The Trump Administration on July 31 appealed the ruling of a federal district court in its case against the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
The Dept. of Interior’s March attempt to disestablish the Wampanoag’s land trust, which relied on proving the tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934, was deemed “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law” by D.C. District Judge Paul Friedman. (See the Independent’s June 18 story by Sophie Ruehr on the case.)
In Carcieri v. Salazar, a 2009 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that tribal lands must have been under federal jurisdiction in 1934 in order to qualify for reservation status. Wampanoag attorney Tami Azorsky argued that the tribe was under federal jurisdiction long before 1934, citing several reports on the tribe by the federal government. The judge agreed.
In a statement to the Mashpee Enterprise, Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council, characterized the appeal as “consistent with this administration’s constant failure to acknowledge or address the history of injustice against our tribe and all Native Americans.”
The 321 acres granted to the tribe in 2015 by the Obama Administration remain in limbo. Plans for tribal housing and a highly contested casino are on pause as the tribe faces this legal battle alongside the Covid-19 pandemic.
While two bills clarifying rules around tribal sovereignty stagnate in the U.S. Senate, the land trust case moves to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. —Olivia Weeks