Artist's rendering of the First Light Resort and Casino in Taunton, Massachusetts. Image: Steelman Partners / Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe awaits casino ruling from Trump team

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is hoping to restart construction on its long-awaited casino in Massachusetts.

To do that, the tribe needs to know whether the site of the $1 billion First Light Resort and Casino is held in trust. A lawsuit has raised doubts but the Bureau of Indian Affairs is promising to address them by June 19.

"It’s unfortunate that anti-Indian activists have created a legal side show in attempt to deprive us of our sovereign right to sustain our culture and government, and to develop First Light Resort & Casino as a means of economic uplift for our people and the City of Taunton," Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a statement announcing the forthcoming decision from the Trump administration. "We’ve been challenged every step of the way, and each step we have prevailed!"

The BIA previously approved the tribe's land-into-trust application for the casino. But opponents filed a lawsuit and said the U.S. Supreme Court decision Carcieri v. Salazar barred the acquisition of the site.

In Carcieri, the nation's highest court said the BIA can place land in trust but only for those tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. The Mashpees didn't gain formal status until 2007, long after that date.

Even though the BIA's approval wasn't tied to the "federal jurisdiction" question raised in Carcieri, Judge William G. Young nonetheless said the acquisition was faulty. He remanded the matter back to the agency in what was seen as a defeat for the tribe.

But the Trump administration has since told the tribe and opponents to expect an answer next month. The BIA is sticking to its plan to resolve, once and for all, the "federal jurisdiction" issue, according to documents filed with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

As a result, the tribe, casino opponents and the Trump administration all agreed to a dismissal of an appeal that was pending in the 1st Circuit. A judgment and mandate were issued by the court on Monday.

Read More on the Story:
Mashpee Wampanoag casino plan stuck in legal limbo (The Boston Globe 5/8)
Tribe: Fight over land about more than proposed casino (The Cape Cod Times 5/4)
Feds drop appeal in Taunton casino case, may still take land in trust on other grounds (The Taunton Daily Gazette 4/28)

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