Chairman Cedric Cromwell of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe addresses the #StandWithMashpee rally at the U.S. Capitol on November 14, 2018. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe defeats bid to move homelands lawsuit to another court

Leaders of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are welcoming a judge's decision that keeps their homelands lawsuit against the Trump administration in a more favorable court.

In a June 21 ruling, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said the tribe's case belongs in Washington, D.C., because of its many connections to the nation's capital. Besides possibly raising "national policy implications," she noted that the defendants are officials who are based in the D.C. headquarters of the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs

“The significance of this victory and its importance to our tribe cannot be understated," Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a press release posted on Native News Online. "Judge Collyer agreed with every single argument that we advanced and showed, as a Reagan-appointed judge that our issue is a bi-partisan plight with ‘national policy implications’ for the rights of tribes across the U.S. She was also right to point out that the tribe has received support from pan-tribal organizations representing more than 250 tribes across the U.S. who all agree that the Interior was unlawfully arbitrary and capricious."

Opponents of the tribe sought to get the case assigned to the same federal judge in Massachusetts who ordered the BIA to take another look at the tribe's land-into-trust application. The litigation there is what led the Trump administration to reverse an Obama-era decision in favor of the tribe.

The tribe is hoping to reverse the Trump decision with the lawsuit in Collyer's court. The case is still in its very early stages.

Separately, the tribe has asked Congress to affirm the status of its reservation. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.312, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, on May 15. It awaits further action in the Senate.

"We still need urgent support from the U.S. Senate to finish the work of the House to preserve our limited resources for the housing and caring of our members versus fighting frivolous litigation, but we are encouraged by this momentum," Cromwell said.

Read More on the Story
Tribe's suit against feds to stay in Washington (The Cape Cod Times June 24, 2019)

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