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

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe makes layoffs as gaming project stalls

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has laid off employees and closed its gaming agency amid uncertainty surrounding its long-delayed casino in Massachusetts.

Affected employees received termination letters last month, The Cape Cod Times reported. The exact number of layoffs hasn't been disclosed but Chairman Cedric Cromwell confirmed that people were let go.

"Layoffs have been a last resort option to bring our operational budget in line with our income," Cromwell said in his January 2018 column. "We underwent a painstaking 5-month exercise reviewing our expenses, the consultants and attorneys to find every dollar of savings possible. Thankfully we were able to find meaningful savings."

The layoffs came as the tribe closed its gaming authority late last month, The Taunton Daily Gazette reported. The office had been located in the city of Taunton, where the First Light Resort and Casino is to be located.

The project has been in limbo even though the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the land-into-trust application for the site back in September 2015. Opponents claim the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar bars the tribe from following the land-into-trust process.

The land remains in trust but a federal judge has ordered the BIA to reconsider the issue. The Trump administration has not yet made a determination after asking the parties for more information last year.

"The failure of this administration to protect the tribe’s reservation will have a negative ripple effect on our tribal members as we would risk losing vital community programs that are based on grants associated with trust lands," the chairman said in his column. "The United States must uphold its trust responsibility and the law by re-certifying our trust lands in harmony with the president’s commitment to tribes."

Cromwell did say that the new administration reached out by offering assistance through the Department of Labor. A job fair for tribal citizens is taking place on Friday, The Cape Cod Times reported.

Read More on the Story:
Weeks after layoffs, Mashpee tribe holds job fair (The Cape Cod Times January 29, 2018)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe begins employee layoffs (The Cape Cod Times December 29, 2017)
Mashpee Wampanoag tribe closes Taunton casino office (The Taunton Daily Gazette December 28, 2017)

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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