Southcoast Today ~ Our View: Tribe should not be denied land in trust

Good day Tribal Family and Friends,

I am sharing with you an editorial published on July 18, 2017 by Southcoast Today news outlet. I find it balanced and inclusive of historical foundation that many in the general public are not completely aware of.

Feel free to share this write up, we certainly applaud Southcoast Today for going a step further than most in taking their position.


Posted Jul 18, 2017 at 2:01 AM

The Department of the Interior has suggested a path for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to work toward developing a casino on land in East Taunton across Route 140 from the Silver City Galleria, where a couple dozen residents stand in vehement opposition to the proposal.

James E. Cason, associate deputy secretary of the department, has asked for representatives on both sides to consider whether the tribe was recognized by the federal government in 1934, the threshold for taking land in trust for tribes under the Indian Reorganization Act.

Mr. Cason believes there may be an opportunity to recognize the tribe’s relationship with the government of Massachusetts at that time as a proxy for federal recognition.

Before the United States existed, the tribe had been under the jurisdiction of the British Crown after King Philip’s War in the late 1600s. The colonists put the losers onto reservation, and social disruption and disease as a result of proximity with colonists reduced their numbers and voices. Colonial growth and expansion made it easier to ignore the duty to protect Mashpee people and property. This amounts to a dereliction of duty to protect the tribe.

The de facto anti-Indian policies (takings and subdivisions of land, forced conversion to Christianity, removing children from families) ate away at the cohesion and cultural identity of the tribe. The Department of Interior validated the Mashpee identity with its 2007 recognition. That decision appears to be incongruent with any eventual rejection of the tribe’s effort to take land in trust.

East Taunton residents have right to resist, but the tribe’s land purchase was a zoned and designated industrial area. Within a very small radius are such other neighbors as a school, a new, large church, an expansive furniture warehouse, one of Taunton’s largest building construction contractors, and a number of other industrial firms. The commonwealth’s compact and the city’s community agreement with the tribe are intended to take all those neighbors into consideration. A casino may be an effective tool for economic development for the tribe, and those agreements are intended to ensure that it is effective for Taunton — and East Taunton — as well.

However, no one can predict whether that would be the outcome, so the litigating neighbors are understandably fraught with uncertainty and fear, but the centuries of interaction between indigenous peoples and immigrants in Massachusetts have too frequently found the tribes on the losing end.

In last week’s congressional hearing to discuss options for repairing the language of the reorganization act, the chief of Maine’s Penobscot Nation testified that clarifying the laws is about far more than a casino.

“Tribes’ ability to regain their homelands is not only critical for them to be able to overcome economic disparity, education outcome disparities, housing disparities … but it’s also at the very core of cultural identity,” he said.

If Congress is able to provide a prescription for the incongruities of the reorganization act, we would be pleased to see the Mashpee’s land-into-trust affirmed. And despite our opinion that casino gambling’s promises are far from a sure thing, we support the Mashpee Wampanoag right to use their land as they choose.


Important Update: Sec of Interior Extends and Expands Category 1, Invites further proof from Tribe!

Good evening Tribal Family,

I want to provide an important update…This evening I received a letter announcing the U.S. Department of Interior decision to expand and extend the process, inviting us to submit further materials demonstrating how our tribal history supports our right to trust land
The letter affirms that our land remains in trust until this process is complete.

Because the DOI has not concluded its process, no decision is appropriate at this time, and none has been issued.

Previously, the Department  had committed to completing its review and announcing the decision by June 27.

As of that date earlier this week, Interior officials were not persuaded there was an adequate basis to reach a final positive decision.

As a result, we opted then to suspend review.

The DOI has now invited us to address other grounds for a positive finding.
The land will remain in  trust.
The district court’s finding in the lawsuit is still under appeal.

We are now working several tracks to preserve our land base. The DOI announcement specifically identifies other avenues to pursue

Because we succeeded in the federal recognition process, the Department is familiar with our unique history. They have suggested that we supplement on at least one aspect of our history prior to 1934.

They have suggested that we continue to work with them to protect our lands

I look forward to being with everyone this weekend.

Here’s to Good Medicine and Strong Traditions!

Happy Powwow My Family!!