Recently, a group of lawmakers has called for the Interior Department to reconsider its March 30th di-ective to annul a 2015 decision of the agency to place a total of 321 acres of land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. Having the land into trust was one of the requirements for the Native American tribe to establish a $1-billion casino venue.
However, according to the campaigners, the decision under which the land was passed into the tribe’s trust, was a disgraceful one, and some Democrats have even described the issue as a fight between the Trump administration and the struggling tribe, although Michelle Littlefield has explained that the Interior Department had almost no choice, especially considering the series of court rulings against the tribe.
Still, according to Ms. Littlefield, the issue is a legal one rather than a political one. She claims that courts are the only place where their voices are heard, especially considering the fact they had been proven to be right as they have been winning all legal battles in a four-year span.
This series of court victories have yet to be broken. This February, the First Circuit Court of Appeals decided to uphold a decision made by a federal judge in 2016 to overrule the original decision of the Interior Department that was in favor of the tribe. The ruling cited the provisions of the 2009 Supreme Court ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar, which stated that only Native American tribes that are recognized by the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act can be allowed to take land into trust.
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Requested Temporary Restraining Order
The department spokesperson Conner Swanson shared in a statement that the court’s decision does not affect the status of the tribe that was recognized by the federal court, only the statutory authority of the Interior to accept the land in trust. Mr. Swanson further noted that the rescission of the decision will bring back the ownership of the land to the tribe.
At the end of March 2020, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe issued a request for a temporary restraining order for the District of Columbia in the US District Court. Earlier this week, the Interior Department agreed to delay the enforcement directive to take the land out of the tribe’s trust. The procedure would be delayed with 45 days, with a telephone court hearing scheduled for May 7th, 2020.
However, the chairman of the tribe, Cedric Cromwell, shared he was not satisfied with the decision for the delay and said that the steps being currently taken amid the coronavirus pandemic has created even a bigger crisis than before. Mr. Cromwell further noted that the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has no other choice but to redirect some of its precious resources to address what he called an “unwarranted attack” on the tribe’s sovereignty.