Dear Tribal Family
Late last week the U.S. Interior Department informed Tribal leadership that a new decision on the historic tribe’s land status is expected to be announced soon.
More specifically, the Interior Department said it would issue a new decision on or before June 19, 2017!!
We are confident that a new ROD (Record-Of-Decision) from the Interior Department will reaffirm what has already been well-established and documented: we have lived on this land for thousands of years and it is only right that we remain!
As you recall, on September 18, 2015, the initial ROD that re-established our reservation land was issued by the Interior Department under what is known as “Category 2” of the Indian Reorganization Act — living continuously on an existing reservation.
Shortly after that decision, a group of anti-Indian activists in East Taunton filed a suit challenging the Interior Department’s authority to hold land in trust under Category 2. Although a federal district court Judge William Young ruled in favor of the plaintiffs last summer, the same judge later ruled that the DOI could revise the initial ROD under Category 1, which establishes that the tribe was under federal jurisdiction before 1934, the year the Indian Reorganization Act was enacted.
Frankly for the Department of Interior to turn this around so quickly is remarkable. Of course, we hope it’s sooner rather than later, but this gives us certainty there will be a decision very soon.
The decision this week by the U.S. Justice Department to withdraw from a Category 2 appeal makes sense in light of the pending Interior Department decision, which will supersede the lawsuit filed against the Interior Department last year. However, we understood that the DOJ decision to withdraw under Category 2 was a possibility and for that reason, intervened to assert the Tribe’s interest in the appeal.
It’s unfortunate that anti-Indian activists have created a legal side show in attempt to deprive us of our sovereign right to sustain our culture and government, and to develop First Light Resort & Casino as a means of economic uplift for our people and the City of Taunton.
We’ve been challenged every step of the way, and each step we have prevailed!