Cedric Cromwell of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe addresses the #StandWithMashpee rally at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., on November 14, 2018. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe no longer being financed by backer of stalled casino

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is no longer being supported by the backer of its stalled casino in Massachusetts, The Cape Cod Times reports.

Genting Malaysia continues to finance a lawsuit that seeks to prevent the tribe's reservation from being taken out of trust, the paper said. But the firm is no longer obligated to support the tribe's operations.

“They have no financial responsibilities to us,” council member Aaron Tobey Jr., who won election to the tribe's governing body last month, told The Times.

Late last year, Genting took a $440 million "impairment loss" related to its investment in the tribe. The loss was tied to the stalled nature of the First Light Resort and Casino.

The tribe broke ground on the facility in April 2017 only to see ;local opponents go to court. A federal judge later ruled that the Bureau of Indian Affairs failed to take into account the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar.

The Trump administration has since concluded that the tribe cannot follow the land-into-trust process since it was not "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. The tribe's federal recognition wasn't finalized until 2007, long after that date.

The tribe is challenging the decision with a lawsuit in federal court. The casino opponents are seeking to intervene and have the case assigned to the judge who ruled in their favor.

H.R.312, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, would resolve the uncertainty by confirming that the tribe's lands remain in trust. A companion hasn't been introduced in the Senate amid opposition from the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe, whose leaders are worried that their rights will be infringed by the current language in the bill.

The BIA has acknowledged that there is currently no regulatory mechanism for lands held in trust for a tribe to be taken out of trust. Regulations proposed by the Trump administration would have created such a process for the first time since the disastrous termination era.

Officials at the Department of the Interior have since withdrawn the Fee-to-Trust Regulations (25 CFR 151), which were controversial across Indian Country.

“After reviewing the comments and hearing from Indian Country, the department has determined it will not propose new regulations at this time," Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney told the United South and Eastern Tribes on the opening day of the organization's Impact Week meeting in Arlington, Virginia, on Monday.

Read More on the Story
Loans to Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe halted (The Cape Cod Times March 3, 2019)
Mashpee tribe's annual payments of more than $500K to Taunton continue (The Cape Cod Times February 26, 2019)

Federal Register Notices
Proclaiming Certain Lands as Reservation for the Mashpee Wampanoag (January 8, 2016)
Land Acquisitions; Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (September 25, 2015)
Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Fee-to-Trust Transfer of Property and Subsequent Development of a Resort/Hotel and Ancillary Facilities in the City of Taunton, MA and Tribal Government Facilities in the Town of Mashpee, MA by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (September 5, 2014)
Land Acquisitions: Appeals of Land Acquisition Decisions (November 13, 2013)

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