Important update: Department of Justice and Mashpee Wampanoag file “Notices to Appeal”

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Dear Tribal Family,

I want to provide an important update to our Tribal community. Today, Thursday December 8th,  the U.S. Department of Justice and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe filed notices to appeal a federal district court ruling that challenged the federal government’s authority to designate tribal land in Mashpee and Taunton as a reservation.

The notices to appeal were filed with the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which will trigger the case to now be moved to the higher court.

As we recall, on July 28, 2016, a federal district court judge ruled that the U.S. Department of Interior did not have the authority to take land into trust on behalf of our tribe on the basis of what is known as “category 2” under the Indian Reorganization Act. That decision is the subject of the appeal.

This is a continuation of our fight to remain on the land that our ancestors walked upon and lived on for thousands of years.

The initial ROD issued on September 18, 2015 re-established our reservation. The ROD was based on what is known as “category 2” – living continuously on an existing reservation – under the IRA. While a federal judge ruled that the Interior Department did not have the authority to hold land in trust on our behalf under category 2, it could consider revising the ROD and basing it on category 1.

As the appeal moves forward, federal officials will also now consider whether we, as the tribe, are eligible to have our land held in trust under category 1, which would establish that the Tribe was “under federal jurisdiction” at the time of the 1934 law.

Meanwhile, on a parallel track, I received a letter this week from the Bureau of Indian Affairs — which is a division of the Interior Department — saying it was prepared to consider a revision of the initial Record-Of-Decision (ROD) based on the fact that the tribe was “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934 when the IRA became law. The Interior Department’s authority to take land into trust on behalf of federally recognized tribes can only be done under one of three categories written into the IRA.

The letter received from the BIA, lays out the timeline on how the agency will proceed with possibly revising its initial ROD so we can maintain our reservation land made up of approximately 170 acres of land in Mashpee and 151 acres of land in Taunton.

The letter goes on to state the administrative process for considering a revision of the initial ROD, setting a January 7, 2017 deadline for the submission of any additional evidence from the Tribe that shows we qualify as being “under federal jurisdiction” as defined by the 1934 law.

I am confident that our Tribal homeland will be preserved by the federal government.

The evidence that our Tribe was under federal jurisdiction in 1934 is compelling. I have no doubt that once all the evidence is reviewed, the Interior Department will issue a revised Record-Of-Decision. We intend to succeed at both.

 Kutâputunumuw!

Message from Chairman Cromwell – Our Aboriginal Rights Are Our Foundation and Birthright!

Wednesday ~ November 23, 2016

Dear Tribal Family,

From time immemorial, we, the Mashpee Wampanoag have been good stewards to the land and water and have always protected our aboriginal territory.  Given what we believe is a tense political climate, we are seeing an increase in hateful acts of prejudice and discrimination throughout our country. 

Unfortunately, our Tribe is not immune to such rhetoric and we have recently been notified of a threatening letter questioning the scope of our aboriginal rights to hunt and fish in our traditional homelands.  

As history has shown, the Tribe shall not cower to such thinly veiled threats and shall vigorously defend the legal rights of our Tribal citizens in the applicable court of law. 

Legal protections of aboriginal rights to hunt and fish are clear and well established under the law.  However, we remind you to please ensure that any applicable regulations (such as the use of F.I.D. cards), Tribal laws and criminal laws are observed and respected when you are pursuing these activities. 

We are now approaching a time of Thanks Giving and encourage our Tribal citizens to exercise their aboriginal rights to hunt and fish freely, peacefully and lawfully. 

Should any person or entity attempt to prevent you from exercising your lawful rights, please contact Tribal Police Chief, Kevin Frye, at (774) 238-8329 immediately for further assistance and avoid escalating any encounter.  The State Environmental Police, local law enforcement and our Tribal Police are apprised of the open threat to our citizens.

Our inherent rights to hunt and fish have existed for thousands of years and shall endure beyond politics, prejudice, persecution and malice. 

 Kutâputunumuw!

The Day Has Arrived….Let Our Voices Be Heard – VOTE!

Good evening Tribal Family,

The Day has arrived!

Tuesday ~ November 8, 2016 will quite possibly mark the most critical Presidential Election in the history of the United States of America.

I urge all Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Citizens, Community members, neighbors, friends Brothers and Sisters across Indian Country…..to VOTE!

We must consider the vision of our future Generations, just as our Ancestors did thousands of years ago. We are in the moment where our actions today are guaranteed to have a wide-reaching ripple affect. It is imperative that we take every measure to protect the next 7 Generations!

The importance and impact of Indian Policy has been brought to the forefront at the federal level over the past 8 years under the Obama Administration with the “White House Tribal Nations Conference,” and the endorsement of the “Generation Indigenous” initiative involving outreach of Tribal Youth across the Nation allowing their voice and concerns a platform, for example. No other Presidential administration has shown more proactive support of Indian Country.

We must give consideration to the major-party candidate who will continue the legacy, rather than consider the alternative who will discard the concerns of Indigenous People across the Land.

Please remember to bring proper identification to your respective polling place when you cast your ballot in the event it is required. Also remember to be mindful if you carry your cell phone to the polls, many precincts restrict use of cell phones in voting areas citing “Federal Election Regulations.”

Above all, always remember, regardless of your candidate or ballot question preference, Your Vote is Your Voice!

Be part of the Process….We need You. Indian Country Needs you!

 Kutâputunumuw!

Important Update from Chairman Cromwell: Judge Young Clarifies Decision – We Will Seek Revised Record-Of-Decision

DEAR TRIBAL FAMILY,

TODAY WE ARE ENCOURAGED BY FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT JUDGE WILLIAM YOUNG’S DECISION THAT CLARIFIES HIS INITIAL RULING BACK ON JULY 28, REGARDING OUR TRIBAL LAND STATUS. THE RULING, IN EFFECT NOW PROVIDES US A LEGAL PATH FORWARD.

WHILE JUDGE YOUNG TECHNICALLY DENIED THE UNITED STATES’ MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION,  HE GAVE THE UNITED STATES THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IT ASKED FOR ON OUR BEHALF, AS IT SOUGHT CLARIFICATION OF HIS INITIAL RULING.

JUDGE YOUNG HAS MADE CLEAR THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR IS NOW FREE AND FULLY ABLE TO CONSIDER WHETHER THE TRIBE MEETS THE CRITERIA FOR RE-ESTABLISHING RESERVATION LAND UNDER THE FIRST PART OF THE STATUTE THAT GIVES THE UNITED STATES AUTHORITY TO TAKE LAND INTO TRUST FOR INDIAN TRIBES UNDER “FEDERAL JURISDICTION” IN 1934. THAT IS SOMETHING WE ARE CONFIDENT OUR STRONG HISTORY WILL DEMONSTRATE.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS THE UNITED STATES HAS AN OPPORTUNITY HERE TO FURTHER ADDRESS OUR REQUEST TO HAVE OUR LAND HELD IN TRUST, AND WE EXPECT ANY SETBACK CAUSED BY THE COURT’S INITIAL DECISION ON JULY 28, WILL BE TEMPORARY.

IN ADDITION TO APPEALING JUDGE YOUNG’S DECISION ON PART OF THE LAW, WE INTEND TO FILE A FORMAL REQUEST WITH THE INTERIOR DEPARTMENT TO REVISE AND UPDATE OUR LAND-IN-TRUST APPLICATION GIVEN THE DECISION WE RECEIVED TODAY.

IT’S UNFORTUNATE THAT A SMALL GROUP OF EAST TAUNTON RESIDENTS HAVE TRIED TO BOG US DOWN IN LEGAL TECHNICALITIES AND ATTEMPT TO THWART JUSTICE. HOWEVER, OUR FOUNDATION IS STRONG AND BUILT ON THE WISDOM AND FORTITUDE OF OUR ANCESTORS.  

AND, WITH JUDGE YOUNG’S RECENT APPROVAL OF OUR MOTION TO INTERVENE, WE WILL NOW PLAY A MORE DIRECT ROLE IN DEFENDING OUR ANCESTRAL HOMELANDS AND PROTECT THE SOVEREIGNTY OF OUR PEOPLE AND OUR NATION!

 Kutâputunumuw!

Important Update from Chairman Cromwell ~ TRIBE APPLAUDS JUSTICE DEPARTMENT MOTION ON MASHPEE LAND IN TRUST DECISION

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.

 Kutâputunumuw!

Important Update from Chairman Cromwell: Tribal Council Unanimously Votes to “Intervene” in Pending Case

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!

 Kutâputunumuw!

Monday, August 1, 2016 ~ Important Update from Chairman Cromwell regarding the Federal District Court ruling

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!

 Kutâputunumuw!

Important Update from Chairman Cromwell regarding the Federal District Court ruling

Dear Tribal Family,

As you have probably heard, we learned today, July 28, 2016, 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!

 Kutâputunumuw!

Congratulations to the Class of 2016 ~ Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Graduates are on the Rise!!

Dear Tribal Family,

Pure elation….that’s the only way to describe the pride I feel as I consider the endless possibilities of our Tribal citizens who have recently graduated this spring!

An essential goal as leaders of this Tribal Nation is to provide educational services and support in order to assist our Tribal Education Scholars in reaching and achieving their goals; from kindergarten through 12th grade, as undergraduate students and graduate candidates right here at home. What is more impressive is we have Tribal students with concentrations in the areas of healthcare, law, Human Resources, Medicine, Information Technology, Environmental Protection, Business, Theater & Art, Public Policy  degree seeking programs.

The phrase “Knowledge is Power” is not lost on our Tribal Citizens, this is clearly evident! We see this important education lift in a nation as a true achievement to one’s self-betterment and “Self-Determination,” if you will. The successes of our Tribal graduates have achieved are more than a high school diploma or a degree from an institute of higher-learning…they are advancing our Tribe by virtue of advancing at each and every stage of achievement in their academic career.

What may not be in the forefront of each graduate’s mind is they are now equipped with abilities, capabilities, motivation and upward mobility to compete in the 21st century “global economy.”

With all of these educational degree’s, they are sealing accomplishments, setting the bar higher, all while developing their Leadership Skills.

Our Tribal Nation and the World is a better place, because we have bright, excited and well educated people entering the local, regional, national and global workplace from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Nation. Our Tribal graduates continue to Inspire as they thrive, achieve and succeed.

We as a Strong, Proud Tribal Nation shall continue to RISE!

Congratulations to all of our 2016 Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Graduates…You are Heart and Soul of our Nation!

                               Kutâputunumuw!

Mashpee Wampanoag Gaming Authority announces “Emerging Leaders Program”

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The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is launching a new program to advance First Light Resort & Casino’s mission to empower new leaders to be passionate about the gaming and hospitality industry. The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) will run every six months and seeks to equip qualified candidates with the tools and opportunities necessary to rise to and excel in senior gaming and hospitality management roles on a fast-track basis.

The ELP program is only open to citizens of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the application deadline is Monday, June 20. Applications must be completed online at www.mashpeewampanoagtribe-nsn.gov under the “Jobs” Tab. Please make sure to click on the “Read More” link to access the online application.

The six-month program will provide successful candidates with stipends and will be eligible for paid supervised placement. The first ELP cohort will include eight successful candidates in each of the following department areas: Gaming Operations, Finance, Legal, Information Technology (IT), Human Resources (HR), Marketing and Food and Beverage.

In addition to providing program participants with valuable work experience, they will also be challenged to find their personal leadership style, gain an understanding of how to motivate and work with others and to solve complex problems that arise during early stage gaming and hospitality projects.

Expectations on the participants for the ELP program are high. Candidates for the program are expected to commit to at least 40 hours per week and to take initiative whenever possible. They will be asked to do learning milestone reporting and will be expected to exceed expectations.

To be eligible for the program, you must have completed a minimum of a four-year college degree prior to the program completion. Prior experience in gaming and/or hospitality industries is preferred. And you must have the ability to work a minimum of 40 hours per week and participate in departmental rotations.

Don’t worry if this program is not a good fit for you. There will be other future programs (not ELP) available for Tribal citizens with varied educational and work experience.

Kutâputunumuw,

Cedric Cromwell Qaqeemashq (Running Bear)