Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe to appeal decision in casino case

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

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts isn't giving up on its gaming plans despite a negative ruling in federal court.

On November 13, Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV ruled that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 does not apply to the reservation. The tribal council voted to take the case to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, The Vineyard Gazette reported.

"We disagree with the decision on several levels," attorney Scott Crowell told the paper.

Saylor acknowledged that the tribe exercises "some level of jurisdiction" on its reservation on the island of Martha's Vineyard. But he said the tribe does not exercise "governmental power" over its own territory as required by IGRA.

"The tribe does not have a public school. Nor does the tribe provide any public housing beyond that which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. There is no tribal criminal code, prosecutor, or jail," Saylor wrote in the 40-page decision. "The tribe’s judiciary, which was organized two years ago, offers only a limited judicial function. Its cases are heard by a judge who is hired on a case-by-case basis and who presides by teleconference from Washington state over proceedings that are conducted in a building off the settlement lands And, importantly, the tribe has no tax system in place on the lands to fund any future governmental services."

The tribe believes IGRA repealed a provision in the Massachusetts Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1987 that subjects the reservation to state and local laws. The 1st Circuit reached a similar conclusion in an earlier case involving the Narragansett Tribe in neighboring Rhode Island but the state's Congressional delegation secured passage of a rider that overturned the decision.

The 1st Circuit's last major Indian law case was Carcieri v. Salazar, a land-into-trust case involving the Narragansetts.

Get the Story:
Tribe Will Appeal U.S. Court Ruling Denying Casino Rights (The Vineyard Gazette 11/23)

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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