The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe broke ground on the First Light Resort and Casino in Taunton, Massachusetts, in April 2016 but was forced to stop work after opponents filed a lawsuit. Photo: First Light Resort and Casino

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe gets another shot at casino land-into-trust

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is getting another shot at proving its casino land-into-trust application amid mixed signals from the Trump administration.

On June 19, the Department of the Interior indicated it was prepared to reject the application. The tribe then said it was going to return to federal court to defend its rights.

But on June 30, the Trump team shifted course. Jim Cason, the Associate Deputy Secretary at Interior, gave the tribe and opponents until August 31 to submit more information before making a final decision.

"The DOI has now invited us to address other grounds for a positive finding," Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a July 1 blog post.

At issue is the U.S. Supreme Court decision Carcieri v. Salazar. In the 2009 ruling, the justices held that the Bureau of Indian Affairs can place land in trust only for those tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934.

The Mashpees didn't gain formal recognition until 2007, long after that date. But the BIA, in a decision that broke new ground, said the tribe qualified for the land-into-trust process because its citizens were living on a "reservation" in 1934.

However, as part of a lawsuit filed by casino opponents, a federal judge said the BIA did not fully consider the impacts of Carcieri when it approved the land-into-trust application in September 2015. The tribe is still hoping it can win approval and restart work on the First Light Resort and Casino in Taunton, Massachusetts.

According to The Taunton Daily Gazette, Cason indicated that he would make a decision by October 30.

Read More on the Story:
Interior letter renews hope for Mashpee tribe's plans (The Cape Cod Times 7/1)
Interior Department wants one more go at Mashpee Wampanoag land ruling (The Taunton Daily Gazette 7/2)

Federal Court Decision:
District Court of Massachusetts: Littlefield v. Department of the Interior (July 28, 2016)

Supreme Court Decision in Carcieri v. Salazar:
Syllabus | Opinion [Thomas] | Concurrence [Breyer] | Dissent [Stevens] | Concurrence/Dissent [Souter]

Department of the Interior Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)

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