Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe ignores order to stop working on casino

Chairman Tobias Vanderhoop of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts. Photo from UNITY / Facebook

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts doesn't accept local jurisdiction over its Class II gaming facility, an attorney said.

The tribe is converting an unfinished community center on the reservation into a 6,000 square-foot casino. Leaders in the town of Aquinnah claim the facility is illegal and are sending a cease and desist order to the tribe.

But the tribe “does not recognize the cease and desist order as having any force and effect," attorney Scott Crowell told The Vineyard Gazette. He said the tribe offered to meet with town to work on a government-to-government agreement that recognizes tribal but not local jurisdiction over the gaming site.

The New England Casino Race: Tribal and commercial gaming facilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Even though Class II and Class III gaming are legal in Massachusetts, the state claims the tribe can't use its reservation for a casino due to restrictions in the Massachusetts Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1987. Arguments will be heard next month in a lawsuit in federal court.

The Interior Department and the National Indian Gaming Commission, on the other hand, have concluded that the tribe can follow the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which became law a year after the settlement act. The federal agencies are not involved in the state's lawsuit.

In 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the law subjects the tribe to state jurisdiction. The case, however, did not involve gaming.

The tribe's reservation is located on the island of Martha's Vineyard.

Get the Story:
Aquinnah Issues Cease and Desist Order to Tribe to Halt Work on Casino (The Vineyard Gazette 7/7)
Aquinnah selectmen tell tribe to halt bingo hall plans (The Cape Cod Times 7/7)
Wampanoag Tribe ups the stakes in casino fight (The Martha's Vineyard Times 7/7)
Building Inspector Warns Wampanoag Tribe to Halt Construction on Casino (The Vineyard Gazette 7/7)

Relevant Documents:
Solicitor Letter to Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe (August 23, 2013)
NIGC Letter to Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe (October 25, 2013)
Press Release: GSB Client Aquinnah Wampanoag to be First to Game in Massachusetts (November 12, 2013)

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