- By Levi Rickert
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe received on Wednesday an early Christmas gift from the U.S. Department of the Interior on Wednesday when it received notification from Assistant Secretary of the Interior – Indian Affairs Bryan Newland that the tribe’s reservation has been confirmed.
Today’s decision reverses the action by the Trump administration’s attempt in March 2020 to strip the tribe of its reservation, which includes 321 acres of land that was put into trust status during the Obama administration. The Obama decision was reversed by the Trump administration three years later in September 2018.
On Wednesday, Newland confirmed that the Interior Department has authority under the Indian Reorganization Act to take such action, and further confirmed that the Tribe's Reservation has remained in federally protected trust status since the Reservation land was first placed in trust six years ago on November 10, 2015.
"This is a momentous day for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, for indigenous communities across the country, and for defenders of justice,” said Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chairman Brian Weeden. "We are grateful that President Biden and his administration, including Secretary Deb Haaland, Assistant Secretary Bryan Newland, and Solicitor Bob Anderson, have faithfully implemented the law and respected the sovereign rights of our tribe to protect our reservation."
The 55-page decision had the support of the Massachusetts’ two United States senators.
"I congratulate the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on this major victory, which conclusively reaffirms the trust status of their reservation," said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). "The Massachusetts congressional delegation and I have proudly stood with the Tribe throughout its fight to protect their ancestral homelands—a fight that should never have been necessary in the first place. I am glad to see the Biden Administration and the Department of the Interior finally issue this confirmation, and to end the attempt begun by the Trump Administration's to unjustly disestablish the Tribe's reservation."
"The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has withstood years of uncertainty after the Trump administration's unlawful, unprecedented and unjust attempt to abrogate their sovereignty and take away their Tribal lands," said U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). "The Department of the Interior's decision today finally lays to rest these wrongful actions and reaffirms the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's right to this land, which they have stewarded for more than 10,000 years. I join Tribal Leadership and the Wampanoag people in celebrating this decision and look forward to our continued partnership. We must take every opportunity to support and elevate Tribal sovereignty and land rights across the federal government as a cornerstone of our fight for a just, livable future."
Weeden said the decision allows the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to reclaim and protect their cherished land and better serve its people for generations to come.
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