BIA formally declares reservation for Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell speaks at a press conference on September 19, 2015, celebrating approval of the tribe's land-into-trust application. Photo from Facebook

The departure of Kevin Washburn from the Bureau of Indian Affairs continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.

On his second to last day as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Washburn formally designated a reservation for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts. The historic December 30, 2015, decision comes after the tribe won approval of its land-into-trust application following eight years of consideration at the BIA.

"Last year at this time, Mashpee was still a 'landless' tribe," Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a New Year's message on Monday. "We have left that painful truth behind."

The tribe now has an initial reservation -- the first of its kind in the Bay State -- of about 321 acres. The homeland consists of 151 acres in the town of Mashpee, the location of tribal headquarters, and another 170 acres in the city of Taunton, where the First Light Resort and Casino will be constructed.

"We are proud to be able to refer to our reservation, finally," Cromwell said. "On that reservation, we will build tribal housing, to make it affordable for our people to return to their homelands. We will continue the important work of our language and culture departments, because we recognize that living among our ancestors, in their language, on their lands, is the way that we will move forward into the future."

"We thank Assistant Secretary Washburn for his dedication and courageous efforts to improve the tribal trust relationship across all branches of government," Cromwell added.

Notice of the reservation will be published in the Federal Register on Friday.

Forthcoming Federal Register Notice:
Proclaiming Certain Lands as Reservation for the Mashpee Wampanoag (To Be Published January 8, 2016)

Relevant Documents:
Chairman Cedric Cromwell Announcement | Mashpee Wampanoag Trbe Press Release | Bureau of Indian Affairs Press Release | Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn Letter to Chairman Cedric Cromwell | Record of Decision | Attachment I - Legal Descriptions | Attachment II - Maps | Attachment III - Mitigation Monitoring and Enforcement Plan | Attachment IV - Response to Comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement

Federal Register Notices:
Land Acquisitions; Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (September 25, 2015)
Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Fee-to-Trust Transfer of Property and Subsequent Development of a Resort/Hotel and Ancillary Facilities in the City of Taunton, MA and Tribal Government Facilities in the Town of Mashpee, MA by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (September 5, 2014)
Land Acquisitions: Appeals of Land Acquisition Decisions (November 13, 2013)

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

Related Stories:
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe works on new law enforcement deal (12/09)
Brian Patterson: Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe reclaims homeland (09/28)
BIA treads new Carcieri ground in ruling for Massachusetts tribe (09/23)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe celebrates land-into-trust decision (09/18)

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