Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Chairman Cedric Cromwell of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe at tribal council chambers in Mashpee, Massachusetts, on April 21, 2018. Photo: Sen. Warren

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe gains local support for homelands legislation

After running into some initial opposition, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has gained local support for a bill to protect its homelands in Massachusetts.

The town of Mashpee was worried about the land claims and gaming when the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act was introduced in March. But the board of selectmen on Monday voted to send a letter to key members of Congress expressing support for the measure.

“The establishment of the Mashpee Wampanoag reservation in 2015 was very long overdue, and we feel strongly that this legislation is needed to protect that reservation,” the letter states, The Cape Cod Times reported. The letter was approved toward the end of the board's public meeting.

The change of heart came after the tribe embraced an amendment to the bill. It would incorporate an intergovernmental agreement, signed in 2008, which bars the tribe from pursuing gaming in the town and from reviving a land claim in the town.

The bill, if enacted into law, reaffirms the status of lands already placed in trust for the tribe. That includes about 170 acres in Mashpee. and another 151 in the city of Taunton, where a gaming facility is to be located.

More significantly, the bill requires an ongoing lawsuit to be "promptly dismissed" from the federal court system. That lawsuit was filed by opponents of the First Light Resort and Casino in Taunton who believe the tribe cannot follow the land-into-trust process because its federal status wasn't finalized until 2007.

The measure was patterned after the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act, a 2014 law which was the subject of a closely-watched case that was just decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Patchak v. Zinke, the court said Congress has the authority to protect tribal homelands from litigation.

But since Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is a co-sponsor of S.2628, the Senate version of the bill, the conservative media has been running negative stories about the effort. One headline mentioned the tribe's "checkered" past -- a former chairman served time in prison for various crimes and was once linked to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Other conservative stories focus on the tribe's foreign investor -- Genting, a company in Malaysia, is financing the stalled casino. And some rehash the "Pocahontas" slur frequently used against Warren, who has claimed to be "part" Native American.

"For far too long, your story has been pushed aside, to be trotted out only in cartoons and commercials," Warren said during her first speaking appearance before the National Congress of American Indians in February. "So I’m here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities."

The House version of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act is H.R.5244, Neither measure has secured a hearing in the 115th Congress but tribal homelands bills have become popular on Capitol Hill in recent years.

Read More on the Story:
Mashpee selectmen support legislation protecting Wampanoag land rights (The Cape Cod Times May 21, 2018)
Mashpee Tribe, Town Reach Accord (The Mashpee Enterprise May 21, 2018)
Tribe Rebuffs Town Of Mashpee's Request (The Mashpee Enterprise May 17, 2018)

Read more from the Conservative Media:
Elizabeth Warren’s Indian Casino Bill Would Bail Out Malaysian Gambling Giant (The Washington Free Beacon May 15, 2018)
Monica Showalter: Liz Warren takes up case of Indian casino...and its Malaysian sponsors with a history of big donations (The American Thinker May 15, 2018)
Warren Burnishes Native American Bonafides by Helping Get Indian Casino Running (The Conservative Tribune May 13, 2018)
How Elizabeth Warren is helping a checkered tribe in bid to rid her ‘Pocahontas’ problem (The Washington Times May 10, 2018)

Patchak v. Zinke

U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Patchak v. Zinke:
Syllabus | Judgment [Thomas] | Concurrence [Breyer] | Concurrence [Ginsburg] | Concurrence [Sotomayor] | Dissent [Roberts] | Full Document: Patchak v. Zinke

More U.S. Supreme Court Documents:
Oral Argument Transcript | Docket Sheet No. 16-498 | Questions Presented

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