Chairman Cedric Cromwell of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe addresses the #StandWithMashpee rally at the U.S. Capitol on November 14, 2018. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Democrats plan to vote against homelands bill for Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

A bill to protect the homelands of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is facing opposition from Democratic lawmakers, The Cape Cod Times reports.

According to a spokesperson for Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), H.R.312, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, is "bad for Rhode Island," the paper reported. Rep. James Langevin (D-Rhode Island) plans to vote against it if it comes up for consideration in the House, a spokesperson told the paper.

The report links the opposition to fears that the tribe's long-delayed casino in neighboring Massachusetts will affect existing non-Indian facilities in Rhode Island. What's not said is that Rhode Island is the reason why the bill exists in the first place.

Rhode Island is responsible for the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. The disastrous ruling prevents the Narragansett Tribe from restoring its homelands because it wasn't "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934.

The decision has since been extended to other tribes, like Mashpee, whose federal status wasn't clarified until more recently. Passage of H.R.312 would start to unravel Rhode Island's stance against the Narragansetts, as Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) admitted last year.

"Rhode Island successfully fought a ten-year legal battle with the Department to limit the Secretary's power to take land in trust ... only for those tribes under federal jurisdiction as of 1934," Raimondo wrote in an opposition letter when a prior version of the Mashpee bill was being considered last year.

H.R.312 was said to be up for consideration in the House sometime this week. But the bill was not listed on the Majority Leader's calendar when it came out on Friday afternoon, as Indianz.Com reported.

The bill prevents the Bureau of Indian Affairs from taking the tribe's reservation out of trust. Something like that hasn't happened since the disastrous termination era in the 1950s and 1960s.

Opponents of the proposed First Light Resort and Casino in the city of Taunton raised a Carcieri argument in a lawsuit in federal court. That led the Trump administration to conclude that the tribe cannot follow the land-into-trust process.

Read More on the Story
Vote on Mashpee Wampanoag land bill likely not this week (The Cape Cod Times March 24, 2019)
Tribal Rights, Economy Dominate at Congressman Keating's Town Hall (The Vineyard Gazette March 22, 2019)
Keating: Shutdown was a ‘hostage taking’ (The Martha's Vineyard Times March 22, 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)

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