Mashpee Reservation Reaffirmation Act moves forward
ICT editorial team
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell will be in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, July 24, to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources in support of bipartisan legislation to protect the historic tribe’s reservation lands.
The hearing for HR-5244, originally filed by U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-MA in the U.S. House of Representatives, is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
“We are extremely grateful to Congressman Keating, the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, the bipartisan group of co-sponsors who have signed onto this legislation -- and the dozens of tribal nations across Indian Country who have come out in support of this bill,” said Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell.
“I am also grateful for the opportunity to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources where I intend to applaud Congress for moving in the right direction with the Mashpee Reservation Reaffirmation Act, and to highlight why it is imperative that Congress exercise its’ plenary authority to prevent the disestablishment of our reservation land as soon as possible,” Cromwell said. “Re-affirming our right to a reservation for our people is just and honorable, and will ensure that our Tribe is treated equally under the law as other federally recognized tribes.”
The bill, first filed in March, now has 18 bipartisan co-sponsors, including six key Republican representatives. If passed, the legislation would re-affirm the status of the Tribe’s reservation, which ended the Tribe's landlessness when it was established by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2015.
A technical legal challenge to the Department's legal reasoning in establishing the reservation and subsequent federal district court opinion has endangered the status of the reservation.
Without legislative action to re-affirm the Interior Departments September 2015 decision that established the Mashpee tribe’s initial reservation, the Department may disestablish the Tribe’s existing reservation and make the Mashpee Wampanoag the first tribe in the modern era to suffer another land loss at the hands of the federal government.
Losing its reservation would cause the Tribe to close its school, abandon a tribal housing project, forfeit federal environmental grants, and divert funding designated for critical social services.
About the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe:
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, also known as the People of the First Light, has inhabited present day Massachusetts for more than 12,000 years. After an arduous process lasting more than three decades, the Mashpee Wampanoag were re-acknowledged as a federally recognized tribe in 2007. In 2015, the federal government declared 150 acres of land in Mashpee and 170 acres of land in Taunton as the Tribe’s initial reservation, on which the Tribe can exercise its full tribal sovereignty rights. The Mashpee tribe currently has approximately 2,600 enrolled citizens.