The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs informed theMashpee Wampanoag Tribeon Friday that its 321-acre Cape Cod reservation will be“disestablished” and its land taken out of federal trust, according to Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell. Land in trust to the federal government effectively grants a tribe special legal status and autonomy. The Mashpee Wampanoag, however, will still be officially recognized by the federal government as a Native American tribe, according to a spokesman for the Interior Department.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs “informed me that the Secretary of the Interior has ordered that our reservation be disestablished and that our land be taken out of trust,” Cromwell said in a statement Friday. The crushing news came as the tribe “desperately” struggled with the “devastating pandemic” as the nation tallied a record 100,000 cases of COVID-19.
The action was “cruel and unnecessary,” he added. It’s unclear what the next step will be.
Cromwelltold the Cape Cod Timesthat he thought he was being contacted by the Trump administration to see if the tribe needed anything during the pandemic. Instead, “it was like a punch in the nose from a bully,” he said. Cromwell said it’s the first time such an action has been taken against a tribe.
Rep.Bill Keating(D-Mass.), who represents the district including the tribal land, called the action “one of the most cruel and nonsensical acts I have seen since coming to Congress.” Interior SecretaryDavid Bernhardt“should be ashamed,” Keating said in a statement. “In a time of national health and economic emergency, the secretary of the Interior should be reaching out to help all Native American tribes,” he added.
Congressman Bill Keating
This is one of the most cruel and nonsensical acts I have seen since coming to Congress. The Secretary should be ashamed.https://wbur.fm/2QR8oTS
Secretary Of Interior Orders Mashpee Wampanoag Reservation ‘Disestablished,’ Tribe Says
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s reservation will be disestablished and their land taken out of trust, per an order from the secretary of the interior.
The tribe has been locked in a court battle withnearby residents opposed to its casino plan over definitions of what constitutes a tribe under the 1934 federal Indian Reorganization Act. The tribe lost animportant decision last monthwhen the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston upheld a lower court ruling that the federal government had not been authorized to take the tribal land into trust in 2015.
A separate federal court case concerning the reservation is still pending, according to Cromwell. The move against the reservation was not mandated by the courts, he said.
Interior Department spokesman Conner Swanson insistedto Boston’s NPR station WBURthat the court decision last month required the department’s action against the reservation.
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Committee, is alobbyist for Twin River casinos, Keating noted. His wife, Mercedes Schlapp, is the White House strategic communications director.
“We have survived, we will continue to survive. These are our lands, these are the lands of our ancestors, and these will be the lands of our grandchildren,” he stated. “This Administration has come and it will go. But we will be here, always.”