In Massachusetts, the federally-recognized Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has asked to intervene in a lawsuit brought by opponents to its planned $1 billion First Light Casino And Resort near the city of Taunton.
Last month saw Judge William Young from the United States District Court For The District Of Massachusetts rule against the federal government’s 2015 land-into-trust decision for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The case, Littlefield v Department Of The Interior, was brought by a group of local property owners opposed to last year’s judgment and the construction of a new casino.
In his ruling, Young declared that the Department Of The Interior had lacked the authority to approve the land-into-trust application from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe as the tribe had not been federally recognized at the time the landmark 1934 Indian Reorganization Act was passed. He cited the 2009 decision from the United States Supreme Court in the case of Carcieri v Salazar and claimed that tribes could only be eligible for a reservation if they had held an official relationship with the federal government at the time this legislation was ratified.
Despite not being named as a defendant in the case, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has now asked to become involved in Littlefield v Department Of The Interior so as to guarantee its rights are protected and represented in court.
“Besides the Tribe’s strong spiritual and cultural ties to the land, the Tribe has a very substantial financial interest at stake, both with respect to existing future debt as well as potential future revenues that will translate to economic development for an entire tribal community,” read a court filing from Cedric Cromwell, Chairman for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. “If the land is taken out of trust, the Tribe will face a substantial financial loss, which represents a severe and debilitating threat to the economic development and overall prosperity of the Tribe.”
According to a report from The Boston Globe newspaper, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe won federal recognition in 2007 following a 32-year legal struggle. It began preliminary construction on its First Light Resort And Casino in April but has since been forced to suspend all but essential work at the site located about 38 miles south of Boston.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe had originally hoped to open its First Light Resort and Casino by the summer of 2017 with some 1,900 slots alongside 60 table games. In anticipation, the tribe held a jobs and vendor fair for the development in May and explained at the time that the entire project when finished could feature up to 3,000 slots and 150 table games as well as a trio of 300-room hotels, a water park and spa, indoor pool, nine retail stores and a 31,000 sq ft multi-purpose function room.