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Mashpee Indian casino hopes kept alive

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December 21, 2009

MASPEE - A U.S. Senate subcommittee Thursday cleared a bill to grant federal land trusts for Indian casinos, housing and other tribal development to tribes who were federally recognized after the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. This includes the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe which were recognized in 2007.

Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that tribes recognized after the 1934 act are not eligible to place land into trust with the federal government. The proposed legislation would reverse that decision.

The Mashpee tribe hopes to build a casino on a 539-acre site in Middleboro. The tribe has also applied to put 140 acres in Mashpee into federal trust for housing and other tribe uses. Their application stalled last February after the Supreme Court decision removed the authority of the U.S. Department of the Interior to take land into trust for tribes recognized after 1934.

Wampanoag Tribal Council chairman Cedric Cromwell said after the vote, "I'm excited and confident." He said the U.S. Supreme Court's decision was based on a misinterpretation, and he looks forward to a vote by the full Senate.

However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he will not allow a vote on the Senate floor until lawmakers "solve the problem of off-reservation gambling," which he strongly opposes.

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