US Senate Introduces Tribal Bill 3/29/2018

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US Senate Introduces Tribal Bill

  • By SAM HOUGHTON
  • Edward Markey
REBECCA HAMMEL/US SENATE PHOTOGRAPHIC STUDIO

On the heels of action in the US House of Representatives, Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey has introduced a bill to the US Senate to reaffirm the tribe’s land in trust.

Senator Elizabeth A. Warren co-sponsored Senate Bill 2628 that, like a bill introduced earlier this month by Congressman William R. Keating, aims to protect the tribe’s reservation lands.

Congressman Keating said that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, if passed, would re-affirm the status of the tribe’s reservation. That reservation was established by the US Department of the Interior in 2015.

This Senate bill, which is also called the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, was introduced in the Senate on Thursday.

“I would very much like to thank the outstanding leadership of Senators Markey and Warren on this bill to protect our ancestral homeland,” Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a press release issued Monday by the tribe. “This bill is further evidence that Congress, in both the House and Senate, see it as the honorable and just thing to do—reaffirm our right to a reservation for our people and to ensure that our Tribe will be treated equally under the law as other federally recognized tribes.”

A legal challenge to the department’s reasoning in establishing the reservation and subsequent federal district court opinion has endangered the status of the reservation.

Without legislative action to reaffirm the Interior Department’s September 2015 decision that established the Mashpee tribe’s initial reservation, the department may disestablish the tribe’s existing reservation, which covers 170 acres in Mashpee and 150 acres in Taunton.

Losing its reservation status, the tribe said, would force it to close its school, abandon a tribal housing project, forfeit federal environmental grants, and divert funding designated for critical social services.