- By Native News Online Staff
WASHINGTON — What a difference a presidential administration makes. This certainly became evident on Friday when the Biden administration’s Interior Department decided to withdraw its appeal in the case of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe v. Zinke. The appeal was set in motion last August by the Trump administration’s Interior Department.
The Interior Department filed an appeal to Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s ruling in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The judge ruled that the Department of the Interior’s 2018 decision that the tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934 was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law.”
Friedman ordered the Interior Department to maintain the reservation status of the tribe’s 321 acres of land until the department issues a new decision on remand over whether the tribe qualifies as “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, known as the Tribe of the First Light, is based in Cape Cod, Mass. and traces its history as the tribe that met with the pilgrims. The tribe received its federal recognition in 2007.
“Today is sakôhsuwôk, a triumph, not only for our Wampanoag homelands, it is also a triumph for the citizens of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and our ancestors who have fought and died to ensure our Land and sovereign rights are respected. We are humbled and grateful for the support we have leaned on along the way, and grateful to the Department of the Interior for withdrawing its appeal of the decision in the federal district court that ruled in the Tribe’s favor. We look forward to being able to close the book on this painful chapter in our history,” Mashee Wampanoag Tribe Vice Chairwoman Jessie Little Doe Baird said in a statement released by the tribe on Friday.
At issue is 321 acres of land that was put into trust during the Obama administration in September 2015. The Obama decision was reversed by the Trump administration three years later in September 2018.
Last March, as the Mashpee grappled with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the tribe received a call from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an order delivered by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior David Bernhardt, that the tribe’s “reservation be disestablished.”
After Friday’s Interior Department announcement that it withdrew the appeal, Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA), whose congressional district includes Cape Cod, showed his displeasure with the Trump administration’s Interior Department.
“The claim that the Tribe of the First Light, the Tribe of the First Thanksgiving was not an original Native American Tribe has always been disingenuous,” Keating said in a statement. “And the Trump Administration’s sudden attempt to remove their land from trust last March — in the midst of a pandemic — was heartless.”
More Stories Like ThisMichigan Governor Appoints 1st Native Citizen to Court of Appeals
Michigan Governor Meets with State's Tribes
Tribal Business News Round-Up: Dec. 05
Manitoba Man Charged with Killing 3 More Indigenous Women, House of Commons Rejects State of Emergency Request
SEEN & HEARD at the White House Tribal Nations Summit
Do you appreciate a Native perspective on the news?
For the past decade-plus, we’ve covered the important Indigenous stories that are often overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the toppling of colonizer statues during the racial equity protests, to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools, we have been there to provide a Native perspective and elevate Native voices.
Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked. Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $25 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10. Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news.
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.