The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe leads a march from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., to the U.S. Capitol on November 14, 2018. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe welcomes movement on bill to keep reservation in trust

A bill to keep the reservation of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in trust is seeing movement on Capitol Hill amid complaints in the conservative media.

H.R.312, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, is due to be taken up in the U.S. House of Representatives next week, according to news reports. The bill ensures that the tribe's reservation in Massachusetts can't be taken out of trust by the federal government and can't be challenged by litigation.

"For perspective, keep in mind that once our bill is passed, our Reservation and Ancestral Homelands are FOREVER protected....our lands will never be under threat again," Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a message to tribal citizens on Monday.

The conservative media has rallied against the bill because a prior version was co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), a Democratic candidate for president. A new version hasn't been introduced in the Senate so far but headlines continue to tie the measure to the popular politician, who is frequently attacked by President Donald Trump.

"House Democrats Look to Move Warren Casino Bill Without Debate" and "House Democrats Plan to Move on Swampy Indian Casino Bill Backed by Warren" were two headlines in the conservative media this week. One story complained that the legislation hasn't been "marked up, debated or voted on" by the House Committee of Natural Resources.

The committee held a hearing on a prior version of the bill in July 2018. The measure drew bipartisan support from Republican and Democratic members though it was never scheduled for a markup.

With Democrats now in control of the House, the bill is due to clear the chamber if it is brought up for consideration. The next hurdle would be the Senate, which remains under Republican rule.

"We will then focus our efforts on the Senate," Chairman Cromwell said in his message. "I commit to our Tribal Citizens that we will work tirelessly to see our bill come to fruition."

But if it gets that far, the conservative media sees problems ahead. According to Redstate: "Trump has been briefed on the legislation and opposes it."

Congress enacted similar legislation for a tribe whose reservation in Michigan was questioned by litigation. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Patchak v. Zinke eventually confirmed that such an approach is constitutional.

The federal government hasn't taken a tribe's trust land out of trust since the termination era.

Read More on the Story
House may fast-track Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe bill (The Cape Cod Times March 18, 2019)
House Democrats Plan to Move on Swampy Indian Casino Bill Backed by Warren (The Washington Free Beacon March 19, 2019)
House Democrats Look to Move Warren Casino Bill Without Debate (RedState March 18, 2019)
Members of Mashpee Wampanoag tribal council face ouster (The Cape Cod Times March 17, 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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