit said they didn't show how their ancestors held an actual interest in the land at issue. "Plaintiffs must show they had an individual interest in the property rights granted in the seventeenth-century deeds in order to show they were personally injured by the later state actions affecting those property rights," the court noted.

"Plaintiffs can do so only if the deeds conveyed to plaintiffs' individual ancestors discrete property interests that passed through successive generations," the court continued. "Even when viewing all facts in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, and taking all reasonable inferences in their favor, plaintiffs have not alleged sufficient facts to surmount this bar."

The Binghams filed the lawsuit on their own behalf. The tribe itself has not filed a land claim.

1st Circuit Decision:
Bingham v. Massachusetts (July 30, 2010)

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