Students at Mukayuhsak Weekuw, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's language school, celebrated the last day of classes in June 2018. Mukayuhsak Weekuw means "the children's house" in the Wôpanâak language. Photo: Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe still waiting on Trump administration
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Leaders and citizens of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are still waiting to find out whether their homelands are staying in trust.
In a statement on Monday, Chairman Cedric Cromwell said the tribe's legal team has been told to expect a decision by September 21. He's confident that the land in Massachusetts -- about 150 acres in the town of Mashpee and another 170 acres in the city of Taunton -- will remain in trust amid uncertainty in the Trump era.
"Unless back-room politics comes into play, an objective analysis of the evidence should result in a positive finding,” Cromwell said in a statement posted on Pechanga.net.
The situation facing the tribe is unprecedented. The federal government hasn't taken an Indian nation's trust land out of trust in more than half a century.
"My best guess would be in the 50s, when the termination era took place," Darryl LaCounte, the "acting" director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, told members of Congress last month, referring to the destructive federal policy that has been repudiated by the United States but could once again rear its head in another form.
While we are based here on the Mashpee Wampanoag reservation, with generous support from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, we...
Mashpee TV on YouTube: June 2018 First Light News
The bill, whose companion in the Senate is S.2628, closely tracks the language of a 2014 law that protected another tribe's homelands from being taken out of trust. The U.S. Supreme Court
upheld the legality of that approach in February, in a case known as Patchak v. Zinke.
With the effort seemingly on strong legal ground, every member of the Congressional delegation from Massachusetts has signed onto the measure. The House version currently enjoys support from seven Republicans, in addition to 11 Democrats.
"It's a good piece of legislation," said Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who has served in Congress longer than any other member.
The BIA approved the tribe's land-into-trust application in September 2015, during
the Obama era. The decision came eight years after the tribe's federal status was finalized by the federal government.
But the long delay wait didn't just stall the tribe's cultural sovereignty and economic development efforts, it led to a new level of scrutiny. By the time the decision arrived, the Supreme Court, in a case known as Carcieri v. Salazar, shook up the landscape by holding that the BIA can only place land in trust for tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934.
Opponents of the casino in Taunton pounced and cited Carcieri in bringing a challenge to the land-into-trust application. In July 2016, a federal judge agreed that the BIA did not fully address the impacts of the decision with its original decision and sent the matter back to Washington, where it sits today.
“We are an honorable people who stand by our word. We have fought and died defending this country and we have honored our commitments to the commonwealth, the city of Taunton and the town of Mashpee," Cromwell said. "All that we ask now is for justice to prevail so that we are not torn away from the land our people have inhabited for the past 12,000 years.”