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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Mashpee tribe leader warns of job, service cuts





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The Book of Adam


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TRUTH TO POWER


Mashpee tribe leader warns of job, service cuts

By Tanner Stening
Posted Dec 6, 2018


MASHPEE — Just days after the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s financial backer announced a $440 million loss associated with its investment in the tribe’s planned casino, Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell said his government is on the verge of another major rollback.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Cromwell warned that the tribe will have to close its language school, slash programs and lay off more employees next year if legislation aimed at ending an ongoing legal challenge to the tribe’s reservation, introduced earlier this spring, doesn’t pass.
U.S. Rep William Keating, D-Mass., introduced the bill in the House, and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., submitted the bill in the Senate.
“Unless Congress enacts legislation now to prevent the Department of the Interior from disestablishing our reservation, in 2019 we will have to close programs, shutter our school, lay off our governmental employees, and witness the dissolution of all that we have achieved since our federal recognition was restored in 2007,” Cromwell said in the statement.
Genting Malaysia Berhad announced the loss as reflected in its third quarter report on Nov. 30, but in a statement it said it would continue supporting Keating’s legislation. The company also noted that the loss can be reversed “when the promissory notes are assessed to be recoverable.”
“The impairment loss was due to the uncertainty of recovery of the Group’s investment following the (U.S. government’s) decision concluding that the tribe did not satisfy the conditions under the Indian (Reorganization) Act that allow(s) (it) to have the land in trust for an integrated gaming resort development,” the statement says, referring to a Sept. 7 decision by the Department of the Interior that overturned an Obama-era determination declaring the tribe’s eligibility to have its 321 acres of land taken into trust under the 1934 federal statute.
In 2015, the Interior Department had found the tribe qualified to have the land in Mashpee and Taunton taken into trust on its behalf. The tribe has plans to build a $1 billion casino on the land in Taunton but neighbors of the development successfully sued to block it.
In its September decision, the Interior Department responded to a 2016 federal court decision, agreeing that the Secretary of the Interior did not have the authority to take the land into trust because the tribe was not under federal jurisdiction at the time of the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934 and therefore did not qualify under a definition of “Indian” used by agency officials.
“It is almost impossible to describe the despair the federal government’s continued inaction has brought to our people,” Cromwell said.



Genting’s third-quarter report comes amid longstanding concerns about the tribe’s mounting debt to the Malaysian casino giant.
In May, Tribal Council approved a budget that saw significantly fewer loan dollars from Genting than in previous years. This fiscal year, the tribe received $5.4 million in loans from Genting, which is less than half of what it received for fiscal year 2017. That year, the tribe received $11,944,567, an increase of approximately $250,000 over fiscal year 2016, according to budget data obtained by the Times.
Last year, the tribe laid off 31 of its roughly 100 government workers.
But Genting ramped up spending on lobbying this year in an apparent effort to influence the Department of the Interior as the federal agency was weighing an alternative pathway for the tribe to satisfy the eligibility requirements under the Indian Reorganization Act to secure its trust lands.


https://www.capecodtimes.com/news/20181206/mashpee-tribe-leader-warns-of-job-service-cuts





Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Government asks for extension in Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe lawsuit







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Gladys Kravitz

carverchick
TRUTH TO POWER

Government asks for extension in Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe lawsuit

By Tanner Stening
Posted Nov 27, 2018

The U.S. Department of the Interior has asked for a 31-day extension on a deadline to respond to a lawsuit by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe challenging the federal agency’s Sept. 7 decision that threatens the tribe’s reservation.
Filled on Nov. 20, the request notes that the Interior leadership and “other agency personnel need additional time to help prepare and review” a response to the lawsuit, according to the court filing, which is signed by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jean Williams of the department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and trial attorney Sara Costello.
Tribal attorneys filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Sept. 27 challenging an Interior Department ruling earlier that month that reversed an Obama-era decision to secure 321 acres of tribal land in Mashpee and Taunton into trust. The latest determination by the department found the tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934 — the year the Indian Reorganization Act was passed. The tribe has plans to build a $1 billion casino on the land in Taunton. Neighbors of the proposed casino had sued to overturn the earlier decision and a judge found in their favor, sending it back to the Interior Department.
The tribe’s lawsuit against Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his department alleges the agency “failed to apply established law” by “contorting relevant facts and ignoring others to engineer a negative decision” with respect to the tribe’s land.
The suit alleges that the department’s decision “indefensibly reverses course” from the administrative decisions it has made for other tribes in regard to federal jurisdiction and “badly ignores” the case law interpreting what that phrase means, court documents say.
The government’s court filing occurred days after the tribe marched in Washington, D.C., from the National Museum of the American Indian to the U.S. Capitol to protest the Interior Department’s September ruling.
At the same time, neighbors of the proposed casino who are suing the agency in a separate case over its 2015 decision to take land into trust for the tribe recently requested that the tribe withdraw its appeal of the case or be required to file opening briefs.
In a request filed Oct. 9 with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, attorney David Tennant argued the tribe should not be permitted another stay in the appeal process because it opted to “take its chances” with a remanded review of the eligibility of its trust lands, according to court documents.

https://www.capecodtimes.com/news/20181127/government-asks-for-extension-in-mashpee-wampanoag-tribe-lawsuit




Sunday, November 18, 2018

Big victories against predatory gambling at the ballot box on Election Day Tuesday


Image result for stop predatory gambling


There were some major victories against predatory gambling at the ballot box on Election Day Tuesday:

1) Florida citizens voted overwhelmingly to put the power to decide gambling expansion in the hands of the people instead of the Legislature. The state group No Casinos Florida organized the referendum and led the fight to pass it.

2) The people of Florida also voted to abolish greyhound dog racing after years of work by the greyhound protection organization Grey2K.

3) Idaho voters rejected the deceptive proposal to legalize slot machines at Idaho race tracks. Our chapter Stop Predatory Gambling Idaho played a key role in educating citizens about the issue.

4) In a history-making referendum, an Illinois community that introduced video gambling reversed that policy through a binding ballot question. Voters in Forest Park, Illinois shut down video gambling machines in their community.

There were also two efforts that did not go our way on Tuesday. In Arkansas, out-of-state gambling interests spent millions of dollars to initiate a referendum to pass regional casinos and then saturate the state with campaign advertising. And in Louisiana, sports gambling operators spent more than $1 million to lure voters in some state parishes to support "daily fantasy sports" gambling. It was a blatantly deceitful attempt to force online gambling into people's homes by disguising it as something harmless.  

I'm so proud to be a part of this just and important fight with you to improve the lives of the American people with compassion and fairness. Thank you!

Best,
Les Bernal
National Director
Stop Predatory Gambling
________________________________
Who We Are —
- A 501c3 non-profit based in Washington, DC, we are a national government reform network of individuals and organizations from across the U.S.
- We believe in improving the lives of the American people with compassion and fairness, freeing us from the lower standard of living, exploitation, and fraud that commercialized gambling spreads.
- We are one of the most diverse organizations in the United States, one in which conservatives and progressives work side-by-side with with a common national purpose.
What We Stand For —
- We believe everyone should have a fair opportunity to get ahead and improve their economic standing.
- We believe every person’s life has worth and that no one is expendable.
- We believe that a good society depends on the values of honesty, concern for others, mutual trust, self-discipline, sacrifice, and a work ethic that connects effort and reward.
- We believe no government body should depend on predatory gambling to fund its activities.
If you share our beliefs, please help sustain our work by making a tax-deductible, financial gift today of $10 or more. 





Saturday, October 20, 2018

Lobbyists battle it out over casino plan



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Lobbyists battle it out over casino plan


By Tanner Stening
Posted Oct 19, 2018

MASHPEE — As a new chapter begins in the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s legal fight for its land, a high stakes lobbying campaign in the nation’s capital is pitting powerful gambling interests against a foreign casino developer with the fate of the tribe’s 321-acre reservation hanging in the balance.
In a year marked mostly by setbacks for the tribe, notable attorneys and lobbyists — some working at cross-purposes —are converging on the halls of Congress in a struggle to win over lawmakers who may soon consider legislation that, if passed, would declare the tribe’s reservation lawful, reversing findings by the U.S. Department of the Interior and a federal court judge.
A bill sponsored by U.S. Rep William Keating, D-Mass., would do just that: settle the multiyear and so far successful legal challenge brought by neighbors of the tribe’s proposal to build a resort-casino in Taunton, effectively greenlighting the project and ending any question about the legality of the tribe’s trust lands.
The legislation is a pivotal piece in the tribe’s fight to protect its sovereignty. Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell has urged support for the bill, emphasizing the grave and unprecedented threat facing the tribe, which spent decades pursuing federal recognition and trust status with the government.
“I’m asking people of goodwill and those concerned with justice for the indigenous people of this — the first Americans — to stand with us in calling on Congress to protect our reservation and ensure we don’t become the first tribe since the dark days of the Termination Era to lose its land,” Cromwell said in a statement after the Sept. 7 decision from the Interior, which said the tribe wasn’t under federal jurisdiction in 1934, the year the Indian Reorganization Act became law.
But in a deeply polarized political climate, getting the bill passed would require congressional Republicans to support the wishes of the all-Democrat Massachusetts delegation, and given the potential for an Elizabeth Warren presidential bid in 2020, its chances may be significantly affected. Warren is a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the tribal bill.
In addition, the Rhode Island congressional delegation has quietly come out in opposition to the bill to protect its gambling revenues. The tribe’s proposed casino, which is slated for fertile Region C ground, is not far from Rhode Island’s eastern border.
Lobbyists and their causes
Genting Malaysia, which is financially backing the tribe’s legal fight to secure its reservation and the casino project, has spent more than $1 million on various lobbying firms in 2018, three times more than it did in 2017, according to federal lobbying disclosures. The overseas developer was the third biggest spender on tourism/lodging lobbying in the U.S. this past year, according to the website Open Secrets.
The tribe’s overall debt to Genting, which also finances parts of tribal government operations, is roughly $426.3 million, according to a recent filing by the Malaysian casino developer. Genting said it is deliberating with the tribe to “review all options” concerning the recoverability of its investment, according to the filing.
Genting paid the law firm Dentons US more than $1 million to lobby on “casino development and land related issues” this year, according to filings. Dentons is the world’s largest firm by number of lawyers, according to its website.
Dentons, on behalf of Genting, in turn has spent between $130,000 and $150,000 on “Interior Department land decisions” through Gavel Resources LLC, according to filings.
Gavel’s lobbyists include, among others, Richard Pombo, a former member of the House of Representatives from California who was among the highest-paid beneficiaries of tribal lobbying and illegal campaign contributions when the tribe was seeking federal recognition in the 2000s.
That period of the tribe’s history was tainted by the legacy of its former chairman Glenn Marshall, who in 2009 was sentenced to 3½ years in federal prison for embezzling nearly $400,000 from the tribe to pay his own bills, making illegal campaign contributions, filing false tax returns and fraudulently receiving Social Security benefits while holding a full-time job. Pombo was unseated in November 2006 amid questions about his ties to Jack Abramoff, a notorious lobbyist who spent several years behind bars in connection with a wide-reaching federal corruption probe.
Pombo did not return a message requesting comment for this story.
‘Trump’s Washington’
In addition to the tribe’s more long-term lobbyists, including Delahunt Group LLC —which helps to, among other things, secure grants — and Akerman LLP, Genting recently contracted with Ballard Partners, touted as one of Washington’s most influential lobbying firms. 
The firm is run by Brian Ballard, who was President Trump’s Florida finance chairman for his 2016 campaign. Ballard, dubbed “the most powerful lobbyist in Trump’s Washington” by Politico, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican causes over the past two years, according to data from the Federal Election Commission’s website. Genting spent $90,000 on Ballard’s firm so far this year.
Given a perceived hostility on the part of the Trump administration toward prevailing Indian land policies — which many scholars and observers outside and within Indian Country have noted — Ballard may seem like an odd pick to represent the tribe’s interests, if Ballard’s work is, in fact, tied to the legislation.
“In some way Ballard Partners would be working at cross-purposes here,” said Ronald Shaiko, senior fellow and associate director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy at Dartmouth College. “At base, lobbyists should be pretty pragmatic (in) how they do business. Firms are getting bigger, buying other firms, so they can lobby both sides.”
Competing gambling interests arrayed against the tribe appear to stem from one commanding source, according to filings: Chicago-based casino magnate and billionaire Neil Bluhm, who is backing a proposed casino in Brockton through Mass Gaming & Entertainment, whose casino proposal was denied by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in 2016.
But Mass Gaming is asking for reconsideration of its proposal, and its principal owner, Rush Street Gaming, has thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars behind an effort to influence lawmakers and regulators at the state and federal levels, according to filings — a large portion of which appears to be directed at thwarting the tribe’s casino effort, the pending legislation and garnering local support for the revival of Mass Gaming’s proposal.
It’s unclear precisely how much money, based on lobbying disclosures alone, is working against the tribe.
“This is not just about the Keating legislation,” said Joe Baerlein, a spokesman for Mass Gaming. “There are a whole host of other gaming-related issues that we’re dealing with.”
Rush Street also has casinos in New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Baerlein said.
At the state level, Mass Gaming has spent $210,000 on lobbying so far this year with respect to “issues related to expanded gaming,” according to state filings. Baerlein said that is tied to “outreach” across nine different communities, including boards of selectmen and town administrators.
Leadership in Taunton and Brockton have come down on opposite sides of the issue, with Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye Jr. reaffirming support for the tribal proposal over the summer. Around the same, Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter wrote to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, decrying the department’s “prolonged delay” in issuing a decision with respect to the tribal proposal, which has stymied prospects for development on the parcel of land where Mass Gaming wants to build.
Baerlein said the spending by Genting “dwarfs” the spending against the tribe, adding that the Massachusetts congressional delegation ought to “take a hard look” at the role the foreign company has played in influencing land decisions at the federal level.
More than casinos
Tribal representatives see it quite differently. Heather Sibbison, legal counsel for the tribe and a registered lobbyist for Dentons, said a tribe’s right to hold land has “profound historical and cultural meaning.”
“But for almost everyone else on the other side who is working to disestablish the tribe’s reservation, this is just a big, huge fight over casino market share,” she said. “If it loses its reservation, it loses its school, its ability to provide basic social services; it loses its fundamental right to have land on which it can engage in true self government.”
This year, Rush Street Gaming, formerly Rivers Casino, a gambling parlor owned by Bluhm, has spent $160,000 in lobbying fees through American Continental Group, citing “general gaming issues,” according to filings.
Manus Cooney and David Urban are listed as American Continental lobbyists working on behalf of Rush Street Gaming. Cooney is former chief counsel and staff director of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and Urban is cited as a “prominent Republican lobbyist” who joined the Trump campaign in its early days as an adviser in the Pennsylvania and Indiana primaries, according to the firm’s website.
But the firms cited as lobbying directly against the legislation include Locke Lord Public Policy Group LLC and Freemyer & Associates P.C.
Twin River Management Group — which owns casinos in Rhode Island — has spent $60,000 on Locke Lord specifically on the issue of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, according to filings, and Rush Street Gaming paid Freemyer & Associates P.C. $40,000 so far this year.
Lobbying the lawmakers
In addition, Locke Lord gave $7,500 to U.S. Rep. Robert Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which is responsible for taking up the legislation, over the past year, according to contribution filings. Bishop was among Locke Lord’s top three highest-paid recipients over the past election cycle.
The firm has also supported Democrats, giving money to U.S. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Keating. Cicilline’s political committee received $1,000 from Locke Lord earlier this year, and Keating’s political committee reported two $1,000 contributions from them — one on March 16 and another on March 19 — just days after he introduced the legislation.
Tribal lobbyists, with Dentons at the helm, have also targeted members of the House committee, most notably U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., who chairs the subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs. Dentons gave LaMalfa’s political committee $9,000 just days before Keating introduced the tribe bill.
Altogether, Dentons’ political action committee has given about $40,000 to lawmakers sponsoring the legislation throughout the 2017-2018 campaign cycle, filings show.
Incumbents typically receive more than challengers, and “well over half of their money comes from organized interests” instead of individual contributions, Shaiko said.
Shaiko said it’s typically wise for lobbying firms to give money to political candidates on both sides of the aisle; that way, if a congressional chamber flips, they can stay in business.
“It’s less ideological than it used to be,” he said.



Interior Department and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe lobbying for 2018

For the tribe:
Genting paid Dentons US $1.1 million to lobby lawmakers and the Interior Department on “casino development and land related issues”
Dentons, on behalf of Genting, paid Gavel Resources LLC $240,000 to lobby lawmakers and the Interior Department on “Interior Department land decisions”
Genting paid Ballard Partners $90,000 to lobby the Interior Department on “gaming rules and regulations”
The tribe paid $60,000 to Delahunt Group LLC
The tribe paid $10,000 to Akerman LLP
Against the tribe:
Twin River Management Group paid Locke Lord Public Policy Group LLC $60,000 to lobby congress on “Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act”
Rush Street Gaming, parent company of Mass Gaming and Entertainment, paid CSA Strategies LLC $50,000 to lobby lawmakers and the Interior Department on “issues related to casino development” and “issues related to licensing of Internet gaming/poker”
Rush Street Gaming paid American Continental Group $160,000 to lobby lawmakers and the Interior Department on “general gaming issues impacting Rivers Casino”
Rush Street Gaming paid Freemyer & Associates P.C. $40,000 to lobby lawmakers  and the Interior Department on “H.R. 5244 (the tribal bill)”

Monday, October 15, 2018

Casino opponents want to curb tribe’s appeal of land ruling


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Gladys Kravitz






Casino opponents 

want to curb tribe’s 

appeal of land ruling

By Tanner Stening
Posted Oct 14, 2018



MASHPEE — Plaintiffs suing the Interior Department over its 2015 decision to take land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe have requested that the tribe withdraw its appeal of the case or be required to file opening briefs within the next 60 days, according to the latest filing with the appeals court.
The request came after the tribe sought another stay in its ongoing appeal of a 2016 judgment in U.S. District Court in Boston that said the Interior Secretary did not have the authority to take its land into trust because the tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934 — the year the Indian Reorganization Act was passed. Neighbors of a casino the tribe planned to build on land in Taunton had sued the federal government, challenging the Interior Department’s decision to take the land into trust in Taunton and in Mashpee.
In a boldly worded request filed with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit on Oct. 9, attorney David Tennant argued the tribe should not be permitted another stay in the appeal process because it opted to “take its chances” with a remanded review of their trust-lands eligibility, according to court documents.
Tribal attorneys on Sept. 27 requested a stay in the appeal of its case, according to court documents, until the resolution of a new suit, which it filed that same day. The new action challenges the Sept. 7 determination from the Interior that reversed an Obama-era decision to secure 321 acres of tribal land into trust. The agency’s latest ruling declared the tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934.
Both parties to the original suit had waited more than two years for that remanded ruling. The Interior Department issued a draft of that same decision 14 months earlier, but withdrew it and asked for supplemental briefing on an issue “never before raised in any court or land-into-trust-proceeding,” according to Tennant.
For the next year, the Interior Department considered whether the tribe’s historical relationship to Massachusetts could be viewed as a substitute for the under federal jurisdiction requirement of the IRA. That theory ultimately did not pass muster.
When reached Sunday, Tennant said the tribe is avoiding the “inevitable, final conclusion” to the litigation, saying that Judge William Young’s original decision in 2016 was “free of doubt.”
Tennant said if the tribe be permitted another stay, the appeal could go dormant for years.
“It’s beyond any type of a normal stay,” he said.
“To say now that this 2016-filed appeal should be tacked onto the backend of a just-commenced lawsuit in a different circuit is not simply ‘moving the goalposts,’ it is relocating them into a different stadium,” Tennant wrote in the filing. “Enough’s enough.”
Tennant argued that the new lawsuit is an attempt to “hijack” the ongoing proceeding and “defeat the purpose of the parties’ joint stipulation.”
“I’ve done a ton of appellate work over the years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
Tennant also argued that the “ghost” of a tribal casino has thwarted economic development in the region.
“When you have land that is not legally in trust, and there’s no economic development, it’s a bad situation for all parties,” he said.
Representatives of the tribe could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell has repeatedly rebuked the lawsuit as being funded by an “anti-Indian,” competing casino interest, referring to Chicago-based developer Neil Bluhm.
Tribal leaders have also emphasized that the lawsuit more fundamentally threatens its ability to self-govern, should its land be removed from trust. It would be the first time since the so-called Termination Era in the 1950s that the federal government would effectively disestablish a tribal reservation it had previously proclaimed legal, according to legal experts and tribal citizens.






Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Mashpee tribe to hold rally on land rights


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Waking Up In Vegas




Waking Up In Vegas - Part One from Mary Tufts on Vimeo.





CARVERCHICK



Mashpee tribe to hold rally on land rights


By Tanner Stening Posted Oct 1, 2018

MASHPEE — The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe will hold a rally Saturday centered on the importance of land sovereignty.
The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is meant to raise awareness of sovereignty “and its critical importance to the Mashpee Wampanoag,” according to a statement from the tribe.
The uncertainty of the trust status of the reservation poses a threat to the tribe’s programs and needed services, the statement says.
A walk will begin at the Mashpee Community Park on Great Neck Road North and end at the traditional powwow grounds next to the Community and Government Center at 483 Great Neck Road South. A potluck meal will follow, and authorities on indigenous rights will speak. The statement does not name the speakers.
A tribal spokeswoman said the event was open to non-tribe members.





Friday, September 28, 2018

Mashpee tribe sues Interior Department over land decision


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Gladys Kravitz







CARVERCHICK



Mashpee tribe sues Interior Department over land decision

By Tanner Stening 


Complaint calls agency’s recent reversal ‘arbitrary’ and ‘capricious.’
MASHPEE — In a new chapter of a long-running legal saga, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is now suing the U.S. Department of the Interior in an effort to defend the validity of a prior decision by the agency to take its land into trust, according to court documents.
Tribal attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday challenging a Sept. 7 determination from the department that reversed an Obama-era decision to secure 321 acres of tribal land into trust. The latest ruling declared that the tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934 — the year the Indian Reorganization Act was passed.
The new complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the department and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, alleges that the agency “failed to apply established law” by “contorting relevant facts and ignoring others to engineer a negative decision” with respect to the tribe’s land.
The suit alleges that the recent department decision “indefensibly reverses course” from the administrative decisions it has made for other tribes in regard to federal jurisdiction and “badly ignores” the case law interpreting what that phrase means, documents show.
“The (tribe) therefore files this complaint to challenge the department’s 2018 decision and correct (its) arbitrary, capricious and unlawful actions,” the suit states. The suit goes on to reassert evidence that the tribe submitted during its bid for federal recognition and throughout the course of the lawsuit to prove it was under federal jurisdiction.
In a statement, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell said his tribe has been “utterly abandoned by our federal trustee.”
“We are urgently petitioning the United States Congress and the federal courts to end this nightmare — to prevent what appears to be an intentional return to the dark days of the termination era, when tribal lands were taken out of trust and the federal relationship with tribal governments disavowed,” Cromwell said.
The Interior Department took 321 acres in Mashpee and Taunton into trust for the tribe in 2015, declaring it a sovereign reservation. Under such designation the federal government holds the title to the property but the tribe may decide how to develop or use the land for its own benefit.
The tribe’s plans included a $1 billion casino in Taunton, but neighbors of that proposed resort sued the Interior Department in 2016.
A federal judge ruled that the secretary of the Interior did not have the authority to take the land into trust because the tribe was not under federal jurisdiction and was therefore unqualified under a definition of “Indian” used by Interior officials. The judge sent the case back to the department for further review.
Before its revised ruling earlier this month, the department had been deliberating whether Massachusetts had exercised authority over the Mashpee tribe in a manner that could be seen as a substitute for the federal jurisdiction requirement under the 1934 law. The decades-old statute remains the primary governing tool over Indian affairs, promoting self-determination and self-government.
The lawsuit, as in similar cases, rested on the interpretation of four words: “now under federal jurisdiction,” a phrase that has vexed tribes seeking trust status for newly acquired land with the federal government through the years, most notably the Narragansett Tribe’s efforts in Rhode Island, which culminated in the Supreme Court decision known as Carcieri v. Salazar.
But the Carcieri decision never established the criteria by which a tribe could demonstrate it was under federal jurisdiction, prompting the Interior Department’s solicitor to issue an interpretation of the ambiguous phrase in 2014.
In her written interpretation, Hilary Tompkins rejected the idea that there is one “clear and unambiguous meaning” of “under federal jurisdiction,” writing that the only information available to help decipher what Congress meant by the phrase was gleaned from a Senate hearing on May 17, 1934 — that it was intended as “a means of attaching some degree of qualification to the term ‘recognized Indian tribe.’” She concluded that the Interior Department would continue to take land into trust on the basis of a two-part inquiry that would “fill in gaps where Congress has been silent.”
In a letter sent to Cromwell on Sept. 7, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney wrote that after reviewing the evidence and submissions, the state’s history of exercising authority over the tribe provided no indication of federal authority sufficient to prove it was under federal jurisdiction.


While the evidence “demonstrates a federal awareness of the Massachusetts Indians and the Commonwealth’s regulation of their affairs, it does not establish or reflect any federal actions taken on behalf of, or for the benefit of, the Mashpee Tribe or its members as such,” Sweeney wrote. Because the tribe was not “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934, it did not qualify under the Indian Reorganization Act’s first definition of ‘Indian’ nor under the second definition, as interpreted by the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, she wrote.

http://www.capecodtimes.com/news/20180927/mashpee-tribe-sues-interior-department-over-land-decision