U.S. Supreme Court ruling blocks Wampanoag casino
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March 10, 2009
WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Secretary of the Interior
Department does not have the authority to take land into federal trust for tribe
recognized after 1934.
This is a huge setback to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe which was federally
recognized in 2007. The transfer of tribal land into federal trust is a
prerequisite to building a casino. It makes the land sovereign and exempt from
state laws and taxation.
The court ruling is based on the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934 that
authorizes the Secretary of Interior to take land into federal trust for members
of tribes that are "now under Federal jurisdiction."
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has submitted an application to the federal
government requesting 539 acres in Middleborough be placed into a federal trust.
If approved, the tribe would be able to build a proposed $1 billion casino
Dennis Whittlesey, a Washington lawyer who helped negotiate the tribe's
agreement with Middleborough, said "If this decision is not overturned by the
Congress, the Mashpee project cannot go forward. There cannot be a casino
"It's absurd on its face that the policy of the United States government would
be to recognize the sovereignty of native tribes but not allow those sovereign
nations to take land into trust," said Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee
tribe. "We look to Congress to correct what the court could not." Cromwell is
sending letters to US Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, as well as
US Representative William Delahunt, asking them to file legislation to change
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