Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Hails New Reservation Re-affirmation Act

Published January 8, 2019

Congressman Joe Kennedy III attended a Washington, D.C. rally supporting the Mashpee Wampanoag last fall.

MASHPEE, Mass. — Mashpee Wampanoag tribal leaders are hailing the re-introduction of bipartisan federal legislation that would that would permanently protect the historic Tribe’s reservation lands.

U.S. Reps. William Keating and Joseph Kennedy III have re-filed the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act in the U.S. House of Representatives as one of the first bills introduced in the new 116th Congress.

As with the previous bill of the same name introduced last year, the new legislation has already garnered bipartisan support with three key Republican Congressmen with oversight of Indian Affairs signing on as co-sponsors: U.S. Reps. Don Young (R-AK), Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Doug LaMalfa (R-CA).

“With our limited resources dwindling, we have already had to cut back on vital services and programs we had established to serve our Tribal citizens. Should we lose our reservation, our ability to operate as a Tribal government would be crushed,” Cromwell said. “We are extremely grateful that a bipartisan group of Congressional representatives understands the injustice of taking sovereign land away from the first Americans and have moved swiftly to ensure this nation does not return to the dark days of removing indigenous people from their land.”

Mashpee Town officials, who have formally backed the Tribe’s effort to secure reservation land, also praised the re-introduction of the legislation.

“I am pleased that the bill has been filed again and hopefully the outcome will be different in this session,” said Mashpee Town Manager Rodney Collins.

If passed, the legislation would re-affirm the status of the Tribe’s reservation, which ended the Tribe’s landlessness when its initial reservation 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 first established the Mashpee tribe’s 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.

Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell

The speed with which the bipartisan legislation was filed in the now Democratically-controlled U.S. House of Representatives improved the chances of swift passage, Cromwell said.

“We are the first indigenous Tribal Nation to sign a peace treaty with the Pilgrims and provide the land for them to establish Plymouth Colony. So it is fitting that one of the first bills to be introduced in this new Congress, in this New Year, is one that would protect our ancestral homelands from being stripped away from us,” Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell said.

Cromwell lauded the support of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, the dozens of Tribal leaders across Indian Country who filed formal letters in support of protecting the Mashpee Tribe’s reservation, as well as the formal backing of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants who sent a letter to Congressional leaders in December urging the bill’s passage, citing the peace treaty the Wampanoag brokered with the Pilgrims as a “worthy precedent to be followed today by all who honor the Pilgrims and the Native Americans who created this critical part of American society.”

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