Dear Tribal Community,
We have received exciting news: as I announced at today’s General Membership Meeting, federal officials have informed the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe that our land in trust application is proceeding rapidly.
This is another critical step forward for our proposed destination resort casino, which will create thousands of jobs and widespread economic opportunities for our Tribe and our neighbors in southeastern Massachusetts.
The December 31 letter was sent to update us on the status of our application for land in Mashpee and Taunton to be placed in trust. The Washburn letter states that Interior has completed an initial review and is moving forward in processing the application according to the initial reservation exception.
Assistant Secretary Washburn writes, “After an initial review of the Tribe’s application and other applicable documents in the record, we will be directing the Eastern Regional Director to begin processing the Tribe’s application pursuant to this [initial reservation] exception. The Office of Indian Gaming will complete its final analysis of the applicability of the initial reservation exception in January 2013.” Washburn also stated the BIA expects to complete in early 2013 its analysis of the Secretary’s authority to acquire land in trust for the Tribe in light of the Supreme Court’s 2009 Carcieri v. Salazar decision.
The schedule outlined by Assistant Secretary Washburn means that our land in trust application is a priority. We appreciate this very strong commitment from the Obama Administration and the active support of Governor Patrick and our congressional delegation.
This progress would have been impossible without the unwavering confidence and support of our Tribal members and Tribal Council to push forward and fight for our right to sovereign land.
It is important to remember that land in trust isn’t just about gaming. We’re even more excited about what finally having a reservation will mean for our tribe. A reservation is absolutely critical to our ability to operate as a tribal government, to provide services to our people like housing, health care and education, and to maintain our history and culture in our ancestral homeland.
The initial reservation exception is found in Section 20 of the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act. It is one of the few exceptions to a prohibition on gaming on lands taken into trust after October 17, 1988, and is expressly intended for newly recognized Indian tribes, such as the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, that do not have a reservation.
This is exciting news for our Tribe and our efforts to acquire trust lands, provide the very best in services to our people, and to create jobs, economic development and direct financial support for tribal members.
Qaqeemasq (Running Bear)