Federal Judge Rules Interior Lacked Authority to Put Land into Trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

First Light Resort & Casino rendering

First Light Resort & Casino rendering

Proposed $1 billion casino faces derailment

Published July 29, 2016

BOSTON — Just months after the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe broke ground to develop the First Light Resort & Casino, a federal judge on Thursday ruled that the U.S. Department of the Interior lacked the authority to put the proposed casino land into trust for the tribe.

The Wampanoag Tribe broke ground in early April for a casino that will ultimately cost $1 billion in Taunton, Massachusetts.

A group of Taunton resident brought a lawsuit to block the construction of the casino because it felt when the Interior Department puts land into trust for an American Indian tribe, local and state control is taken away.

In Thursday’s ruling, Federal District Judge William G. Young ruled that the U.S. Department of the Interior mistakenly by putting the land in trust for the tribe. He said the Interior Department lacks to the authority to put the land in trust because the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was not a federally recognized tribe in 1934.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell issued the following statement:

“Obviously, we are disappointed in the ruling. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has been a continuous Tribe descended from the indigenous people who have lived on this land for the past 12,000 years. Furthermore, our tribe was indeed under federal jurisdiction before 1934. We submitted evidence of that with our land-in-trust application. This matter has been remanded back to the U.S. Department of Interior and we are consulting with the Interior and Justice Departments on the next steps, as we expect an appeal will be forthcoming. Our people have been challenged throughout history and we are still here, living on the land of our ancestors. I have no doubt we will prevail.”

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was recognized by the federal government in February 2007.













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