Fed Agency Supports Bill Protecting Tribe’s Reservation Land
Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Cedric Cromwell, met with members of Congress in Washington D.C. on July 24 to talk about legislation that could help to forever protect the Tribe’s land in trust.
“Without Congressional action confirming that the IRA applies to Mashpee, it is possible not only that we will lose our current reservation, but also that we will never have any reservation,” said Cromwell.
A group that includes 9th District Congressman William Keating, who represents the Cape and Islands, filed the bill earlier this year that re-affirms the tribe’s federal land status.
“If this piece of legislation does not pass this would result in the tribe no longer being eligible for many federal grants and assistance programs, including assistance on the opioid epidemic that is scourged to our area,” Keating said.
“This would also call into question inter-governmental agreements reached between the Tribe and others, most important to me, the Town of Mashpee.”
The tribe said losing its reservation would cause them to close its school, abandon a tribal housing project, forfeit federal environmental grants, and divert funding designated for critical social services.
Without legislative action to re-affirm the Interior Departments September 2015 decision that established the Mashpee tribe’s initial reservation, the tribe has said the department could revoke their federal land designation.
“At this point there is so much concern around no decision. Congress could act on passing this bill to clear up any uncertainty, and ambiguity so that our people could continue to thrive, and prosper,” says Cromwell.
In his brief testimony on the bill, Acting Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Darryl LaCounte spoke of the Interior Department’s responsibility to work in the best interest of tribal nations.
When asked about the status of the Tribe’s land-in-trust review, LaCounte said he would get back to the committee. LaCounte was also asked whether the Interior Department was considering revoking the Tribe’s reservation status, to which he responded: “I have heard of no plans to do this.”
Each of the various Congressional subcommittee members, including subcommittee Chairman Doug LaMalfa, R-California, spoke favorably of the bill.
“I look forward to moving the bill as expeditiously as possible,” added U.S. Rep Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona.
U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act is “a good piece of legislation.”
The legislation would supersede any action by the Department of the Interior.