A federal judge has sided with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe by ruling against a group of Taunton residents who had taken the Federal Government to court in an effort to block the Native American tribe from establishing a casino in their city.
The recent decision of Boston’s US District Court judge granted summary judgment to the US Department of the Interior (DIA), which had already placed a total of 321 acres of land in Taunton and Mashpee into trust. The Native American tribe was situated as an intervenor-defendant in the lawsuit.
Despite the fact that the establishment of the reservation brought back only a small part of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s ancestral territory, the nation’s Chair Brian Weeden explained that the reservation was crucial to the tribe’s ability to work for the preservation of its culture and language, to exercise its sovereign right to self-governance, and to take care of its 2,600 members.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, a group of Taunton residents, were against the establishment of a casino venue in the city. They filed the legal action in February last year, claiming that the decision of President Biden’s administration to affirm the Mashpee Wampanoag’s reservation was impulsive, controversial and unlawful due to the fact that the Native American tribe was not eligible for a reservation because it had not been officially recognized under the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. The tribe became federally recognized in 2007.
The plaintiffs also claimed that the city of Taunton was not part of the historical domain of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in Cape Code.
Group of Taunton Residents Took the Mashpee Wampanoags to Court over Their Right for Casino Development in the City
The judge’s decision, which was officially announced at the beginning of the week, however, states that, according to historical records, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe had had a vivid connection to the designated lands for more than four centuries. The US District Court judge has categorized the area of southeastern Massachusetts as the Native American tribe’s home for thousands of years, long before they got their first contact with Europeans.
The ruling was the latest one in a lengthy legal battle over tribal land and whether the tribal nation had the right to establish a casino in the city of Taunton which took place throughout three presidential administrations.
As previously reported, the plans for the $1-billion casino resort establishment have remained on hold, since in 2016 the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe broke ground on the project that was called the First Light casino – a gambling and hotel resort that was also set to feature a range of entertainment options, along with shopping and dining services.
Currently, the gambling landscape in the region is much different. For the time being, there are two Las Vegas-style casino resorts in Massachusetts, along with a slot parlor. In January 2023, the state also started offering sports betting services.