Dear Tribal Family,
Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 the U.S. Justice Department filed a partial “motion to reconsider” the ruling by Judge William Young on July 28.
As we know, Judge Young remanded the case back to the Department of Interior because, in his view, the Tribe could not have been under “federal jurisdiction” in 1934 because it was not “federally recognized” at that time.
The motion seeks to clarify why the judge ruled on an aspect of the IRA or Indian Reorganization Act that was not part of the Interior Department Record-Of-Decision, and why the judge’s ruling equated “federal jurisdiction” with “federal recognition.”
We respectfully but strongly disagree with Judge Young’s ruling. We are encouraged that in the matter of the Cowlitz Tribe decision, court ruled that there is indeed a distinction between “federal recognition” and “federal jurisdiction.” The appellate justices affirmed in that matter the Interior Department’s interpretation of the law. There is indeed a very clear distinction between ‘federal jurisdiction’ and formal ‘federal recognition’ — a process that didn’t even exist at the time IRA was passed by Congress.
It’s re-assuring because we have always argued that our Land-In-Trust application qualifies under ‘federal jurisdiction’ as well as the fact that our people were indeed residing on a reservation before 1934.
This action, coupled with the Tribal Council’s decision to file a motion to intervene, will serve to strengthen our case as we will have a more direct role in defending our lands, shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. Department of Interior.
Nobody can explain the importance of our ancestral homeland and its significance to our survival better than we can. While those who are financing this suit, brought forth by the plaintiffs of East Taunton, are principally interested in protecting their casino interests, our goal is to protect the sovereignty of our people.
Dear Tribal Family
As we progress in determining next steps as a result of the decision by the District Court on July 28, 2016 which ruled in favor of the plaintiffs (David Littlefield, et al., v United States Department of Interior, Civil Action No. 16-10184-WGY), I want to further update our Tribal Community of actions taken by the Tribal Council.
On Friday, August 12 the Tribal Council unanimously voted to approve “Intervention” in the case named above.
While the Tribe is not named in the matter, the court ruling did remand the Department’s Record of Decision to the Secretary of the Interior, and we feel now it is in our best interest to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Department of Interior as we move forward.
No one entity can speak of our history and significant spiritual ties to our Land better than we can. This action will allow us the ability to strengthen our voice in further land court proceedings whether district or appellate court levels, or both.
I want to applaud all of my fellow Tribal Councilors for unanimously and vigorously supporting this action which in effect carries the strong message from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Nation that We Are Still Here!
Dear Tribal Family,
A further update on this important matter as of August 1, 2016. Our land continues in trust and NO action has been taken otherwise. I and the Tribal Council strive to keep our Tribal citizenry well-informed with accurate and timely information. We will continue to do so throughout this process.
On Thursday, July 28th, we learned that U.S. District Court Judge William Young overseeing the litigation challenging the U.S. Department of Interior’s decision to hold our land in trust ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
This lawsuit was led by attorneys hired by a rival casino developer from Chicago, Neil Bluhm. The plaintiffs are also associated with CERA, one of the foremost anti-Tribe groups in the country.
But, let me assure you that our legal team and Tribal Council is working overtime to address our next steps. We expect an appeal to be filed, as both parties agreed to before the court proceedings in federal district court in Boston where this case was heard.
Obviously, we are disappointed in the ruling, as it represents an attack on Indian sovereignty and an attempt to undermine our right to self-determination and self-reliance.
While our legal team and Tribal Council develops our strategy moving forward, let me tell you what this ruling does not mean. This ruling does not mean that we have lost our land. This ruling does not mean we have been ordered to stop moving forward with our First Light Resort & Casino.
I don’t need to tell you that our people have been challenged many times over the centuries. But I am comforted by the fact that we are still here, living on the land of our ancestors. At this time, we need to stand united as a Tribe. If we can do that, with the blessings of our Creator and our ancestors, I have no doubt we will prevail!