A decision by Judge William Young of the United States District Court in regards to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and their would-be casino in the Taunton area may be reconsidered as a motion has been filed by the United States Justice Department. In the filing, Young is being accused of ruling incorrectly when he decided that the tribe did not have federal jurisdiction in the year 1934 since they were not federally recognized until 2007.
The ruling by Judge Young came during a lawsuit that had been filed by homeowners who sought to halt the Wampanoag from constructing a casino complex with a $1 billion price tag. The motion by the Justice Department is seeking to determine why the ruling was made by the judge based on the Indian Re-Organization Act which was not part of the record-of-decision.
Cedric Cromwell, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman, stated that the tribe applauds the decision by the Justice Department. The tribe has been on their land for thousands of years and all they wish is to have the right to exist here as sovereign people. Cromwell stated it was promised to the tribe soon after the first Pilgrims arrived and it is a promise that the tribe hopes the courts will honor.
With the case involving the Wampanoag tribe, Young ruled that the United States Interior Department was lacking in the authority to label the property as a reservation for Native Americans. Cromwell stated that the tribe respectively but strongly disagree with Judge Young’s ruling. The tribe is encouraged that the appellate justices affirmed the Interior Department’s interpretation of the law and that there is indeed a very clear distinction between the terms federal jurisdiction and formal federal recognition. The tribe is staying involved, having a motion filed last week to be involved in the court case.
The decision by the department in 2015 to provide a trust for more than 300 acres of land for the tribe helped to start the Project First Light casino. In April, ground was broken on a casino and hotel as well as entertainment complex. The groundbreaking took place months after a group of residents in the immediate area filed a suit trying to block the project.
The process of the land being designated into a trust has been ongoing for years before the approval was granted last year. This was a final step needed to see the tribe be able to move forward with the project.
The tribe was previously held up on the project due to a decision by the Supreme Court that questioned whether land could be taken into a trust for tribes who had been recognized after 1934, which was when the Indian Reorganization Act was ratified. In 2007, the tribe was given federal recognition. The tribe states they have been under federal jurisdiction years before 1934.