Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell spoke to Indian Country Today Wednesday from his home in Attleboro, MA.
Besides dealing with this global pandemic, the tribe is fighting to keep it's land in trust and will go to court on May 20, 2020.
A few of his comments:
"We're in the 400-year anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower where the pilgrims came through our homelands in 1620 and my tribal nation, the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation, greeted them and helped them through their first harsh winters and taught them how to thrive and survive on this land."
"Talk about a slap in the face on March 27th I received a call from the Department of Interior BIA and I'm thinking that they want to talk to us about the pandemic. You know, what we're going through, how we can help, and you know, that's how naive I was."
"Four o'clock on March 27th in the midst of the pandemic, we are scrambling, our people are afraid, nervous... And Darryl LaCounte gets on the phone and says the bad news, 'I've been informed by secretary Bernhardt of the Department of Interior to take your land out of trust."
"So we filed a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the United States Department of Interior Secretary."
"We, in fact, gave up the first piece of land and formed Plymouth Colony, which was the anchor in creating the United States of America."
"We live in a very wealthy, competitive environment. This administration has relationships to these billionaires with gaming enterprises."
"We have this land, trust land, and it went into trust in 2015 under the Obama administration. Shortly after that, Neil Bluhm, who is a billionaire one of Trump's friends, applied for a gaming license in Southeastern Massachusetts in the same region that our tribe is in."
"Mind you, in 2011, the expanded gaming act passed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, section 918, which was unique where commercial game and bill respected the rights of a federally recognized tribe and carved out a region for our tribe."
"Neil Bluhm applied for a license. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts said, no, we're staying with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. They're receiving trust land and they're going to be doing a facility. So we're staying with the tribe."
"The city council voted for our tribe. We passed a referendum at 63% in favor. The Commonwealth supports us. And so we have the whole Massachusetts delegation on board with the tribe."
The case will be heard via teleconference and Chairman Cromwell says everyone is invited to listen. "It's important once a phone number is published that the entire country, not just Indian Country, but the entire nation tunes in."
"When we talk about a pandemic, we went through it back then, they didn't help us back then and aren't helping now, Talk about a travesty."
Also on the daily newscast, Washington Editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye reports updated COVID-19 numbers in Indian Country.
The host of the program is Patty Talahongva, executive producer of Indian Country Today.
- Interior takes reservation away from Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (March 28, 2020)
- Mashpee Wampanoag face double crisis: COVID-19 and feds (March 29, 2020)
- Interior denies Mashpee trust land: ‘You do not meet definition of an Indian’ (September 19, 2018)