This week saw the official move out of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe from their office located in Taunton, as it could be seen by the special recording which plays when someone attempts to reach the facility. According to it, the number previously used for contacting the tribal business is no longer in service and finding a representative to talk to is impossible. Following an inquiry to the headquarters of the tribe in Mashpee, it was confirmed that the office in downtown Taunton will no longer be serving the community.
Now the attorney for the residents of East Taunton, David Tennant, stated that the tribe seems to have permanently evicted the building where the office used to be located. This moving out marks an end to a rather rough year for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe which could not make it to the official construction of the coveted $1 billion casino project. Many experts state that the casino project has little to no chance of actually being built and the tribal supporters are already looking into other possibilities for development.
Timeline of the Events
It could be recalled, that around the end of 2009 the tribe began working on its plans to construct a casino location near East Taunton’s Silver City Galleria. Back then the tribe entered an agreement with the Taunton Mayor Tom Hoye, which meant that the tribe had to pay the city as much as $8 million per year. A while after that, in 2015, in a move that disregarded all odds and federal law, the land was taken into trust by the Secretary of the Interior for the Mashpee, to which the community of East Taunton responded with a lawsuit that they eventually won.
The issue with the tribe was that it was not officially recognized by the federal government up until 2007 and this made it even harder to move ahead the casino project. The trust from 2015, therefore, took the land of the proposed gambling venue on the basis of the other definition of Indian, namely the persons who are descendants of the tribes. This does not follow the definition of the federal jurisdiction and was therefore not recognized by the federal law. This led to 2016 and the US District Court Judge rejecting the application of the tribe on the grounds of it not following the plain meaning of the statute.
Following this decision, the tribe decided to utilize the federal jurisdiction and qualify according to it but was unfortunately welcomed with a second no. This situation, however, did not last too long, as the Department of the Interior Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason proposed another approach to the case and advised both parties in the legal conflict to submit arguments based on the rationale that the tribe might be considered a surrogate for federal jurisdiction. This led to even more commotion around the project and for the time being, the tribe is looking for ways to make it happen and find the vehicle to do so.