News

MAR 14 / 2017

Fight over Mashpee tribe’s land

Fight over Mashpee tribe’s land, casino continues in Trump era

The Justice Department has not yet decided whether to appeal a judge's rejection of the way the government took land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in a case that halted construction of the tribe's planned $600 million Taunton casino Continue Read...



MAR 13 / 2017

BCC casino program moves

BCC casino program moves ahead even as Taunton gaming plan stalls

TAUNTON — Bristol Community College's casino lab in Taunton is in full swing even if the Taunton casino itself has hit a wall. Continue Read...



MAR 12 / 2017

Casino construction in Taunton

Casino construction in Taunton shifts from building to filling trenches

TAUNTON — It appears as though the Mashpee Wampanoag's construction project in East Taunton has gone from building a casino and hotels to filling in holes. Continue Read...



FEB 28 / 2017

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is Creating Jobs for Taunton

First Light Casino will create 7,000 jobs for the Taunton local and regional community. This major investment by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe will also improve intersections, widen Hwy 24, improve emergency response systems, increase police capabilities and much more.



AUG 24 / 2016

Tribe Applauds Justice Department

TRIBE APPLAUDS JUSTICE DEPARTMENT MOTION ON MASHPEE LAND IN TRUST DECISION

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal leaders are applauding today’s decision by the U.S. Justice Department’s to push for reconsideration of a historic court decision that threatens to take away their recently designated Indian reservation.

“We applaud the Justice Department’s decision. We’ve been on our land for thousands of years and all we seek is the right to exist here as a sovereign people.  It was promised to us soon after the first Pilgrims arrived and it’s a promise we hope the courts will honor,” said Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell.

A lawsuit financed by Chicago-based casino developer, Neil Bluhm, earlier this year challenged the authority of the U.S. Department of Interior to classify tribal lands as a reservation for any tribe who was granted federal recognition after the Indian Re-Organization Act (IRA) of 1934. The lawsuit was filed on the heels of a U.S. Interior Department decision last September to designate 150 acres of land in Taunton and 170 acres of land in Mashpee as an Indian reservation.

On July 28, 2016, Federal District Court Judge William Young ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, citing a 2009 Supreme Court decision that limited the Interior Department’s authority to hold Land-In-Trust on behalf of tribes federally recognized after 1934.

Judge Young remanded the case back to the Department of Interior because, in his view, the Tribe could not have been under “federal jurisdiction” in 1934 because it was not “federally recognized” at that time.

The “motion to reconsider” filed by the Justice Department challenges the judge’s decision insofar as it addressed whether the Tribe was under federal jurisdiction. It does not challenge the Judge’s construction of the second category of eligibility for acquiring land. The motion seeks to clarify why the judge ruled on an aspect of the IRA that was not part of the Interior Department Record-Of-Decision, and why the judge’s ruling equated “federal jurisdiction” with “federal recognition.”

The motion also comes after a higher court — the District of Columbia (DC) Court of Appeals — reached a much different conclusion in a case involving the Cowlitz tribe in California.

In that case, the court ruled that there is indeed a distinction between “federal recognition” and “federal jurisdiction.” The appellate court decision, which was handed down the day after Judge Young’s ruling, upheld the Interior Department’s authority to hold Land-In-Trust on behalf of tribes who can show they were under “federal jurisdiction” before 1934 — even if they weren’t “federally recognized” until years later.

“We respectfully but strongly disagree with Judge Young’s ruling. We are encouraged that the appellate justices affirmed the Interior Department’s interpretation of the law.  There is indeed a very clear distinction between ‘federal jurisdiction’ and formal ‘federal recognition’ — a process that didn’t even exist at the time IRA was passed by Congress,” Chairman Cedric Cromwell said.

“It’s re-assuring because we have always argued that our Land-In-Trust application qualifies under ‘federal jurisdiction’ as well as the fact that our people were indeed residing on a reservation before 1934,” Cromwell said.

As the case moves forward, Mashpee tribal leaders look to play a more direct role in defending the status of their ancestral homelands as tribal attorneys last week filed a motion to intervene.

“Nobody can explain the importance of our ancestral homeland and its significance to our survival better than we can.  While those who are financing this suit are principally interested in protecting their casino interests, our goal is to protect the sovereignty of our people.  We look forward to working together with federal officials in our long struggle for justice,” Chairman Cromwell said.

About the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe:

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, 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 and retain full tribal sovereignty rights. The Mashpee tribe currently has approximately 2,600 enrolled citizens.

JUL 20 / 2016

Cowlitz Tribe Wins Federal Appeal.

Cowlitz Tribe Wins Federal Appeal. Encouraging News for First Light Resort & Casino

By Brooks Johnson, Columbian Business Reporter

Published: July 29, 2016, 10:02 AM

A federal court on Friday affirmed the recognition of the Cowlitz Tribe, preserving its reservation near La Center and the $510 million casino resort being built there.

“The Cowlitz Indian Tribe scored another important victory today when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed ‘in its entirety’ a court ruling that the Secretary of the Interior properly exercised her authority when she created the Cowlitz Indian Reservation,” Cowlitz tribal Chairman Bill Iyall said in a statement. “After 150 years of landlessness, the federal government and the federal courts have confirmed our right to this reservation.”

The case against the Cowlitz’s federal recognition and jurisdiction was initially launched by the city of Vancouver, Clark County, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Citizens Against Reservation Shopping — a group that includes Columbian Publisher Scott Campbell — and owners and operators of La Center’s cardrooms. The groups sought to block the Cowlitz casino and resort by challenging the tribe’s status as well as its 152-acre reservation under the Indian Reorganization Act, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

On Friday, the appeals court upheld a 2014 ruling from the U.S. District Court dismissing their arguments.

“The Cowlitz are a ‘recognized Indian tribe now under federal jurisdiction,’ ” wrote Circuit Judge Robert L. Wilkins.

It was a landmark ruling for what is shaping up to be a Clark County landmark — the Ilani Casino Resort — though there is still the possibility of further appeals.

“Obviously I’m disappointed,” said John Brockmier, who represents La Center cardrooms in the case. “I’m going to sit down with my clients, who will have to decide where we go from here, if we go from here.”

The Grand Ronde, which operates the Spirit Mountain Casino 65 miles outside of Portland, released a statement on its website Friday morning saying the tribe’s leaders are “reviewing the decision and are evaluating our next steps.” The tribe did not hesitate to file an appeal immediately after the original 2014 ruling.

“The tribe continues to believe it is wrong for the Cowlitz to build a casino in Clark County, a region historically belonging to the Tribes and Bands of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde,” reads the statement from Chairman Reyn Leno. “The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde doesn’t believe that a tribe should be allowed to go reservation shopping outside their historic territory, simply because they have identified a location that is more desirable because of its proximity to an urban area.”

The Cowlitz Tribe, headquartered in Longview, gained federal recognition in 2000 and were granted their reservation, at Exit 16 along Interstate 5, just last year.

Despite the uncertainty imposed by the lingering court case, the Cowlitz started building the casino earlier this year. Ilani will have 100,000 square feet of gaming space, 2,500 slot machines, 80 gaming tables and several restaurants and meeting spaces.

“We are moving forward, improving the lives of our 4,000 tribal members, bringing jobs to the local economy and continuing to forge partnerships in the southwestern Washington community,” Iyall said in his statement.

Relations between the tribe and local governments have softened as the casino has moved from a bitter fight to a half-built reality. The city of Vancouver dropped out of the lawsuit earlier this year and ended its official opposition to the casino; La Center has been working closely with the Cowlitz despite the casino’s anticipated impacts on the city’s own cardroom revenue; and the county has resumed working with the tribe.

Clark County Manager Mark McCauley said that for now the county’s position in the lawsuit remains unchanged, though it will be up to councilors to meet and decide how to proceed with a possible appeal.

County Council Chair Marc Boldt, asked whether he thinks the county would remain part of the suit with the other opponents, said: “I think they’re on their own.”

Vancouver spent about $187,000 in the legal fight, while the county has spent close to nothing. The bulk of the legal fees has been shouldered by the Grand Ronde and La Center cardrooms, as well as the citizen group opposing the casino.

Dave Barnett, a Cowlitz tribal member and founder of the Ilani Casino Resort, said the tribe was confident it made its case during oral arguments this spring and plans to open its casino April 17.

“For us, it’s enough’s enough, let’s move forward and create a great project that’s going to make everyone in the region very happy.”

JUN 9

Taunton Daily Gazette

Taunton voters strongly approve casino proposal

After the ballots were tallied Saturday night, Taunton voters paved the way for a casino to come to town, a prospect that many city leaders say could revitalize the city's slumping economy. READ MORE

MAY 17

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and City of Taunton Reach Intergovernmental Agreement

Intergovernmental Agreement By and Between The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and The City of Taunton. READ MORE

MAY 17

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and City of Taunton Reach Intergovernmental Agreement

Taunton, MA – Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell and Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye announced today that they have negotiated an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) for the development of a destination resort casino in the City of Taunton. READ MORE

MAY 8

Taunton Daily Gazette

Mashpees assure Taunton of permanent casino jobs, limited traffic impact

Taunton —The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe pulled out the heavy guns Tuesday night to answer any and all questions from a crowd of more than 200 people at Taunton High School. READ MORE

MAY 6

Taunton Daily Gazette

Forum gives Taunton residents more details on casino proposal

Taunton —City residents had the opportunity to learn the latest details on the proposed resort casino for East Taunton and voice their concerns to tribal officials and experts working on the project at the casino forum on Saturday. READ MORE

APR 26

Boston.com

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe plans $500 million Taunton casino with hotels and water park

TAUNTON -- The tribal casino being pitched by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe would be built in phases over five years and eventually would include a water park, three hotels, and high-end retail shops, according to plans the tribe unveiled here today.READ MORE

APR 26

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe details plans for Destination Resort Casino in Taunton

Taunton, MA—The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe announced details of their plans for a comprehensive destination resort casino in the City of Taunton in a press conference at Taunton City Hall today. READ MORE

APR 03

Cape Cod Times

Wampanoag Leaders in San Diego to chart future

Getting land into federal trust remains one of the key hurdles for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's pursuit of an Indian casino, but legal experts say it's far from insurmountable. The National Indian Gaming Association is hosting its annual convention and trade show in San Diego through Wednesday. Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell, Treasurer Mark Harding and several members of the tribe's legal team are attending the conference, which features workshops in all aspects of Indian casinos, from intergovernmental agreements to what types of betting to offer. READ MORE

MAR 27

Indian Country Media Network Today

Mashpee Wampanoags Acquire More Casino Land in Massachusetts

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has secured an option to a 58-acre parcel of land in southeastern Massachusetts where it plans to build a $500 million destination resort casino. READ MORE

MAR 21

Taunton Daily Gazette

'Together For Taunton' pro-casino group forms.

A campaign committee supporting the Taunton casino referendum says it has filed paperwork with the state and plans to open a downtown Taunton office in the coming weeks READ MORE

MAR 21

Taunton Daily Gazette

OUR VIEW: Casino study a good step.

In Taunton, pro- and anti-casino groups have begun to stake their ground and make their cases to voters. Casino advocates say that a casino would benefit the economy and job creation. Opponents have pointed to drawbacks, such as impacts on traffic, crime and the school system. READ MORE

MAR 17

Taunton Daily Gazette

Mashpee Wampanoags put downpayment on Taunton casino land option

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe entered into a formal option agreement to purchase 77 acres in Taunton for $5.3 million, tribal chairman Cedric Cromwell confirmed on Saturday. READ MORE

SEP 22

Cape Cod Times

Mashpee tribe not a special interest group

The debate over a bill introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature that legalizes casino gambling and effectively gives the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe first dibs on one of the authorized casino licenses is fraught with a fundamental misconception: that the Mashpee is either a merely special interest group or a racial group. Neither is politically or legally accurate, and neither helps the people of Massachusetts make an informed decision about gambling in their state. READ MORE